Puppet Up returned, once again, to the Kirk Douglas Theatre for four shows in March of 2015. I was lucky enough to be cast in two of those four show, the opening and the closing. As, I’m sure, you know, I love being in Puppet Up. It’s, really, my favorite thing to do, so to say I was excited was an understatement.
Since it was opening night of the show, our call time was early because there was a little bit of tech to go through. I never mind tech because it does give us a little chance to practice technique and our crew, and the crew of the Kirk Douglas Theatre, are fantastic, so it’s never a chore.
Once we we sure all the tech end of things was running smoothly, we broke for dinner and to get changed into out ‘puppet blacks’ for the show. Eight o’clock rolled around and the Kirk Douglas was packed with folks ready for some puppet anarchy. There was an empty seat or two, but the place was pretty full, especially for a Wednesday night.
The show was a big ball of fun. The suggestions were ‘out there’ and that made it even more fun. Right off the bat someone shouted pro-wrestling as a suggestion. Glad I was in that scene. Some other suggestions were a carpool in a smart car from Texas to Uzbekistan, sex toy gumball machine, and a scene that had to end with the line ‘Pull my finger.’
We did the mini puppet variety show and Colleeen’s host was as wicked as ever. The suggestion for the first act, that Allan Trautman, Tim Blaney and myself were performing with bunnies was ‘Mid-Air Contortion’. What followed was pretty funny with Allan, Tim and I trying to find ways to put make the puppets appear they were doing mid-air contortion. It devolved into us basically throwing the puppets back and forth to each other. The audience loved it. The next act was Allan and Peggy doing Jazz Dancing and they nailed it. It’s pretty hard to describe what they did, but those puppets were Jazz Dancing for sure! Finally, was the Alien Barbershop. The suggestion was Necrophilia. My initial thought was to do a verse that rhymed ‘wife’ (of formaldehyde) with the word stiff. But then I tried to come up with a rhyme for formaldehyde. The result, for Necrophilia was:
I love the smell
Because that means,
I’m going for a ride.
I actually liked this one a little better because in my mind, it left the audience to connect the dots of what I mean meant by ‘going for a ride.’
The highlight of the night, for me, was performing I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face with Ted. I’ve done this before but especially now, while reading Jim Henson’s biography, the piece took on a little more meaning. And Ted and I agreed that last night’s version was probably the best we’d ever performed it.
So, a wonderful opening at the Kirk Douglas, we got a standing ovation. I cannot wait to do the show again Saturday!
This is one of those rules on creativity that people talk about a lot. When you are creating something, especially something you are creating with other people, you cannot be precious with your ideas. Some of them will get used, some of them will not get used. You must know this going in otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for misery.
This rule struck me one time when I watched it happen right in front of me. In 2003, I was lucky enough to be invited to hang out on the set of a Muppet commercial shoot. It was the Dominoes Pizza Super Bowl ads that they were in. For two days I just sat, like a fly on the wall, and watched as the people behind the Muppets worked their magic. As a side note here, my favorite Muppet is Gonzo, so I kept a close eye on what Dave Goelz, Gonzo’s performer, was doing.
During one break I noticed Dave was over near the Puppet Wrangler’s table working on something. He had some items from the Craft Service table, a long puppet rod and some tools and was busily building something. Someone asked what it was and he said he felt lil Gonzo should be doing something in the background of the next shot they were filming, so he was building a stack of food for Gonzo to balance on his finger. The rig would have made it appear like Gonzo was balancing a peanut on his fingertip, then balanced on that, a soda can, and then a bag of chips and so on. It was really a great looking rig and it was built out of actual stuff! He drilled holes in a REAL peanut in order to slide the rod through.
I’d say he spent about a good thirty minutes of his lunch break on this neat little addition to the commercial. When he was done he tried it out and the effect was hilarious, it looked like Gonzo was balancing all this stuff on his finger. Everybody loved it. They tested it out on camera and it looked great. But then, somebody decided that it just wasn’t right for the scene. The Muppets mantra has always been, “Pull Focus” but this gag was pulling a little too much focus. Ultimately, the decision was made not to use it. I guess in a commercial you don’t want to pull too much focus away from the product you’re actually selling.
So, after working so hard on this little piece of puppetry fun, what did Dave Goelz do? He just tossed it aside with a smile and got ready for the next shot. His attitude was one of, “Well, that would have been fun but, oh well, no big deal.” Now, he could have been upset or fought for it or thrown a big-time hollywood star tantrum, but he didn’t. He moved on to the next order of business with a smile.
Seeing this happen really struck me. Something you work hard on, no matter how good of an idea it is, may not make the final project. This happens all the time when creating things with others and it can happen in working on your own stuff as well. A particular exchange of dialogue in your writing may be the best you’ve ever written, but if if doesn’t work with the story, you have to toss it. You can be upset for a moment, but then you have to move on with your creating.
This is a tough one. Usually us artists go from thinking everything we do is crap to everything we do is good. Sometimes, even when you know you have something good, you have to let it go if it’s not working.
Take a lesson from Gonzo: you can’t be precious with your work.
I want this blog to not just be about my stories and stuff that I’m creating. I want to show off some other great creative work as well.. I truly do enjoy seeing the other creative projects that people are working on. So, the other day, I put out a call on Twitter for links to projects others were working on. Things that they are creating for themselves. Below is a list of those who replied as well as some creative goodies from others that I’ve been impressed with this week.
STV MEDIA STUDIOS – http://www.stvmediastudios.com/home.html – Connor Asher is an aspiring puppeteer whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few times while out on Puppet Up! Uncensored tours. Actually, I shouldn’t say he is an ‘aspiring’ puppeteer. He’s a darn good puppeteer and he is not waiting for anyone to tell him what he can and cannot do. He’s creating a media empire on his own and I fully suspect I’ll be sending him a resume someday for a job on one of his projects.
Randall C. Willis – http://createdbyrcw.com – Randall is another creative type who I was lucky enough to meet in Toronto while performing in Puppet Up! – Uncensored. He’s a great guy and his website is full of short stories, essays and photographs he has taken. Check out his pictures from his walk around Vanderbuilt University or his piece called Music and the soul. Really touching.
Kristin Hogan – https://www.etsy.com/shop/SquidFriends – Kristin Hogan is yet another crdtive dynamo I met while doing Puppet Up!. She is an artist in many mediums but making stuffed squids is her passion and they are pretty amazing. She will be at Dallas Comic-Con next weekend, so if you’re in the area, check it out. Kristin also penned a really great piece about copycats on her tumblr. It has inspired another Creative Mondays post as it’s something I’m dealing with now as well. Give it a read, really great food for thought – http://squidfriends.tumblr.com/post/85026374907/a-word-on-copycats-vs-other-people-inspired-by-the-same
Goon Holler General Store – http://www.goonhollergeneralstore.com – One of the really incredible things that has come out of my use of the social media app Vine is meeting Parker Jacobs. We share a lot of the same creative influences and creative spirit and he, like me, seems intent on creating good quality family fun. If you’ve watched Yo Gabba Gabba! Or The Aquabats! Super show! You’ve seen his art (and possibly his creation Tooba, the sasquatch.) He recently opened up a website to sell some of the items bearing his unique art (and I’m proud to say I was order #27 through his store)! Go peruse what he has to offer. I can highly recommend his book The Goon Holler Guidebook and who wouldn’t want their own Tooba pillow?!
Prednisone By Carla Ulbrich – http://youtu.be/WE1rmToYWyY – My good friend, and incredibly talented singer/songwriter, Carla Ulbrich checks in with this great lyric video of her ‘hit’ Prednisone. Give it a listen. You’ll be singing it all day.
The 33 by J.C. Hutchins – http://jchutchins.net/the-33 – My podcast pal, J.C. Hutchins, is in the middle of telling a great podcast story called The 33. J.C. Calls it ‘TV for your e-reader’ and I would whole heartedly agree. It’s not for kids, but if you like a goos sci-fi, supernatural thriller, you should check it out. You can even get a sample of it for free. It’s good stuff.
So check out one or all of these projects. Who knows, perhaps you’ll find your new piece of inspiration in one of these. And I’d love to make this a regular feature, so if you have a piece of creative work that’s online, tell me about it in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
Have a great weekend!
The day started as most big travel days do for me, with a stress dream. Woke up about an hour earlier than I needed too, panicked that my alarm would not have gone off and I would be late for lobby call. I wasn’t. The cast met in the lobby as it was, sadly, time to head towards the airport and bring to a close our amazing Australian adventure. We said goodbye to our stage manager Stephen who had come to see us off and soon we were in a cab headed towards the airport.
Once we were all checked in at the Brisbane airport, most of us went around spending the last of our Australian money. I came away with only $2.30, which is pretty good. I’m keeping one dollar as sort of a reminder that I want to get back Down Under as soon as possible. (I’m actually looking at possibly going back later this year. We will see.)
The flight home was long, twelve and a half hours, but uneventful. I know I fell asleep twice, but it can’t say how long I was out for. Maybe an hour or so, perhaps only minutes. I did watch a bunch of movies on the flight. Saving Mr. Banks (liked it), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (decent), American Hustle (abysmal), Grudge Match (not good) and Mary Poppins (classic).
Before long, we were landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Home again. Our amazing Down Under puppet adventure was officially over.
The past five weeks have been spathe best times of my life. Incredible to get paid to go on to a foreign country and play make believe with puppets. We got to play at the Sydney Opera House! THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE! How many people get to say that.
Huge thanks to Melbourne International Comedy Festival for making it all possible. Susan of the Comedy Festival and her staff were truly amazing and could not have been better hosts. Not only did they give if first class treatment, they put on a heck of a festival. We loved the other shows we got to see as part of the festival and we wished we could have seen more.
Huge thanks to our crew. Stephen our stage manager, Bek our puppet wrangler and Andy our video tech. They hopped on board a very crazy, tech heavy show, made it their own and rocked it as if they had been there all along. And the crew at each venue was top notch. Especially the crew at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne who built us pieces we needed for the show. A great group of guys.
Huge thanks to the amazing fans who came out to see the shows. Each crowd was so into the show they made it so much fun to step on stage. The suggestions ranged from mild to really dirty and we delighted in trying to pay them all off.
Huge thanks to all the puppet people I got to hang with. Michael, Brett, the Hands & Gloves puppet group and the amazing Ingrid Elkner (who plays a mean ukelele). It was also great reconnecting with Lana Schwarcz who I hadn’t seen since 2011. Always love talking puppets with people passionate about puppetry.
And big thanks to the rest of the core Puppet Up crew. Allan, Colleen, Peggy and Ted, always so much fun to improvise with. So many memorable scenes. Brian who is, of course, and incredible improviser but also a heck of a roommate. Dan, who came up with a great song improv backing track and always has the right song for every scene. And, the big chief, Patrick, for making the run so fun and for trusting me to be part of it.
Lastly, to you, for reading these entries. Thanks for coming along for the ride. It was a heck of a time and I’m excited to see where it all leads in the future.