Monday, January 6, 2014

Zeigfeld Follies

Yesterday my performance troupe, Dark Follies, gathered to share a New Year's Eve brunch and to watch the film that was one of the inspirations for the troupe's name and show style, "Ziegfeld Follies."

Watching that film brought me back to when I was a child and first saw it. The last time I saw the film I was about nine years old; too limited in experience to understand some of the comedy or to pick up on some of the racial stereotypes presented in performances such as Fred Astaire's appearance a Chinese laborer in Limehouse Blues. What I do remember feeling nearly overwhelmed by the costumes, the sparkles, the music and oh the dancing!

When I watch films like "Ziegfeld Follies" or any such old style Hollywood musical/dance film I find a lot of inspiration.  What strikes me the most about them (aside form the glorious over the top splendor) is the artistry involved. Everything from the sets (which would today be done almost exclusively with CGI) to costuming to lyrics, everything is done with such intent. Nothing is unnecessarily a part of the performance and the performers, whether singer, swimmer, dancer, comedian or musician do what they with so much skill and know their parts so WELL that the life and voice of the character is able to fully sing.

While I think of my solo creative work and that of the troupe I realize I want to bring just that sort of artistry to my performance.  While neither I nor the troupe have the funds or time to put on events of Hollywood scale, I do believe we can create performances with that same artistry and intent. In fact I think back to another inspiration for the Follies, the street performers I saw in Boston as a child, and how they were able, with minimal props and costuming, to put on a short show that was as creative and engaging as any old school Hollywood or Broadway show.

Being on a small stage or having a small band or having basic costuming need not limit us - the only limitation is that of our own bodies and amount of effort we are willing to put into our creative practice.

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