Volume 4 Book 4 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Overlooking Firenze (Florence).
[ Book 4-3 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6a 6b ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] -- [ Book 4-5 ]
June 8-11, 2005.
Total Improv for Kids/Firenze.It was Jimmy's new manager Bonny Dore who recently said, "I've found that musicians frequently make good video/film editors. They have a sense of timing that is innate."
The other day someone asked me why I've become so interested lately in moviemaking and why I've been enjoying all the video editing I've thrown myself into. And I remembered back to the mid-80s when I moved to NY and was living with my friend Diane. She was a video editor and I slept on her couch in front of the big, cumbersome video editing machine on a table we built.
She was particularly interested in reggae music, and even now has an extensive library of classic reggae bands whose videos she cut. At one point she and her then business partner Stafford produced a TV show called "Reggae Strong," which was beamed out by satellite around the world. I think it was then that I caught the bug.
But, for the most part video editing equipment was expensive and not available for anyone who couldn't devote their lives to paying off the investment in the stuff.
So, flash forward to where we are now. Even though I'm still using "amateur" equipment, the video editing I can do on my laptop using a $70 program is mind-boggling. I'm throwing myself into it, learning the nuts and bolts and basically giving myself a college education by just doing it in a hit or miss fashion.
One of the projects I'm enjoying is working with some kids over at the Avery Schreiber Theatre where we are doing The Big Voice.
For three Saturdays in a row, I've gone over there videotaping some improv with the students in a program called Total Improv for kids (http://www.totalimprov.com/). Linda Fulton is the teacher there and for the first session, without warning them, I took the students -- ages 12 to 18 -- one by one, stood them in the lobby where all the sun shines in (since I don't have lighting equipment), pointed my video camera at them and started interviewing them. I didn't tell them ahead of time whether this was real or not. I just asked questions to see what kind of response I would get.
How old are you?
How long have you been with the program?
How long have you been out of jail?
(None of these kids have records, btw. That was just me trying to catch them off-guard. It worked, too. They're totally adorable and they don't look or sound like "Hollywood kids," We're Valley, you see. 10 thousand miles from Hollywood.)
I cut together a little video and played it for them the following week.
Then I taped them again, only this time I gave them a premise, that they were a gang trying to take over the building. With nothing more than that, I took them two by two this next time and had them improvise more stuff with me just asking questions. At one point, a gang of them burst into the room and a whole bigger scene started, including Linda.
I then cut that together and played it for them again this past Saturday and we discussed what worked, what didn't work, what was funny, what wasn't funny, etc. Eventually, with Linda, the plan is to make a documentary of the work going on at the theatre, but with a twist.
The format will be mockumentary and the piece will contain samples of their onstage work, but the offstage will be improv, a made-up reality. After all, that's the point of the program. It will be improv within improv. The next step -- and we're making this up as we go along -- is for them to begin knowing their characters and how each character relates to the others. It's a kind of hyper reality.
As we go along I'll detail the process, but this is great fun and the best part is that everyone learns as we go along.
Meanwhile, back on our cruise:
May 12, 1005.
We had one day to see Firenze (which, in English is Florence), the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It was during the 14th to the 16th centuries that the Vatican became weak and the northern city states of Italy, which were smack dab in the middle of the trade routes, became rich with a new merchant class. The mysticism and strict religious themes enforced by Rome were thrown aside and scholars and thinkers began looking to the antiquities to broaden their horizons and thinking. It was here that humanism began to develop and man began to break free of the shackles of religious overlords.
Out of this new freedom to THINK came some of the most beautiful works of art in the history of mankind. Our tour guide explained that the artists began to see that creating beauty was a way of capturing the essence of God.
My feeling is that any philosophy that encourages people to create this kind of beauty is my kind of philosophy. Photos we took:
A castle in the air.
Outside the Uffizi gallery museum.
The Ponte Vecchio.
Rape of the Sabine Women.
Rub the boar's nose and you get to return to Firenze!
Just don't forget to drop in a coin.
The Ponte Vecchio, whose most striking feature is the multitude of shops built on it. First constructed by the Etruscans in ancient times, this bridge is the only one in the city to have survived World War II intact.
The crowning architectural jewel of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as "The Duomo".
The magnificent dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi.
Above one of the doors of the Cathedral.
Brass doors on the Baptistry designed by Ghiberti,
referred to by Michelango as the "Gates of Paradise."
The one thing I was not prepared for was seeing Michelango's David in person. We entered this gallery and when I turned the corner and saw this 17 foot masterpiece I literally gasped. I was in total awe. To see it in person is completely mind-boggling. No picture, no replica, no image can ever do it justice. To think he brought forth this from a single flawless block of marble is truly beyond description. It's something you have to experience in person. We weren't supposed to take photos inside, but I did anyway. Also got some video (and got caught!).
We stayed there for awhile just admiring it and letting it work its magic. Then we rushed back to the bus. It was a long, long day but so worth it. I would love to go back. I intend to go back some day and just spend time in this great city. It's one of the wonders of the world.
Next: Rome at last.
© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.