Saturday, October 03, 2009
He was loved and admired both as a person and as a performer.
He will be very sorely missed.
True, poignant tale of a child circus performer
Inquirer Theater Critic
It's about pratfalls and popping out of steam trunks, about tumbling repeatedly down a flight of 15 stairs, and juggling fiberglass bowling pins that rip your skin, about balancing hats on your nose or abruptly flipping yourself backward. And even with all that tomfoolery, Humor Abuse emerges as the most poignant piece I've seen in some time.
Pisoni - 32, tall and kinetic, with movie-set good looks and a smile that doesn't flash as much as radiate - has won every kind of Off-Broadway award for Humor Abuse, which he developed with director Erica Schmidt. It played last season at the and opened the Philadelphia Theatre Company season Wednesday night.
The one-act is the true story of Pisoni's life as a circus child with circus parents, the founders in 1975 of San Francisco's Bill Irwin, now a treasured theater artist (twice on Philadelphia Theatre Company's stage), and also Pisoni's godfather. . An original clown of that troupe - credited with renewing an American circus tradition and influencing Cirque du Soliel - was
For 25 years until he stopped performing, Pisoni's father, Larry, remained a silent clown whose self-imposed demands in the service of humor broke bones all over his body. As his son tells it, the elder Pisoni nearly killed himself for laughs.
That's one form of the humor abuse referred to in the show's title. The other is more ironic, and a little unsettling. From Pisoni's infancy, his father saw him as a circus performer. The boy made his debut when he was 2 years old. A heart-tugging moment comes early in the show when Pisoni strikes a performance pose; the exact same image of a preschool Pisoni appears on a tattered white sheet that serves as a stage-rear curtain, behind him.
And so it went for little Lorenzo. At age 6, he signed an actual contract to become his dad's partner. By age 11, he was touring the country and Japan with his own act, no parent in sight. Ever wonder what it's like to be "the other" - someone who grew into a world completely different from yours? This show answers the question by presenting the experiences of one of "the others."
Humor Abuse is bittersweet - but never bitter to the point of complaint or sweet to the point of cloying. You could call it Lorenzo Pisoni's tribute to his dad - one that looks deep to reveal an almost shocking intensity about laughter.
"I can't do it!" little Lorenzo cries after trying and failing to learn a stunt. "You can't do it . . . yet," his father replies.
Well, he can do it now - all of it. The routines that pepper the show are deft; is tripping over his feet merely an alternative way for Pisoni to walk? (It apparently was for his dad.)
Pisoni is funny, fluid, and fully in the moment when he's clowning. But the real impact of Humor Abuse comes when he returns, repeatedly, to play himself, the boy who increasingly wants the opposite of what other kids want - to run away from the circus.
He finally does that, landing in high school, then graduating from college, and embracing a broader kind of performance: He was memorable in last season's Broadway revival of Equus and is a current regular on TV's All My Children. The grass may seem greener outside the circus ring, but Pisoni is his father's son. His heart is open in Humor Abuse, and you can almost hear the ringmaster calling to its beat.
starring Lorenzo Pisoni
created by Lorenzo Pisoni & Erica Schmidt
directed by Erica Schmidt
September 25 - , 2009
Please click here for ticket information
Friday, October 02, 2009
Mother is doing fine. Brother is doing fine.
Daddy needs a stiff drink and a nap.
The above photo is James watching his very first Looney Tune cartoon, Porky and Daffy in "Baby Bottleneck", directed by Bob Clampett.
He's all set and ready to go. He's got his very stylish powder blue knit cap and matching "wubby" set and Shane has already read him his very first book, The Cat in the Hat, and explained to him, with helpful visual aids (drawings, Lego sculpture and coloring book pages) the importance of Spiderman.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
James Roane Cashin was baptized this evening at 9:37 in his room in the ICU.
James has been cleared for open heart surgery tomorrow morning at 7:00 to correct his transposition of the great arteries and to repair the catheterization he underwent this afternoon. If all goes right, the surgery should last no more than three hours.
It's been a long day.
I am now playing James the first song he's ever heard...
(June 5, 1956 - December 9, 2008)
Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day. ~ The Dalai Lama
October 1, 2009
James is back in the ICU. He made it through the heart catheterization procedure with flying colors... most importantly, pink! He's sedated and resting comfortably.His eyes were taped shut and, with his nose being smooshed up from his breathing tube, he reminds me of the people in the "Eye Of the Beholder" episode of The Twilight Zone...
Things are pretty scary. James is undergoing an emergency procedure and they are opening up his chest and catheterizing his heart.
They had a problem getting a tube down his throat that caused his vitals to drop, which sent an alarm throughout the entire ICU and brought about 50 various medical professionals into his room in the blink of an eye.
It sounds naive but I really thought she was going to be cool with that.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Shane is playing Indiana Jones Legos with his grandfather. My sister-in-law, Patti is here with us and was watching the Phillies game. My mother-in-law is somewhere tracking down something.
Mother and child are comfortable and doing fine.
1) Great comedians don't just talk, but use visual humor as well. Using their body as a tool:
a. There is comedy potential in every body part.
b. Clothes play a big part (too small or too big).
c. Character can look funny.
d. (My addition) The body can interact with other props to create humor (or alone).
2) Funny Things: Three Basic Principles:
a. Objects behave in an unexpected way
b. Objects go to or appear in an unexpected place.
c. Objects shown the wrong size.
- Combining these three principles may not make the business more funny.
- Jokes depend on sudden shocks and strange transformations that under-mind the laws of our existence.
3) Slapstick and Violence (the earliest and perhaps most crude form):
a. The more realistic, the funnier the gag.
b. The more dignified the victim, the funnier the gag.
c. Shock of violence must be separate from the reality of pain.
d. Use of overstatement or understatement create this comedy.
4) Magic & Surrealism (the comedian uses the Illusionist's tricks):
a. Appearing and Disappearing - gags are funnier if the character disappears.
b. Transformation - must absurd as well as astonishing
c. Speeding things up (or slowing down)
d. Comedy rooting in fear
e. Strange images
5) Imitiation & Parody (a step up, but not the highest form of comedy):
a. Exaggeration creates a parody
b. Representing authority creates satire.
c. Using other's story's or material can create comedy, but the effect lessens with the popularity of the others' material.
6) Mime & Body Language (Moving into character and situational comedy):
a. Create an interesting character.
b. Can be simply in the shading of a facial expression.
c. Not about doing funny things but doing normal things in a funny way: with personality.
d. new attitudes make the old joke new.
2. Aggressive - lack of consideration for others.
3. Crude - comedy of social embarrassment or vulgarity.
f. Charlie Chaplin is one of the most skilled at this type of comedy, but doesn't always get the laugh (while he does draw smiles and emotions).
(We have to make our jokes and characters timeless, though some will argue that Chaplin was timeless)
7) Qualities that transcend time: The character of the physical comedian.
a. Like us but different - an alien on the other side of the mirror.
b. Innocence - born yesterday
Constantly makes mistakes
Tenacity - keeps doing things when others would've given up.
d. Drunkenness is an alternative to childishness
e. Hard to form normal relationships
f. Constant hostility from all quarters
g. The comedian can't die or get seriously hurt.
8) The opposite of all rules are true: ALL rules can be broken.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Edited from an article entitled The Pope, The Clown and the Cross which appears in the current issue of American Catholic...
In 1957 comedian Red Skelton was on top of the world. His weekly comedy show on CBS was doing well. He had curtailed the drinking which had almost derailed his career. Not too shabby for a man who had started out as a circus and rodeo clown and who was now often called the clown prince of American comedy. He and his wife Georgia had two beautiful kids: Richard and Valentina Maria. Then the worst thing in the world for any parent entered into the lives of Red and Georgia Skelton: Richard was diagnosed with leukemia. Unlike today, a diagnosis of leukemia in a child in 1957 was tantamount to saying that Richard was going to die soon. Red immediately took a leave of absence from his show. CBS was very understanding and a series of guest hosts, including a very young Johnny Carson, filled in for Skelton during the 1957-1958 season.
After they returned to the States, the leukemia came out of remission and took its dreadful course. Richard underwent treatment at the UCLA medical center. His parents were constant visitors to see him. Both father and son, as detailed here, did their best to keep up the spirits of the other children undergoing treatment by telling jokes. On one occasion Red Skelton sat up most of the night with a young girl who was undergoing surgery and kept reassuring her that everything was going to be all right, as it turned out to be in her case.
“The doctor was as gentle as he could be when he told me there was a good chance I had something that would mean amputating my leg. I remember crying for hours that night. The night before surgery I was very scared. My mother was at home with three small children and I had a difficult time falling asleep. When I finally gave in and allowed sleep to take over, it wasn’t for long. I awoke to find my friend Richard’s father asleep in the chair next to my bed. He woke up soon after I did, and in a very gentle voice kept telling me it was going to be ok. I just had to believe. There he stayed for most of the night. I would sleep and waken, and he would sometimes be asleep, other times he’d smile and comfort me.
Surgery went well, and my leg wasn’t amputated, but I was in and out of surgeries, casts, and the hospital for the next two years. Richard passed away from leukemia the second year, but has lived on in my heart and memory. His father became my hero as I watched him on television, then and in later years. For during the time I knew Mr. Skelton and his son Richard, I only saw their courage, compassion, and tender hearts. I saw a man who was “in character” to make the children laugh and forget their illnesses, but I also saw a very gentle man who was not “in character”, as he sat by the bed of a fatherless 11 year old. Setting aside his own fears, or sadness, Red Skelton, the clown who entertained millions during the early days of television, made sure I was able to face a scary situation with the hope it was going to be ok.”
I find this remarkable. Dealing with the approaching death of his own son, Red Skelton found it within himself to keep up the spirits of other children. I guess he really meant it when he said, “God’s children and their happiness are my reasons for being”. In the years to come Skelton would become a major donor for charities for sick kids, and would also assist children through his establishment of the Red Skelton Foundation in his hometown of Vincennes, Indiana.
The complete article, which focuses on Richard's faith and his pilgrimage, is available here.