Saturday, November 22, 2014

Naked Ventriloquism

Naked City was a ground breaking police detective tv series that aired from 1958-63. It was filmed on location on the streets of New York City. I remember watching some of those episodes as a child growing up on the outskirts of the city in Little Neck, Queens. Recently, as I watched some Naked City episodes on DVD, a flood of buried memories burst out of the recesses of my mind. A nostalgia tinged with more than its share of the sadness that is intrinsically part of the bitter-sweetness that is nostalgia.

My troubled childhood did have moments of joy, moments of connectedness to my parents and sister amidst the more pervasive feelings of sadness and alienation. Moments of hope. I remember feeling as I watched Naked City as a child that the show presents an experience of life that mirrored my own. Though I didn't have the words to express it then, I would describe it now as a dark, melancholy noir-like world of forlorn people struggling to escape from being trapped. Whether trapped by the consequences of their own misdeeds, or by circumstances beyond their control, the characters in Naked City episodes were invariably lonely, desperate and alienated.

The series got its name from the iconic noir movie of the same name from 1947. The name is apt as the series strived to strip its characters of their usual layers of psychological and sociological cover, and show us their gut-wrenching emotional vulnerabilities. The characters, including the lead police detective, were psychologically and emotionally naked in a way that was unprecedented in any tv series before and (I believe) since.

This feeling of psychological and emotional nakedness is also reminiscent to me of what drew me to ventriloquism as an art form and career. All my puppet characters are expressions of aspects of myself, whether readily apparent or deeply hidden. So when performing ventriloquism I have the feeling that I am revealing parts of myself that would otherwise always remain hidden or latent. Ventriloquism allows me to do this in a safe way. As I create the illusion that my puppets are real I also give myself permission to reveal parts of myself that I otherwise never would. And by making my audience laugh I get their permission - and encouragement - to push the boundaries ever further between reality and illusion.

In this way I feel that ventriloquism is a means to transform dark feelings into joyous ones, alienation into human connections, hopelessness into hope. This is also a key element of the film noir genre: when done well, a noir film transforms its own gloominess into something greater and larger than itself. There is a coziness, a solace that the viewer feels, if only in his or her empathy with the characters' inner psychological struggles and outer struggles against relentless unbeatable forces. As I now watch and re-watch various episodes of Naked City I feel that this feeling is conveyed consistently throughout the series.

The Naked City tv series - or my vague memories of it - also helped inspire me to create the Trillo & Suede characters of my mystery novel, While the Village Sleeps. The lead character, Van Trillo, is both a detective and a ventriloquist. So I feel that with this novel I have incorporated the two forms of "nakedness" that are the most exciting and meaningful to me...noir and ventriloquism.

Dummy Noir. I hope that this new genre that I am creating will do justice to the heritage of Naked City, and to the spirit of Naked Ventriloquism.
Trillo & Suede introduce While the Village Sleeps:
Trillo & Suede intro video

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My Fiverr I nuts?

As you may know, is a place where anyone can offer to do (nearly) anything for a fee of five dollars. Each offer is called a "gig". This could potentially be a lucrative endeavor for someone who has a gig to offer that many people want, and that is very quick and easy to fulfill via upload. I searched "ventriloquist" on the site recently and apparently there were only one and a half ventriloquists who were offering gigs. I say "one and a half" because...judging by the gig intro videos that sellers can post...there was one legitimate ventriloquist and one lady who called herself a ventriloquist although she didn't seem to have the slightest ability to do ventriloquism.

After sellers on Fiverr have sold a certain number of gigs they are then allowed to offer "extras", which are add-on elements to their gigs for which they can charge added fees. This could potentially turn a Fiverr gig that is not worth doing into one that is much more lucrative. But as a newbie to Fiverr I am limited to five dollar gigs for now. 

So, what kind of ventriloquist gig could I possibly offer that would be worth my time for a fee of just, actually four dollars, after the 20% commission that takes from the sellers? For a ventriloquist gig I'm limited to creating videos for people and uploading them through the site, since anything other than a video gig would render the ventriloquism aspect of the gig irrelevant. So what sort of video could I offer? Have a puppet sing Happy Birthday? Or deliver a message or greeting? Or a poem? Or answer a question? Give advice? It seemed that none of the above would be worth my time, so naturally I decided to do all of the above...

I've posted several such gigs in the past few days. Why? I'm known mostly in the New York City area as a performer, so if I get tons of Fiverr gigs it would be a potential way of getting myself known better around the world. Then again, I might find that I don't have the time to fulfill tons of Fiverr gigs. But I can close my Fiverr account whenever I want, so for now I'm very curious to see what comes of this. As of now, I have booked just one gig, which happened to be a very interesting one. An author asked me to create a video with my puppet pretending to be a shy ventriloquist shooting a video in an unusual dating scenario. The short script provided to me was spot-on, and the video was fun to shoot. When the video goes live I will post a link to it. 

Meanwhile, if you want to check out my current gigs before I change my mind and remove them...