Muppets, Disco, and YouTube

“I really hated the theatre. It bored me.” declared Ionesco in his journals. “Sometimes it seems to me that I started writing for the theatre because I hated it…” As we rehearse Ionesco’s The Killing Game, it is apparent that Ionesco is searching for a new form that intends to entertain instead of bore the audience. Despite the dark theme of a town devastated by the plague, the play is a series of variety sketches much like Laugh-In or Saturday Night Live. Stage directions call for actors to appear “like a Punch & Judy show” or burst out into musical numbers in the middle of a serious confrontation scene. Ionesco was fascinated by puppets and writes “when I was a child, I can still remember how my mother could not drag me away from the Punch and Judy show in the Luxembourg Gardens. I…could stay there, spellbound, all day long…”

As part our process of using the ensemble to create and generate ideas for Ionesco’s stylized scenes, the actors have been pulling in a wide range of material, from YouTube clips to songs from their IPODS. Serious discussions have included The Muppets as a way of exploring the puppet-like behavior of the town, including a Muppets slapstick bit called “The Muppets Dance of Derision.” For the scenes that have required actors to break out into song, 70s disco, musical theatre, The Ramones, and Joni Mitchell have all been viable ideas that could possible appear in the final show. In searching for examples of Muppet-like behavior, we came across this YouTube clip that we hope gives you a sense of the spirit of rehearsals right now.

Heather Helinsky

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