Saturday, February 27, 2010

Viva La Commedia! or The show does in fact go on!

This is my reflections of my son's "Commedia Dell' Arte" experience. They play is set in Cuba and involves the romantic mishaps of two families. Commedia was most popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is comedy that involves improv and the action takes place all over the stage and audience which makes it very hard to interpret. My son plays the child slave to a rich young man soon to be married. His prop of choice is a large fish.

Deaf kid in a hearing play with improv and a large fake fish.

The stage is surrounded by dinner tables 3/4. There is a Cuban band and a wait staff in character. This is an arts focused school so the production quality is amazing. The costumes, lighting , script and score are top notch. In the hall outside the theater are working sketches from the costume designer. As a former professional costumer I can honestly say I am blown away.

As we are seated I am thrilled to see they waitstaff have developed hilarious characters so even while we wait for the show to start we are entertained. Our waiter has a sassy Bronx accent and has no trouble telling the principals to get a clue.

My son is one of the first to enter the stage with his dear friend the large fish. I am stunned at how he can read the other actors and his physical response is perfect and in context. His physical comedy style is obviously influenced by his early exposure to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. We used to watch old silent movies with him before he could read captions. I can tell that his intense dance classes have effected his awareness of his body. I highly suggest dance classes for deaf kids.

The highlight of the show in regards to my son is when he is told to be a desk and bend over by his master. He does this then ques the band to play. What follows is a hilarious dance number. He is perfectly in sync with the music! There is no way for folks watching at any point to guess he is deaf. His character is mute but appears to hear. Throughout the play he used gesture and gibberish sign like movements.

I attended three shows and on closing night there was a hint that could give away how this happened. One of the actors signed and spoke a line. It was so brief I assume people didn't notice. It turns out during rehearsal the actors had learned to sign and would use this to keep Haddy clued in when the interpreters couldn't get in eye line. He had a team of two interpreters during the six day rehearsal schedule for six weeks and by the time the show opened there was one interpreter back stage in case of an emergency. He got all the information he needed from the cast on stage and backstage.

At the final banquet scene he is perched on another actors shoulders costumed to conceal the other actor and look like a really tall man. The other actor voiced which happened to appear it was from the crotch of this tall man while my son pretend to be speaking but since his character is a hungry little clown he ends up drinking and being distracted while the other actor is talking. The whole scene was crazy fun it ends with my son leaping off the shoulders on to the table and tumbling to the floor with acrobatic skills he did not possesses last year.

So the show was maybe one of the best things that has ever happened to him. I watched the other kids, mostly Seniors, work with him and never did I sense any patronizing energy. They respect him as a fellow artist. It strikes me that this school, in this play created the environment we all seem to be looking for. What about this group of people made it so easy?

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