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

Monday, July 02, 2007

Conventional Mindset

I am getting ready for the annual VentHaven ventriloquist's convention in a couple of weeks. This year's preparation is more complicated than in previous years.

One year I shared a dealer's table with Lee Cornell. I had some figures and other vent-related stuff to sell. I might do that again some day, but not this year; I don't like being tied to a table and not able to cruise the rest of the show.

Mostly all I had to think about in years past when I wasn't a dealer was what dummy to take and whether I would perform. If yes, then I had to think about material. What parts of what shows would I do? You get only six minutes on an open mic session. And you have to keep it clean. My stuff is mostly for adults. I have been able to find six minutes of clean material in my one hour show, but it's a challenge. There's another question: Do I want to use my best clean jokes there?

Even though this is the largest gathering of ventriloquists in the world, believe it or not you don't get to see all the best ventriloquist shows. You get to see some of the best ventriloquists, but they don't usually expose their best material to their contemporaries. Too many pencils waggling out there in the audience.

I've been working up a dialogue that one can perform only to an audience of ventriloquists. It has only inside jokes that non-vents wouldn't understand. You aren't going to steal that routine. The convention is the only venue where it would work, and everyone would know where you got it.

Dummy: How many ventriloquists does it take to change a light bulb?
Vent: I don't know, how many?
Dummy: About 75. One to change the light bulb and 74 to write down how he did it.

This year's preparation is more work though. I'm hosting a workshop titled, "Music In Ventriloquism," and the preparation for that workshop has kept me busy for some time now. I'll use a slide show and lots of musical examples to demonstrate the techniques I teach.

My workshop explains how to effectively incorporate music into your show. I am able to address this subject because I am a professional musician, operate a small recording studio, and keep up on all the latest music performace related gadgets, software, and resources.

I won't teach you how to sing. But I will explain why (1) you don't need to know how, and (2) you probably already know how even if you think you can't carry a tune.

I have wanted to teach this workshop for several years because our art needs it. The typical ventriloquist who uses music needs to know how, and many of us do not. That is evident in some of the shows I see at the convention.

So, plan to be there. We'll make beautiful music together.

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