Where we’ve gotten so far:

Okay, so here’s where I think we’ve gotten, for anybody who might be joining us at this point:

There’s a heap of interesting source material that’s been gathered, and probably more to come.  It’s certainly worthwhile to throw in seemingly unrelated bits of inspiration, because whatever gets sent in could set off a little flurry of ideas nobody had thought of yet.

But it does seem like there’s a central discussion going, which I’m going to oversimplify by calling it Words versus No Words.

The No Words camp sees the opportunity for creating an experience for the audience that would be much like being transported into the middle of a prehistoric tribe, who grunt and whoop and screech incomprehensibly, whereby the audience would find a strange commonality between them and the prehistoric people, an unlikely understanding, a growing doubt that their own civilization has brought them as much sophistication as they think.  The cave-people on stage would do visceral things and have visceral experiences — love, fight, hump, die, grieve.  The audience, if it was done well, would emerge from the theatre feeling like they’ve just had the most profound primal screaming support group they ever attended.

The Words camp sees the opportunity to comment on all this primal activity, by showing the civilized in juxtaposition — for example, by pitching the whole thing as a documentary, and having the documentary narrator intoning hilariously/profoundly/confusedly as the cave-people writhe and shriek and discover religion or what-have-you, or by having characters such as archaeologists incorporated into the action — a mediating element of some kind, let’s say.

The first camp is asking for a plot to be developed.  The second camp may be less plot dependent, because a format like that can be wide-ranging like a documentary — even encompassing different puppetry techniques between scenes.  The difference might be, for those of you who have seen Old Trout shows perhaps, the difference between Beowulf and Famous Puppet Death Scenes.

Me: I’d love it if we could actually figure out how to get the audience to do some primal screaming.  I’m not totally sure what Primal Scream therapy is, and I’m not sure it would be healthy, but it would be beautiful to see a theatre full of people facing down the people on stage with war-bellows at the top of everybody’s lungs, pounding on their chests and shaking their genitals threateningly.

And I think a narrator’s voice might really be helpful for breaking the tension at that point.

About Judd Trout

Judd Palmer is one of the Old Trouts.

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17 Responses to Where we’ve gotten so far:

  1. libidoless says:

    When I read a fiction, I get stuck in logic, especially if it’s set in olden days,,, the distance thing, roads mostly sucked,, I was ice fishing today with my Dad and we were on a relatively good road until the road became frozen 3′ drifts,, frrrryyyikers and the only tread marks on the road were our own,,, so back to getting from Moscow to Monaco in two days? I think there are two words for it,,, Bull Shit! My sister is a bit of a wordsmith and seems to know those words,,, aglet- the hard end of a shoelace, punt- the indentation in the bottom of a champagne bottle,,,,,, if the root word of health is heal, then the root word ord wealth would be weal,, look up the definition of weal in preferably a circa 1940’s dictionary, ooooooh scary!!!

    There was a fellow who wrote a book not contaning the letter “E” except in the title of the book which is “E”,, he a lso wrote a 50,000 word palindrome and was put up against a computer in the 80’s to do anagrams of names, the computer didn’t get the one he got for Ronald Wilson Reagan, which was, “Insane Anglo Warlord”, he was also paid $10,000 to come up with the name of a company that was both strong and had no meaning at all anywhere in the world,, it must be noted that we give many meanings to the name now “Exxon”,,,, Tom Stoppard wrote the play “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead”, where one of them keeps discovering later discovered physics, but he can’t show them a second time. Maybe twiggy could contain some of these characteristics of first and last.

  2. Urvater says:

    Oh SURE! J. Trout would know JUST the word. I knew he would know JUST THE RIGHT WORD!!! But, HA! He doesn’t know the word for The Artificial Gimmicky Thingamagig That Makes The Story/Statue/Opera Work And The Audience Just Figures, Oh, Hell, Let It Go. He doesn’t know THAT now, DOES he? Suspended Disbelief might be a starter in the discussion. But that would be for another play.

  3. Judd Trout says:

    That’s a ‘shill.’ From the Yiddish, ‘shillaber,’ which means ‘shill.’
    Comes from the carnival, evidently — a carnie posing as a regular person who would act really excited about the thing the barker was barking about. Now used in all kinds of contexts. I think I’ve seen a similar thing in shell games — the guy who looks like he just won a bunch of money.
    Maybe there’s another word for it, though, too.
    While we’re at it: you know how marble statues often have a vase or a heap of fruit or a bit of tree trunk or something carved around their feet so that the sculpture doesn’t fall down? That is obviously there for structural purposes, but is still loosely trying to fit the subject or composition, but basically looks ridiculous, so everybody kind of ignores it? You know what I’m talking about? Is there a word for that? There should be. It would come in very useful when writing plays and such — as in, the part where the hero gets to Monaco just in time even though he couldn’t possibly have gotten there from Moscow in only two days, but the audience doesn’t complain because they know it’s a ‘lalalala.’ There oughtta be a word for that, I think. An ugly thing you have to stick in there to make it all work, that everybody graciously pretends isn’t there.

  4. Urvater says:

    Related, maybe. I was once an unsuccessful highschool teacher. The school was not easy. Rough neighborhood, ethnic and other tensions. One day, in a particularly unruly class, where pandemonium was pretty well reigning, a large black boy suddenly sprung up from the front row seat (where I had put him in an effort to control him better). He jumped up on his desk, and, absolutely monkey-like, was springing straight up and down on folded legs, bouncing up and down, hands hanging below his feet, then, up, hands raised above his head. Totally dominated the class. He shouted, “Shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up! Let the fuckin’ teacher fuckin’ TEACH!!!” The class quieted down for a moment, even. The black kid fell back into his seat, frustrated, exhausted, shaking his head at how many assholes he had to live with. I thanked him. But it was kind of scary for the teacher, eh? This is the kind of moment that will engage an audience, don’t you think?

  5. Urvater says:

    OK. I had to explain about my “plants” in the audience, because this might use them. It’s about the mummer heads above. The puppets/stage characters could throw stuff (ideas, screams, pleas, whatever), at the audience. A big mummer outfit of some kind could be rapidly, weirdly, passed into the audience. I mean, like, just a big speaking stick. Here. Take this! Say what you’re thinking. Go ahead! Tell us! The confused, frightened spectator (plant) takes the talking stick / mummer head thing, and, panicked, starts to shout back at the stage. A threatening mood suddenly builds. The cave folks are getting pissed off. A second plant gets involved and shouts something. Like, hey, cool it, Jack. Do you want to get us all thrown out? Or worse? Wow! The SECOND person is handed ANOTHER mummer head / speaking stick (these things are big and scary, with loose wild stuff hanging off). And mummer two starts to shout at mummer one and at the cave folks. And, wholly shit, ANOTHER audience member loses it. “Shut up, assholes! Let the people do their play, eh?” — and is promptly handed another mummer head — almost as though the players KNOW this kind of thing might break out, and Mummerhead Three gets aggressive . Point being, the use of the mummer head stick (maybe reflecting what is already going on with the primitives on stage, who like to wear animal skins and stuff to lose their inhibitions) signals to everyone that we’re going to hear the “unmasked” feelings of some ordinary person. Wild stuff is said, because of the alternate self that is liberated. The audience, of course, will catch on, and think it’s really fun, and might even start to join in, hoping to get a mummer head.
    Just a thought.

  6. Urvater says:

    I’ve been mis-using a word. I finally looked it up. Stooge. I see that it’s usually a foil for the main person on stage. But what I’ve always meant was a planted anonymous person in the audience. Or more than one. Actors who do pre-planned stuff, with the audience ignorant of their association with the play, so that it looks like audience members are getting carried away and do weird, unsettling stuff. Lot of power in that. An audience member who stands up and screams that they’re just not putting up with this shit any longer, or who the hell do you think you are? Or, hang on! Let me in!, etc.

  7. libidoless says:

    This is relevant and may take awhile to come full circle;
    When my family lived in England my Father was really into footy/soccer. Now this was the 60’s and early 70’s, major hooliganism time in footy history. I asked my dad how he holds his pee for sooo long (being that, once you are in your spectator position, you don’t leave it for the whole game),, he said everybody would bring a newspaper and roll it up, place member in rolled paper and direct downward. Some years later, it was determined that the hooliganism factor increased towards the end of the game as all that urine or territory marker tweaked that little bit of our animal brain. Some stadiums still hand out vessels to be capped and emptied off-field.

    Sometimes on my way to work, I would miss my bus and end up on the high school bus packed with hormone/estrogen wafting teens,,, pending the time of the month, the boys were giddy and rambunctous and at other times the gals were mesmerised by even the most pimplied boys.

    Could the show have pots of the daily urine off stage but fanned into the audience,,, maybe have cast/crew members wear an undershirt for a month straight, it’s hard to collect large quantities of sweat. I’m sure those caves were more than the aroma of moss and feast and fresh kill and old carion.

    Steve Martin would always ask for the temperature to be turned off (The Late Show with Letterman keeps the audience in 60F),, it causes us to laugh louder, react louder, to participate louder.

    On another note,,, it would be tough to sit in an audience, on chairs with coat and mits on lap with a show where the puppet clan are bum to floor,,, obviously some theatres have affixed chairs but not all theatres do. How can the the whole theatre be part of the set,,, hide the soundman, drape the lighting, fan the urine (had to get that back in there),,, will I be brushing shoulders with a furry pityu or an annoyed spectator who wanted to be elsewhere?

    • libidoless says:

      I somehow double posted, pologies.

      Halloween is a phenomena due to the mask factor,,, for the inhibited a mask allows for non-recognition an outlet for what really wants to come out.

      How many Mummer like heads could be produced, affordably, and hygenically (I guess mouths and noses don’t have to be covered). Can an audience be dressed prior to entering the cave theatre?

  8. libidoless says:

    This is relevant and may take awhile to come full circle;
    When my family lived in England my Father was really into footy/soccer. Now this was the 60’s and early 70’s, major hooliganism time in footy history. I asked my dad how he holds his pee for sooo long (being that, once you are in your spectator position, you don’t leave it for the whole game),, he said everybody would bring a newspaper and roll it up, place member in rolled paper and direct downward. Some years later, it was determined that the hooliganism factor increased towards the end of the game as all that urine or territory marker tweaked that little bit of our animal brain. Some stadiums still hand out vessels to be capped and emptied off-field.

    Sometimes on my way to work, I would miss my bus and end up on the high school bus packed with hormone/estrogen wafting teens,,, pending the time of the month, the boys were giddy and rambunctous and at other times the gals were mesmerised by even the most pimplied boys.

    Could the show have pots of the daily urine off stage but fanned into the audience,,, maybe have cast/crew members wear an undershirt for a month straight, it’s hard to collect large quantities of sweat. I’m sure those caves were more than the aroma of moss and feast and fresh kill and old carion.

    Steve Martin would always ask for the temperature to be turned off (The Late Show with Letterman keeps the audience in 60F),, it causes us to laugh louder, react louder, to participate louder.

    On another note,,, it would be tough to sit in an audience, on chairs with coat and mits on lap with a show where the puppet clan are bum to floor,,, obviously some theatres have affixed chairs but not all theatres do. How can the the whole theatre be part of the set,,, hide the soundman, drape the lighting, fan the urine (had to get that back in there),,, will I be brushing shoulders with a furry pityu or an annoyed spectator who wanted to be elsewhere?

  9. unnggg says:

    I remember something else about that monster hunt, and that was the roles that each of the hunters developed as we approached the beast(log) we formed a c and moved in slow taking little brave advances, like a pack, with a few dominant types up leading the tentative charge…I had to be in that group because the switch was actually on the beast…the last few steps were very tense…and I hit the switch just as the first swing of the club was raised…the fear when the charge went off, people scattered, running for there lives…at that moment it was a monster…then when a safe distance away, a good cathartic laugh….

    about half the folks didn’t come with us on the hunt, and were still around the fire, when we came back with a story to tell, but not with words, because those were the rules…so we did it in shadow puppets on the cliffs with a torch…

    couldn’t do that in workshops anymore…probably for good reason

    this makes me think about dividing the audience thought as someone was mentioning earlier, and I could imagine that some are going to want to see this as an archeological experience, they are for what ever reason not comfortable seeing themselves as animals, maybe beliefs are threatened, or they are just not in touch with the aminal in themselves… but there are other who will be, and really would love to feel what our animal natures are, and are dying to scream… your different audiences really just need someone in the audience who is able to encourage a sense of unity and fuel our inherent competitive nature… Its like having someone with a great laugh in the audience…We always have a good show when Jimmy is in the audience….

    I always feel a strange desire to see our narrator devoured by our forefathers perhaps at the end, while half the audience screams and bang sticks, then maybe people will be nicer when driving home or something, because they have already fed the hungry hypothalamous (sp?)

  10. libidoless says:

    I meant to say “for those not willing to scream” clacky shells or sticks could be given out

  11. Urvater says:

    This idea of engaging the audience beyond their pre-conceptions is, I think, just fantastic. Pityu’s exploding log. How sublime! Forgive me. I’m really excited here. And I know there are kinds of interactive theatre and like that. Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc. But to really aim to pull the audience right into the experience, to me, just has wild possibilities. Start the play by getting everybody to sign a waiver that we don’t in any guarantee, or even imply, that their sanity can handle what’s going to happen tonight. (A waiver that will bloody well stand up when nuts take us to court!) The play might have several contingecy versions, to pull in based upon which way the craziness goes with the audience. Probably not workable or too corny or something, but wouldn’t it be neat to pull a couple of mutilated, bleeding corpses out of the audience amid screaming and horrible shouts. (Sorry. I keep reverting to violence like this. But somehow, it seems appropriate.)

    • libidoless says:

      I come from a very extended Polish family, too many relatives of the marrying type. In one year there were 7 weddings and when you entered the church (as most weddings go) an usher would ask what family you belong to and you’d fill the pews in your designated family area.

      A great way to get even the shyest of an audience member (myself being one) to act out loud is by having them in an obvious “team” like setting,,, so back to the usher,,, if the usher asked you who your family is would you answer Cromag or Neander? Neanders to the left and cromags to the right. The audience would be divided at the onset, ready to primally pep rally their puppet clan. The ushers could also playfully divide audience members coming as a couple,,, divide and conquer the inhibited viewer.

      It’s essentially competition that made us these rascals we’ve become,, the team thing is that annoying crowd mentality thingy (my head is cold and I forgot the proper term for the crowd hysteria thing). For those now willing to scream (it might give away the end of 3rd date, cough), sticks to knock together could be given out.

      But when do we scream?,,, at an obvious poor choice that we made back then…..?

      remember being a little kid and the cheap magician came to the school and kept asking us which box the ghost went to, and we’d scream and point and jump and the magician woul ignore where we were pointing? I know yopu know what I’m getting at.

      Pope Peter (<?) blessed the soccer team stranded in the Andes on their choice to eat their team mates. Pending the situation and the choices available, I don't I'd be so hysterical about eating a member of my clan and I'm not sure bludgeoning raised more than an eyebrow.

  12. Judd Trout says:

    So, many years ago, we were part of a group giving a puppetry workshop in Northern California. Ordinarily we’re very sensible people, but when we were part of this workshop we were young and given to freaking out in whatever way we could think up. This was all long before the Old Trout Puppet Workshop came into being; this was when some of us were part of the Green Fools. At any rate: Dave Trout suggested we do a big experiment where we all went down to the beach, and nobody was allowed to speak any recognizable words, and we each had to come up with a puppet performance of some kind using only things we could find, and we’d spend the whole night down there, and see what happened by morning.
    Many many things happened that night that were incredibly beautiful, but one that relates to our discussion was the show that Pityu Trout put on. Some of us were sitting peacefully by the fire, doing shadow puppets on the cliffs or something, when out of the forest came barreling Pityu, bellowing and shrieking and waving his arms. He was probably naked, as was his way in those days. We realized he was trying to gather us together, and that he had seen a monster in the woods, and that if we were all together we could kill the monster. So we all went sneaking off in search of the beast in a prehistoric hunting party.
    Actual fear did emerge, in me at least. Creeping through the forest in the middle of the night with enormous dramatic tension building — what did Pityu have planned? Was it safe? Could he be trusted? Or did he actually see some ferocious creature in there?
    We crept, we gesticulated, we advanced on the creature’s hide-out, and we all managed to agree that the creature was represented by a giant log — sleeping obviously. We must not wake it up! We must kill it while it slumbers!
    And suddenly, there was an explosion, and everybody ran screaming. Pityu had rigged the log with some kind of explosives, somewhat against the rules of the experiment, I suppose, but dang it was cathartic. And probably, it’s true, better than much theatre I’ve seen.
    Sometimes I wonder if the next development of theatre-as-live-experience (in contrast to tv and movies) should in fact be more like that kind of thing — all we really want is to give some other people an experience that impacts them in some way. One could imagine doing a theatre production where each ticket included a flight to an abandoned castle in Poland or a jungle or something, and a performance that lasted for several weeks that the audience member was hard-pressed to survive. Like the jungle warfare training Urvater described a while back. That’s powerful pretending.