Elmer Fudd

Some inspiration for The Man Who Went Out Shooting!

Our hapless hunter is partially inspired by the stylized cartoon movements of classic Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes character Elmer Fudd.

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Home Sweet Home

MC:  (sings) Home, home, sweet sweet home
     Be it ever so humble
     There's no place like home
        - SHOCKHEADED PETER, p. 22

In this scene, the MC is singing a portion of the 1823 song “Home, Sweet Home” with music by Henry Bishop and lyrics by John Howard Payne.

Deanna Durbin sings the song in the 1939 movie FIRST LOVE:

A completely different, acoustic take:

Complete lyrics:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;

A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,

Which seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met elsewhere.

Home! Home!

Sweet, sweet home!

There’s no place like home

There’s no place like home!

Moving like a Cat

Some inspiration for Harriet’s feline friends:

How to Walk Like a Cat: Tai Chi Walking for Beginners

1. Keep your head up high on your shoulders and look straight ahead.

2. Keep your centre of gravity low and your knees slightly bent. Do not lock out your knees, keep them soft and the joints open.

3. Move one foot cautiously off the floor, peeling the sole of the foot slowly from the ground as though it were partially stuck with glue.

4. With one leg raised, begin to place the heel down in front of you, slowly. Do not look at the floor or at your feet, but instead keep your eyes focused in front of you. This will help maintain your balance.

5. With the heel now on the ground, roll the rest of the foot forward towards the toes. Keep your arms relaxed and at your sides and do not hold your breath!

 

Tatsumi Hijikata and Butoh

Tatsumi Hijikata was a Japanese choreographer and founder of the genre of dance performance art butoh. Loosely translated, butoh means earth or stomp dance. It involves precise, often slow movements, and playful and grotesque imagery. Our director, Steve Bogart, is interested in incorporating movement influenced by butoh into SHOCKHEADED PETER.

Learn more about Hijikata and butoh here.

Violence and Death in Kids’ Movies

Arguably one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinematic history

Arguably one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinematic history

An interesting recent article in The Atlantic explores the prevalence of violence in G and PG-rated movies. It details the results of a study which compared the most successful animated children’s movies from 1937 to 2013 with the two top grossing films for adults from those years. The result? “Two-thirds of children’s movies depicted the death of an important character while only half of films for adults did, [and] the main cartoon characters in children’s films were two-and-a-half times more likely to die, and three times as likely to be murdered, when compared with their counterparts in films for adults.”

More specifically, they discovered that “in children’s movies, parents, nemeses and children were most likely to be killed off first, while in adult-geared films the movie’s protagonist was most likely to die first on-screen.”

cinderella

Cinderella loses her father and mother as well, but offscreen

So why is there so much death in entertainment for kids? Parents.com offers one explanation: “It’s natural for children, at various ages, to worry about being less loved than a sibling, starting school, and perhaps worst of all, being lost or abandoned. “Nothing is scarier than the thought of getting separated from your parents or having your parents die,” says Lawrence Sipe, PhD, a professor of children’s literature at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in Philadelphia. Rather than instilling these fears in children, fairy tales actually help kids face the fears they already have — and vanquish them.”

What do you think? Were you disturbed or fascinated by death in stories when you were a child? And is there a difference between secondary characters being killed as opposed to the protagonists, who are often children themselves?

Thanks to Assistant Director Josh for the Atlantic article! 

Fairy Wedding Waltz

A Victorian Drawing Room is revealed

MC:   Home sweet home.  Here is the man who has all he could possibly   wish for.
FATHER:   He has a fine house, a strong faith, but above and beyond     all this he has a beautiful lady wife.
MOTHER:   She has a beautiful smile.  She wears the finest of dresses,  and she dances like a dream.

They dance. 
     - SHOCKHEADED PETER p. 4

We’re thinking of using J. W. Turner’s Fairy Wedding Waltz Opus 120 to underscore this dance. Check out this beautiful cover for the sheet music from 1863:

Publisher Oliver Ditson & Co.

Thanks to Army of Broken Toys wrangler Edrie for the image! 

Storks

But when you spy that dot, keep your eyes on it for that dot will growand grow, take form and definition, and you will see that that dot is a bird.  Now follow that bird, observe it well for its neck is long   and its legs are slender, and in its beak it carries a package.  Yes  my friends, that bird is the stork and it carries my wife and I's longawaited baby boy.
     - SHOCKHEADED PETER, p. 4

stork1Storks are frequently associated with babies in modern Western culture, from baby shower decorations to birth announcements, as well as being a droll way of putting off that infamous child’s question: “Where do babies come from?”  But where, in our popular imagination, did this image of storks come from? stork cartoon

In several mythologies, storks are symbols commitment and fidelity, because storks are widely believed to mate for life–not entirely true, but they do tend to return to the same nests year after year.

Furthermore, the migratory patterns of storks lead to their association with birth. They “fly south in the fall and return to Europe nine months later. Usually they could be seen heading north and nesting around March and April. Babies born in March and April were likely conceived in June of the previous year. Midsummer’s Eve, which takes place on June 21, is a celebration of the summer solstice, but it is also a pagan holiday of marriage and fertility. As many marriages and other couplings would take place during this time, many babies would be born around the time that the storks could be seen flying north, making the connection that the “stork brought the baby.”” [source]

The widespread popularity of this myth, though, can be traced to Hans Christian Anderson’s 19th century short story The StorksIn in, a family of storks is revenged upon boys in town who threaten them by delivering a dead baby to the family of the ringleader.

“Yes, certainly,” cried the mother stork. “I have thought upon the best way to be revenged. I know the pond in which all the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take them to their parents. The prettiest little babies lie there dreaming more sweetly than they will ever dream in the time to come. All parents are glad to have a little child, and children are so pleased with a little brother or sister. Now we will fly to the pond and fetch a little baby for each of the children who did not sing that naughty song to make game of the storks.”

“But the naughty boy, who began the song first, what shall we do to him?” cried the young storks.

“There lies in the pond a little dead baby who has dreamed itself to death,” said the mother. “We will take it to the naughty boy, and he will cry because we have brought him a little dead brother. But you have not forgotten the good boy who said it was a shame to laugh at animals: we will take him a little brother and sister too, because he was good.”

Thanks to ensemble member Amelia for the question and link! 

Victorian Era Details

Questions having been coming up periodically in rehearsals about what things looked like, or if things existed, during the Victorian Era.

How will we know this character is a doctor? What type of bag would one have had?

What did cat owners use for litter?

Sand, sawdust, or torn-up newspaper [source]

Did they use salt and pepper shakers?

Yes! “The lady of the house often used condiments as the centerpiece for her table in the Victorian era…Some were cruet sets consisting of salt, pepper and a vinegar cruet on a glass tray…More frequently found were condiment sets consisting of a salt, pepper and mustard pot, normally on a matching glass base.” [source]

What did dustpans look like?

Victorian Stuffed Animals

In rehearsal this week, we’ve started playing with some stuffed animals–using them primarily as props and stand-ins for puppets. We only have access to contemporary ones at this point, but it’s gotten us thinking about stuffed animals from the Victorian period, and the different mood they would create.

Check out some of our favorite images:

 

What is SteamCRUNK?

Company One’s production of SHOCKHEADED PETER is deeply influenced by the aesthetic of our collaborative partners, Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys. They call it SteamCRUNK: “one part Steampunk (which we get lumped into because we care what we look like on stage) and Crunk (because we also care about fun and revelry and Walter’s style of music and stage presence cranks it up),” as Edrie, the band’s accordion player, puts it.

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring technology based on steam power of the 19th century, but it has also come to define a specific way of dressing. Steampunk fashion is based on a Victorian clothing (corsets, top hats, parasols), but embellished with elements from steampunk fiction, such as goggles and mechanical gadgets.

The attraction to mechanics connects back to the band’s aesthetic. Edrie explains that “the thing that makes SteamCRUNK unique is that we see the inner workings of things.” Walter is a visual artist as well as a musician, and Edrie sees a connection between the two: “Sometimes he draws a song before he really comes up with a tune…Walter’s art is intricate, showing cutouts and internal organs while giving a picture of the whole. It juxtaposes things against each other and combines ideas to make something new.”

Learn more about the Army of Broken Toys here!

LE THÉÂTRE DU GRAND-GUIGNOL

The theatre was located in an alley off the Rue Chaptal in Montmartre

The theatre was located in an alley off the Rue Chaptal in Montmartre

Le Théâtre du Grand Guignol (literally, “theatre of the great puppet”) has come up a few times in conversations about the aesthetic for SHOCKHEADED PETER, and I don’t think it’s hard to see why. Grand Guignol (pronounced Grahn Geen-yol) has become a general term for entertainment dealing with macabre subject matter and featuring over-the-top, graphic violence. It stems from a theatre in Paris, founded in 1897, famous for its horrifying productions featuring gruesome scenes of murder, torture, and death.

“Audiences flocked to see the shows, at times screaming out if the drama went too far. However, some have claimed that these shows allowed Parisians to feel something, anything, in a way their ordinary lives did not. The Grand-Guignol was popular up until just after WWII when the real horror of the war brought a decline to the public’s taste for brutal, bloody fictions.”

What do you think about this interpretation? Are humans drawn to horrific, but fictional, stories and images because they allow us to experience emotions more strongly than we do in everyday life?

Find more gruesome pictures here.

Special thanks to Army of Broken Toys member Meff for these links!

Daguerreotypes

One of our central thematic and design touchpoints for this production is the daguerreotype.

dag featureThe daguerreotype was the first widely available photographic process available to the public, beginning around the 1840s, and falling out of favor by the late 1800s when newer methods became cheaper and easier to manage. These antique photos are identifiable by their particular aesthetic qualities: the image appears as if on a mirrored background, and depending on the angle at which it’s viewed, can seem as if it’s been printed in negative. In reality, the image is printed on the silver-coated glass as a reverse — the side we view is the side that was originally facing inwards, towards the camera’s guts. Another quality of the daguerreotype is that most prints were one-offs. Whereas later negatives could produce numerous paper photographic prints, copying daguerreotypes was pricey, labor intensive, and rarely done [source].

Of interest to us, perhaps, is this unique quirk of viewing daguerreotypes: “The surface of a daguerreotype is like a mirror, with the image made directly on the silver surface. It is very fragile and can be rubbed off with a finger. The finished plate also must be angled so as to reflect some dark surface for the image to be visible. Depending on the angle viewed and the color of the surface reflected into it, the image can change from a positive to a negative. The viewer’s own reflection will be seen at the same time” [source].

At the time the process was introduced, photographing a subject in daylight required 10 full minutes of still exposure, making it difficult to effectively capture people (which also explains the particularly wooden poses and expressions in early daguerreotype portraits). Technical innovations soon sped the process up. By the mid-1800s, “for the first time in history, people could obtain an exact likeness of themselves or their loved ones for a modest cost, making portrait photographs extremely popular with those of modest means. Celebrities and everyday people sought portraits and workers would save an entire day’s income to have a daguerreotype taken of them” [source].

Both the Library of Congress and Harvard University have excellent collections of early daguerreotypes — view some highlights HERE and HERE.

Thoughts on Songs

During our first rehearsal, director Steven Bogart shared these initial thoughts about each of the songs, and their thematic threads.


Read the text of the original Hoffman verses (the inspiration for these songs) in our previous post about the source material.

CAM00581~2

⇔⇔⇔⇔⇔

  1. OVERTURE: sets up the cautionary tale
  1. AUGUSTUS: the child who refuses to eat

Feeding children with our shame and fears. Trying to control their tastes, their physical needs and emotional needs. We insist on what goes into the minds of children.

The rebellion is we see in Augustus is the rebellion of the ignored and abandoned child. The abandoned child within us crying out for attention.

  1. CRUEL FREDERICK: the violent kid who doesn’t have empathy

A kid we all hate. We hate his rage at us. He is a monster, separate from ourselves, who gets what he deserves.

He is not us, he is outside of us. He’s the child we send away.

The adults sit back and watch Frederick bleed to death. He deserves it. When he dies, we are rid of the monster.

As we watch this child bleed and die, what becomes of us?

  1. HARRIET: the girl who played with matches

Outside:

  • psychological distress
  • curiosity
  • an incomplete understanding of cause and effect
  • a belief in the ability to control the flames

Unconscious:

  • impulsive behavior where creative outlets have been repressed. If you take away our expression we will burn down the house and the schools and die in the process.
  1. THE STORY OF THE MAN WHO WENT OUT SHOOTING: hunting, guns, children

The hunted become the hunters, the hunters become the hunted. The abused become the abusers.

Violence leads to more violence.

The Hare is female. She steals the Hunters gun, kills the hunter, his wife, her own baby and then herself.

We have seen these horrific stories in the news.

This story creates a hopeless world begging for an answer to the question; Can we escape the cycle of emotional and physical abuse that we perform on each other and ourselves. What has happened to us?

  1. CONRAD: the Thumbsucker

How do we nurture?

SHAMING from the parents or the adult regarding the child’s physical and emotional needs creates the monster that disgusts and embarrasses us.

If the child can’t be controlled, they must be die.

Killing the child is the metaphor for repression. But there is no escape from our own fears as the consequence of our adult behavior festers in our unconscious.

7. THE BULLY BOYS: if you do not toe the line you will be killed

At first this may seem like a cautionary tale to children who like to pick on others.

But when we consider of the character of Agrippa, the ruthless Roman General who put down rebellions during the reign of Augustus, the boys become figures that refused to behave as the culture or government demands.

The rebellious spirit must be crushed.

  1. FIDGETY PHIL: the child with the ‘issues” — ADD, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, Aspergers, etc.

The kid who won’t sit still. We see them in the schools, in restaurants, coffee shops, movies, supermarkets.

We bring shame on the ‘bad’ parents who can’t control their little monsters.

  1. JOHNNY HEAD IN AIR: the artist dreamer, the child with their head in the clouds

We must control the artists or they will float away into oblivion and drag us with them.

  1.  FLYING ROBERT: the adventurer

We are drawn to the power of nature. A child’s passion for meaning and a profound connection with nature frightens us. It’s dangerous and should not be encouraged. The lessons passed on from one generation to the next. Don’t be frivolous, don’t risk failure.

The children can not feel the vitality of life and become timid, frightened adults who live in fear of change and death. We obsess about children playing ‘carefully.’ We don’t let them fall or fail because their failure reflects on us.

We hate losing more than we love winning.

11. FINALE: the adult infant reaching out to all of us for help

First Thoughts & Impulses: Director’s Notes

Steve read this document to the cast, creative team, and guests at the first cast meeting and read-through on November 25, 2014.

Some First Thoughts & Impulses: Notes from SHOCKHEADED PETER 1st Rehearsal

— Steven Bogart, Director

We’ve abandoned our children, we’ve abandoned ourselves, we’ve abandoned our inner child; suffering emotional trauma and fear of abandonment. Shaming and critical self talk. The angry/defiant child. The vulnerable child.

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Members of The Army of Broken Toys

The inner child has gone into hiding deep inside. In other words, it has been repressed or disowned by the subconscious mind in order to protect us from the pain and fear of the abandonment it carries.

The main problem with repressed and disowned parts of self is that they don’t stay repressed…they get triggered just like any other part of the self. When they do is when we have “reactions” that are grounded in the fear of abandonment.

An excerpt from The Uses of Enchantment (1977) by Bruno Bettelheim:

“A child needs to understand what is going on within the conscious self so that he/she can also cope with that which goes on in the unconscious. Understanding, however, is achieved NOT through rational comprehension of the nature and content of the unconscious, but by becoming familiar with it through spinning out DAYDREAMS—ruminating, rearranging and fantasizing about suitable story elements in response to unconscious pressures.

“The child fits unconscious content into conscious fantasies, which enable her to deal with that content. The unconscious is a powerful determinant of behavior. When the unconscious is repressed and its content denied entrance into awareness, then eventually the person’s conscious mind will be partially overwhelmed by derivatives of these unconscious elements or else he/she is forced to keep such rigid, compulsive control over them that her personality may become severely crippled.

“But when unconscious material is to some degree permitted to come to awareness and worked through in imagination, it’s potential for causing harm—to ourselves or others—is much reduced; some of its forces can then be made to serve positive purposes.

“However, the prevalent parental belief is that children must be diverted from what troubles them most: their formless, nameless anxieties, and their chaotic, angry, and even violent fantasies.

“Many parents believe ONLY conscious reality or pleasant and wish-fulfilling images should be presented to children—that they should be exposed only to the sunny side of things. There is a widespread refusal to let children know that the source of much that goes wrong in life is due to our very natures—the propensity of all humans for acting aggressively, asocially, selfishly, out of anger and anxiety.

“Instead, we want our children to believe that, inherently, all humans are good. But children know THEY are not always good; and often, even when they are, they would prefer not to be. This contradicts what they are told by their parents, and therefore makes the child a monster in her own eyes. The dominant culture wishes to pretend, particularly where children are concerned, that the dark side of man does not exist, and professes a belief in an optimistic meliorism.”

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The cast, during the read-through.

Shockheaded Peter is a hallucinatory expression of our fear of monsters, born from the abandoned child within.

Two Tracks:

  1. The main story holds the justification for all the other story/songs. Without this main story then, the show would be a series of vignettes.

The story is of the abandoned child, literally and metaphorically repressed, thrown into the basement of our adult psyche, motivated by shame, and the pathological cycle of abuse.

A manifestation of the abandoned child, crying out a warning to our adult selves. Repression, repressed impulses, feeling thoughts, desires, etc., cannot remain hidden.

  1. The stories (songs) are about the behavior that the adult world/dominant culture must control.
  • Fear of monsters.
  • Fear of ourselves
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Fear of the future and of death
  • Fear of dreams, of unconscious states
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Fear of hallucinatory states of mind

The physical expression of the play through the design elements, the band, and various juxtapositions of acting styles contributes to the unconscious dream state in which the abandoned child-within lives.

The physical space of the play is the place of nightmares and the ID. The place where we have locked away our inner child. It is the inner abandoned child’s prison playground.

Another element is the plays absurdity and satirical effect, which is achieved by combining playful humorous rhymes of childlike lyrics with the gruesome punishment and outcome of each story.

All these stories illuminate behavior that stems from obsessive parental control, shame, and fear of abandonment. In this case, the fear of abandonment is two-fold.

The child’s fear that they are monsters in their parents eyes and will be thrown away, tossed out, discarded, punished and in Shockheaded Peter—killed, or left to die.

Motivated by shame, adults fear disapproval, rejection, and ostracism by the dominant culture which includes religious and spiritual expectations; the child represents all that is good with the world, all that is godly and one of the entrances into the afterlife. If the child is good, the gates to heaven are open to us.

There is a third major tension running through Shockheaded Peter; In the original Hoffman stories, the children were punished but not killed. In this case, the stories were used as cautionary tales to enlighten parents and children to proper behavior.

Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott wrote Shockheaded Peter partly as a critique of the Hoffman stories. Our perverse delight in the outrageous treatment of children reflects a deep concern for their welfare by drawing attention to the crazed manner in which adults want to save the young from themselves by destroying curiosity and adventurous spirits.

The appropriateness of Shockheaded Peter is, ironically, what Shockheaded Peter is about, then: a warning, if not a wild expression to the dominant culture about over-protective practices in education, motivated by a culture of fear that silences and seeks to control wild unchecked imagination.

As we work to stage Shockheaded Peter, we struggle with our need to protect children and ourselves from the theatrical violence of the stories. But the piece itself is a monster of our own creation; an expression of our unconscious festering needs, desires, and fantasies that scream for freedom.

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Band, cast, and director.

 

Source Materials: 1848 English Struwwelpeter

The musical of SHOCKHEADED PETER is based largely on Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 German children’s book, Struwwelpeter. In 1848, the first English edition was published, complete with Hoffman’s original illustrations. To see a full facsimile of the earliest English version, click HERE.

Summer Band Workshop

In late July and early August, the Band convened with Steve, Ilana, and Josh for a series of workshop rehearsals dedicated to exploring the music of SHOCKHEADED PETER, and creating a shared vocabulary.

(Cast and members of the creative team can access those recordings HERE.)

The music is in early drafts, and will necessarily change when actors join rehearsals, but it’s kicking off this process with a bang!

Welcome

Welcome to the rehearsal and production blog for SHOCKHEADED PETER, in production at Company One Theatre in March 2015.

Watch this space for research, images, sound, and video that contextualizes and details the world of this musical for the artists, the company, and the public.