Daily Archives: June 27, 2014

The (Very) Physical Comedy Institute


The (Very) Physical Comedy Institute was an intensive two-week laboratory

providing a unique opportunity to dive into the physical comedian’s tool chest

and have a whole lot of fun in the process.


Course Descriptions
Leonard Pitt: Bringing the Mask to Life

Explore the basics of physical theater with the most ancient tool of theater, the mask. There’s an art to getting your imagination into your body with clarity and intention. The mask will lead us there. Learn how posture, gesture, gait, and movement come together to create interesting characters. Work will focus on improvisation, movement technique, and voice characterization.

Leland Faulkner: Hocus-Pocus with a Physical Focus: Magic for the Non-Magician

Actively using magic techniques can add a unique dimension to a performer’s work. We will explore how to use the art of deception for adding wonder while getting laughs. Participants are encouraged to bring an idea for a magical effect and to have thought about how the effect will fit into the context of their character and narrative. We will draw on classic mime and movement techniques to express that character and justify actions that would otherwise be under suspicion. We will brainstorm on the creation of comedy magic effects. One must ask lots of questions: Is it a blow-off joke effect, a running gag, or a feature trick with a twist? Is there a way to escalate the value of the effect, or otherwise elicit humor from the illusion? Participants will present material to the group for feedback.

Mooky Cornish: Slips, Slaps, and Spills

Mooky will share some old school rules of comedy, and tips on trips, slips and falls, both physically and metaphysically. This workshop will dabble in range and depth of emotion, and how to convey those states using posture, gesture, breath, and point of focus. Mooky teaches what works – effective tools and tricks of the trade that aid in creation of material, and delivery.

John Towsen: Physical Comedy: Old Techniques, New Applications
A crash course in physical comedy vocabulary and its application for clowns, mimes, dancers, actors, and street and circus artists. You will be introduced to a wide variety of skills centered around your own physicality, playing with partners, and confronting the physical world of objects. You will have the opportunity to integrate these techniques with character, gag structure and story and to experiment with a variety of performance styles. You will work as individuals, partners, and in small break-out groups for drills, combinations, and original sequences for in-class presentation and feedback. Rare archival video footage will be screened, and resources for further exploration of physical comedy will be provided. Spotting techniques and safe working methods are emphasized, and participants are strongly encouraged to work within their limitations.

Betsy Baytos: Eccentric and Character Movement

My approach to teaching character movement, whether with animators, physical theatre performers, clowns or dancers is essentially the same technique, as the components in creating character or becoming character are essentially one in the same and all about eccentric. As both an animator & visual comic dancer, I think of choreography as not merely steps, but action & reaction as a result of story. Add to that all the elements that make our ‘character’ recognizable as a personality…the comic mannerisms, grotesque costuming, and exaggerated body language of each performer, all provide the core of who our ‘character’ represents.
In my class, I will teach the basics of ‘Eccentric Dance’ and ‘Becoming Character’…..
1) Thinking ‘character’…..through written biographical and physically animated & exaggerated movement: how we walk, gesture & move as part of becoming our character.
2) Dressing ‘character’…..how costume & props enhance our characters.
3) Story…..How creating a narrative, however short, provides the framework for movement & helps to diffuse boredom in repitition.
4) Body Language…..How exaggerated body language can characterize emotion, thus generating believability for our audience to connect & relate to our character.
5) Timing…..Musical & comedic timing, so we punctuate each gag or bit of business.

Joseph Herscher: Kinetic Scenography — Human Rube Goldberg Machines

Rube Goldberg Machines are elaborate chain-reactions that use familiar objects in unfamiliar ways: rakes become levers, trash cans become rolling vehicles; inanimate objects come alive and become whimsical characters in a story. But what happens when you inject human characters into this world? Following up on the physics (levers, counterbalance, etc.) played with in John Towsen’s physical comedy class, we will explore the interplay between human and kinetic interactions as we develop sequences with a variety of props and characters, focusing particularly on the roles of anticipation and surprise in captivating an audience.

Karen Gersch: Balancing Bodies: Serious Comedy Partnering

If you don’t succeed — fall! From pratt to splat, teetering to tottering, pivoting to riveting: the fundamentals of adagio and pyramid acrobatics. Learn to counter weight and encounter each other’s anatomy to build with and attach to. “Portering” (the art of carrying others) uses principles of physics, movement, timing and emotional energy to create comedic moments and enrich agility. All levels and body types welcome. One’s working partners will be matched and chosen within the class and will change with each exercise.

Sigfrido Aguilar: Comic/Dramatic Movement (Teatro Corpóreo Cómico)

Dedicated to the development of a tangible method facilitating the creation, direction and teaching of a unique approach to ‘gestural theatre,’ Sigfrido’s Pantomime-Theater is a blend of the modern mime, theatrical clown, and natural actor. This technique integrates a balance of creative physical training and improvisation. The Pantomime-Theater process incorporates drama image work, improvisation, role-play, and collective creation while engaging participants in generating, interpreting, and re-presenting their ideas through the corporal acting of scenic movement and gesture.

Drew Richardson & Leland Faulkner: DIY Silent Movies

How to make a short silent movie in just five days! Have fun, and walk away with the experience of making movies. Drawing on their extensive experience in film, video, and physical theatre, Drew Richardson and Leland Faulkner will share indispensable methods for building silent films. Effective approaches to scripting, silent acting, movement for the camera, and developing visual gags will be explored. Solo performers will get the creative stimulation of group collaboration, and everyone will get a chance to do things large and small that would never work on stage. Original projects will get produced inside and around the eleven acres of Celebration Barn property. Some films may even incorporate performance material and characters developed from the other institute classes. By using everything from high-definition cameras to smart phones and tablets, it is now possible for almost anyone to create and disseminate an inexpensive silent movie. Lights! Camera! Chase scene!

Don Rieder: Give and Receive — a Performance Lab in Choreography, the Articulate Body, and the Significant Image

It makes no sense to perform unless you bring the news, news that stays news, news that is something from you, and something we need. This is a performance lab based on locating sources of passion, and finding exciting, powerful, personal, and specific movement. We’ll focus on content first, moving from action to action along a path of linked and expressive images. Later we’ll clarify and polish the work with an attention to variety in rhythm and dynamics and a sense of the power of stillness.