Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Friday, July 21, 2006

Convention Highlights - Friday

Friday is workshop day. In the morning I attended Al Getler's workshop on "10 Ways To Improve Your Act." Everyone should find something in Al's list to improve their work.

Then I attended Mike Bishop's "Selling Yourself to the 'Other' Market (Agents)." This workshop was worth the price of the convention. I've worked with agents a lot over the years as a musician, and I learned things here that I did not know, things I wish I'd known years ago. This is one of those workshops that sells the presenter's book. I bought the book.

In the afternoon I attended Gary Owen's "Advanced Ventriloquism," which is an update of a workshop Gary presented a few years ago. Gary covers a wide variety of subjects with not enough time for any one of them, but he gives it his all. He demonstrated how to make entrances and exits with your puppet and also how not to, something that lots of folks there need to know. He taught how to make some voice effects, Gary's specialty.

Gary devoted a few minutes to using music in your act, a subject that definitely needs a lot more time and detail.

Being both a professional musician and a ventriloquist, I understand this aspect of the art better than most, and I can see from the shows—pros and amateurs alike—a need for more information on this subject. I pitched to management a workshop about adding music to a vent act several times in the past, but my proposals were either rejected or ignored, so I've given up trying.

Paige Parnell's workshop was "Protecting Your Characters with Copyrights," a subject near and dear to my heart. I've been reading copyright law and researching copyright case law for a couple of years in my work as author, composer and arranger, and Paige addressed quite thoroughly the specific area of copyright law as it applies to ventriloquist figures and the characters they represent.

Ventriloquists have other copyright concerns—scripts, acts, music, etc.—and I'd like to see the subject covered more broadly perhaps in a lecture at a future convention, perhaps by a practicing intellectual property attorney.

Stevo Schuling hosted the International Show featuring acts from Japan, Germany, and Venezuela. After Stevo announced Alpar Fendo from Germany, he left the stage so Alpar could make his entrance. Someone in the audience said quite audibly, "Heil Hitler." The performers graciously ignored it. Perhaps they didn't hear it.

Carlos Pereira from Venezuela does a trick in which he smokes two cigarettes and takes them fully into his mouth while his figure speaks. I think what we have here is, for lack of a better phrase, culture shock, and it's something no one can anticipate and prevent. First, the Drawbridge is a nonsmoking venue, and a bit that uses burning cigars or cigarettes should be off limits. But, worse, when Carlos moved on to his next bit, he tossed the burning cigarettes off the stage onto the wooden dance floor, and there they lay, smoldering and leaving burn marks on that nice parquet floor. People in the front rows were stunned. I went to the back of the room and told cameraman Phillip Jones that there were two burning cigarettes on the wood floor. He told Ken Groves, who manages all the productions, and is kind of the bouncer among his many other duties. Ken went up front and stomped out the cigarettes, adding the title of fire marshall to his job description. A sigh of relief went through the house.

We finished the evening with the "Ask the Pros" panel discussion. Any panel that includes Bob Rumba is worth attending. I don't care whether you get any questions answered, you are going to laugh a lot.

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