Being an actor/actress is an odd vocation, one that I was so excited to discover and one that I eventually pursued. My door to the acting world was the costume department. Our dear late friend, Werner Russold, wardrobe department head, offered me a short pre-production job for the Charlottetown Festival at the Confederation Centre of the Arts when I was 17. As I stood in the wings, ready to help with a quick change for some of the performers, I gazed at the stage and Read more
Buffoonery Workshops is excited to announce a unique venture with The Performer’s Mastery of Vancouver for 2013. For a lower combined price acting students can take advantage of both the Buffoonery Acting Workshop and the Performer’s Mastery in order to have an amazing duo of career and personal growth building.
I, Trilby, took the Performer’s Mastery in July 2012 and discovered a challenging 3 days where your “stuff” gets addressed. This workshop is great for anyone, really, but for performers who want to be authentic in their work, the Performer’s Mastery is a direct way in.
We saw that both our workshops encourage actors and non-actors out of their comfort zones, and into their truth with very different yet, complimentary, methods. Over coffee we decided that in making it possible for people to take both workshops at a lower cost, we could help more people attain their dreams.
For more information and registration please go to The Performer’s Mastery site.
“The Queen of Hearts”
The short film project “The Queen of Hearts” is part of the Compendium series “Alice In Wasteland” produced at Vancouver Film School under the EBM department (Entertainment Business Management). Also within the “Alice in Wasteland” theme, four other short films are being shot with different production teams: TweedleDee and TweedleDum, The Twins; The T-Party; The Chesire Cat; and, The Flowers. I have been cast as the Queen of Hearts, and am excited to part of this high quality creation.
Producers of “Team Queen”: Lewis Chieng, Sheryl Vedamani, Daniel Gogolin, Alexandra Castillo, and Max Tennessen.
Director: Dave Roncin Writer: Casey Splinter Actors: Trilby Jeeves, Ava Vanderstarren, Jason Mireau
Follow Team Queen’s blog for more information.
In the meantime, I have decided to post my journey into the dark “Alice in Wasteland”.
January 9th, 2012
I was contacted by director and teacher David Roncin from Vancouver Film School regarding the next Compendium film shoot. He wanted to know if I might be interested in auditioning for the role of Queen in their short “Queen”. I read the script, fell in love with the style and the story, and promptly said yes!
January 10th, 2012
I’m having a very busy January and finally, late evening, got to studying my lines and doing some character preparation for the audition. The role is bold, troubled, and sensual in an ugly way. I went over the lines many times without imposing too many decisions. Just played. Eventually got the script to a place where I felt I could sleep the night!
January 11th, 2012
In the afternoon, after working on my business all morning, I dug into the script again. Using some tools I teach, I “buffooned” the scene (taking it to an extreme with some mockery), and danced to the words. It seemed to help find the Queen. Jumped in my car, put a cork in my mouth to practice the lines on my way (this helps with diction and clarity, and warms up the mouth muscles!). Once there, I continued to listen to the music I chose to suit the Queen’s personality, until I was invited into thee room. There I met a beautiful young woman who was playing my Alice. It was easy to be inspired by her beauty, and dig up the objective of the Queen. (you’ll have to see the film to find out what that is.. ) Your hint is that the Queen ISN’T pretty. We connected and I had fun in the audition. I think if one is having fun during an audition, things are looking good. If nothing else, you walk away feeling good. And, I did. And, I had no expectations. Onwards.
January 12th, 2012
I’m always up very early on Thursday mornings for a business networking breakfast I attend. Decided to check my email on my iPhone, as I do most Thursdays. Today there was a message from one of the producers, Daniel, that they were thrilled with my performance and wanted me for the role. Yahoooo!! I had to share with my biz group and they were excited for me. I’m very happy to do this project as I know how great the production values are, and the people involved are super nice. Plus the role is “juicy”! I’m grateful for the opportunity. Two of my friends were in previous Compendium films and they had a super experience. In fact, I got to coach on one of them – “Hook” from the Forever Series. Now it is my turn to be in the hot seat!
January 18th, 2012
This evening was scheduled for me, “Queen”, to have a make-up test. I wasn’t sure what that was going to be until earlier today. I figured it would be involved as the Queen’s face is to be scarred, and less than pretty. Well, tonight was about making a mask of my face so the make up artists could create prosthetics that would be glued to my face. I had been through the process before, which was good as it can be challenging. Your face is completely covered in goop with only the nostrils being left so you can breathe. There is a lot of trust in the people who are doing it so you want to make friends with them very quickly!
No fear, Louise Lockhart and Steph Segaric were awesome and constantly checking in with me to see if I was okay. They first applied some purple gooey stuff (official name is alginate, a seaweed by product) to my face. It felt strange as it dripped around. This first step was to take a detailed impression of my face. (I wonder if it’s the same stuff they use at the dentist…) The cheesecloth they then attached was to help create some traction for the subsequent casting to grip. The gypsona, a light plaster, becomes the spine of the shape so they have something solid to work with when they make a “positive”.
Okay… that’s the technical details. What was I going through as these steps took place? Surprisingly, once I got used to being covered, and trusting my little air holes, I felt quite Zen. It was a refreshing break in my crazy schedule. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t read, couldn’t do anything but sit. It was a “mask retreat”. Maybe there is a new business here! Our society needs it! Forced stillness. I was almost disappointed when it was time to pull the mask off (which went quite smoothly).
But… there was some fun happening around me during my masked meditation!
I didn’t see my “positive” made from a cement like substance, but this is Jack’s, the Queen’s cohort. Louise and Steph use the rock hard face molds to create the prosthetics that will eventually find themselves on our faces as scars.
January 25, 2012
Time for a second session with Louise for a more in-depth testing of the prosthetics and some make up for the Queen.
Louise showed me the scars, and then began her artistry to feel out how everything might look. I became her canvas. I tried not to interfere too much with photo taking, but, it’s not every day a gal gets to have this kind of character building, in a literal way! We tested the skin grafts, because they’re important during a pivotal moment for the Queen. But… I won’t give that away, either! As an actor, I always enjoy playing a role that is physically steps away from me. There is a freedom of expression that is hard to explain. This make-up will be like doing mask work, in a miniature way, which always leads you to a mysterious place.
January 26, 2012
Today I am going over the most recent script and hoping the lines don’t change too much. I know they have to keep the script under a certain amount of time as we have only 12 hours to shoot everything. And, that will include the 3 to 4 hours they will have me in make-up. I plan to use that time to review my lines, my intentions, my objectives, and listen to some music (this really helps me get in the zone of my character). I’m sure I’ll spend the first part of the session just waking up, and chatting to Louise as our call time is sure to be very early.
January 27, 2012
This evening we had a rehearsal with the three cast members and our director, Dave Roncin. The role of “Jack” has been re-cast for personal reasons. I never did meet the original “Jack” so I didn’t have a chance to get attached. Our new Jack, Jason, is a nice guy and contributed some good insight about the script. Both Ava and Jason have worked together before, which can be a helpful bonus (they graduated from VFS at the same time). I think we will have fun and give each other good support.
Tonight’s rehearsal focused mainly on discussing our individual stories, our relationships to each other, and the subtext of what is really going on. I enjoy this sleuthing. Then at some point you have to decide what are the stronger choices, and what is going to make the story “sing”. It’s like building a puzzle and knowing when you’ve found the right piece because it slips in easily. The Queen’s character, on the surface, could appear to be hateful and ugly, but underneath she is a suffering figure, like so many in real life. My job as an actor will be to inspire some sympathy in the audience despite her apparent cruelty. No pressure!! I do like her, though, and that should read somewhere in me when the cameras are turned on. At least, this is what I hope for. I will look to our fearless leader, Dave, for guidance.
We also examined certain sentences that didn’t ring quite right. A lot of times you might not know exactly why, but something leads you to question whether your character would say that word, or that line. The writer has done a great job and now we’re just doing some tweaking. Our job is to serve the writing. I didn’t see the original script but apparently it has gone through some major changes to its current state (as they do). I am also looking forward to the silences in the story.
After a couple of reads and our discussion we walked down to the studio to see the set. It was a busy place with the walls being painted a dusty rose (not purple, Max!). And, I saw the beginnings of my little stage where the Queen dances. I’m excited about that. Having some physical action will help my overall interpretation. When I perform I always use music to inspire me into my character. Dave walked us through the broad strokes of how we will be moving through the space. Then we were released to go home and do our homework!
It’s the love scene in “All’s Well That Ends Well” by Shakespeare:
I’m playing the boy. My partner is playing the girl. And, we’re both bouffons. The production is en Francais and we’re having a ball mocking this scene, as bouffons do. Ce n’est qu’un plaisir!
I come off stage for my next change, back into a “normal” character and realize how free I feel. I also realize that my devilish inner voice that taunts me, tells me I’m not good enough, has been flushed into the outer world. Nowhere near me.
“This has got to be good,” I think to myself.
Considering my wonky start with the bouffon training with my mentor, Marc Doré who studied with LeCoq in Paris, I was suddenly wooed over. A great big fat AHA! moment.
“I wasn’t over-thinking my performance, my opinions were clear, and I had fun playing with my partner.”
It was everything you strive for as an actor.
20 years later, I decided it was time to bring this gem I had in my acting toolbox to the forefront. I holed up in my apartment in Vancouver, played my favourite music, and spent two weeks designing my first official “Buffoonery Acting Workshop”. I was lost in the joy I felt as I created a path for others to discover, with all the wacky gifts along the way.
March 2007 was the official launching of the workshop and 5 eager participants showed up. Brave bouffon warriors.
Almost six years, and approximately 700 plus bouffons later, Buffoonery Workshops is gradually becoming “Buffoon Culture”. It has become not only good for actors, but also for the non-actor.
Here we will only peek at the actor experience.
“What do you do for a living, Trilby?”
In social settings where I answer what my main focus is in life, “Buffoonery Workshops”, there is always a double take. And, I don’t blame them. I repeat, and then give a general idea what it is I do. Or more importantly, what people do in my workshop.
When a group of actors begin my course, whether it be a 6 week program, or a 2 day intensive, or even a mini-coaching, there needs to be a safe place established. Safety is paramount, in my opinion, in order to reap the full benefits of the journey.
We talk about each person’s experiences, obstacles, and goals for their acting. Some of the obstacles I hear are: “I think too much”, “I don’t trust myself”, “I’m too aware of my body”, “I’m afraid of forgetting my lines”, “I want to be more truthful”, “nervous”, “worried about what others think”, “want to be more connected”… and so on.
I assure everyone that they will be so involved with what they are doing as a bouffon that most of those “voices” will disappear. For the time being.
When people ask me what is a bouffon, I start by suggesting it is similar to a clown, but not really. Then I compare the two entities: the clown generally seeks approval from its audience; the bouffon doesn’t give a s…t! Hence, being in a bouffon state is very freeing.
Because the bouffon loves to mock us, the human world, he/she has a very clear opinion of the situation and the character it is ridiculing. This is very helpful for the acting world.
As an actor, your job is to discover what is hidden underneath the obvious text, paragraphs, scenes, and story. Subtext. As in life, what we say can’t always be literally translated. How many times have you said “fine” when you meant the opposite? And that is just one word!
I have dug around, myself, in many plays, scenes, lines to find out what is really being said. This sleuthing will inform me in how I deliver a line.
But, sometimes, sitting on our butt, script in hand, pencil in mouth is not the best way to discover the answers. We also need to move. And, sometimes we need to move BIG.
That’s where I come in.
“Imagine you are downtown driving a Porsche. Yeah… so what? It’s a Porsche, yeah, but you can only drive it 50 km an hour. You can see that the car can go fast by the speedometer, but, that’s all you know.”
“One day, you take your Porsche out to the desert where it’s really safe, and the road is straight. You start to drive it. Really drive it. FAST. You grasp the wheel tighter, you sit up, and you pay attention!”
“Holy crap! This car can GO!” It’s a rush.
You go back to the city, still driving the same car, back to 50 km an hour, but now you are different. You understand the power beneath you. You hold the wheel with a different, knowing grip. Your posture is different. There is a glint in your eyes that wasn’t there before.
This is what we do in Buffoonery Workshops.
I take you to your extreme, bring you back, and leave you with a knowing, a confidence that wasn’t there before. The participants will buffoon a monologue or a scene just as I did in my Shakespeare play.
Oh, and, that glint? It’s got a sense of humour.
But, let’s back up for a moment. You still might be wondering, “Yeah, but, what is the bouffon, and where the heck does it originate.”
We need to go far back, way back to the time of “Le Renaissance” and Philippe Gaulier one of the great mentors of LeBouffon.
Some explanations about Le Bouffon:
“Bouffon is an art form, which originated with the ‘Ugly People’ of France during the French Renaissance. Gaulier said excessively ugly people, lepers, and those with disfiguring scars or deformities were “banished to the swamp.” The exception was during festivals, when the bouffon (or ugly people) were expected to entertain the ‘beautiful people’.”
“During these performances, the bouffon’s goal was to get away with insulting or disgusting the beautiful people as much as possible. Typically, the bouffon would target their attack on the leaders within the mainstream of society, such as the government or the Roman Catholic Church.”
“The ideal performance for a bouffon would be one where the audience is wildly entertained, and then go home, realize their lives are meaningless, and commit suicide. This of course is a theoretical ideal instead of an anticipated outcome.”
Jacques LeCoq, another wise bouffon mentor, from which my schooling originated, compares the clown and the bouffon as such: “The difference between the clown and the bouffon is that while the clown is alone, the bouffon is part of a gang; while we make fun of the clown, the bouffon makes fun of us.”
Originally, when LeCoq encouraged his students to mock one another in the spirit of le bouffon, the exercise failed. The “mockee” felt insulted, and not comfortable. LeCoq realized that the bouffon had to have some distortions (much like the “ugly people of the renaissance”) in order for the mockery to be effective. Bumps and lumps appeared, and that worked!
The “mockee” was able to laugh at him/herself, and became more enlightened.
The benefits from working with le bouffon include working well with your colleagues (the hierarchy is accepted in the bouffon gang and there is no conflict), and releasing a self-consciousness about your physical self, thereby freeing yourself to play honestly.
To play. Jouer. En Francais, we always describe “acting” as “entrain de jouer”: playing.
Le Bouffon helps us reunite with what is already in us from our early years. And, as audience members, we know that when the actor is having pleasure in playing the story, we are relaxed, and involved.
Vive le theatre! Vive le bouffon! Vive le jeu!
Please have a browse the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance website where this article had it’s debut.