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Light Comedy on Film with Sheila McCarthy Pt 3

Light Comedy on Film with Sheila McCarthy Pt 3

DAY THREE 

Between classes, I manage to spend some rehearsal time with Dakota, my scene partner in Some Like It Hot. Dakota plays the flighty Jerry, while I play the more serious Joe. The two men are impersonating women in an all-girl band to escape being shot by the mob in 1929 Chicago. There’s plenty of room for humour here.

We’ve worked up a bit of physical business between us and are eager to show Sheila. Our scene comes late in the script, when Jerry tells Joe that he’s considering a proposal from a wealthy man who really believes that Jerry is a woman. Joe is angered by Jerry’s refusal to take their plight seriously.

We try it once. The physical stuff goes okay, but Sheila pronounces our performance a “send-up of a send-up.” I know immediately what she means, surprised I didn’t see that before. She asks us to do it again and urges us to find something deeper.

The comedy lies in the fact that the more Joe rants, the more delusional Jerry becomes, thinking he’s got a good thing going if he keeps his guise as a woman.

Movie-Crossdressers-Joe-Jerry-Some-Like-It-HotIt’s clear the scene needs more tension to reach the highs and lows. Part of the problem is that I’m not taking Jerry’s ridiculous story (of the proposal) seriously. This time, Dakota finds new highs as he milks Jerry’s character for feminine qualities. In turn, I find some real anger. The comedy lies in the fact that the more Joe rants, the more delusional Jerry becomes, thinking he’s got a good thing going if he keeps his guise as a woman.

“Take the air out of it,” Sheila instructs us next.

It becomes her rally cry throughout the session. Once again, I know instinctively what she means. More importantly, I will see it working in every single scene performed that day, compressing and making the results denser, more satisfying to watch.

After a few rehearsals, Dakota and I are on camera. Normally, I am on the directing end of the lens. For some reason it doesn’t bother me today. Am I turning into an extrovert? I doubt it, but I’m enjoying being here.

“Bigger!” Sheila instructs us after the first take.

I’m amazed to hear her say this, as it already feels ridiculously outsized, but we push it up another notch and try again.

“How did it feel?” she asks, when we finish.

Suddenly, all those comedic scenes that look so effortless on screen are revealed for the intensely laborious processes they actually are.

some-like-it-hot8“Reckless,” I reply. “Out of control.” That may simply be the writer in me speaking. Too much of life feels out of control for my taste. Or maybe it’s just that at that speed, I don’t have time to stand back and watch myself properly. It’s like white-water rafting for the mind.

“It wasn’t too big,” she assures us. “This time do it like it’s grand opera.”

We turn it up yet another notch. (I can hardly believe it’s possible, but somehow I find one more stretch.) From the faces of the others watching and nodding, I can tell that it’s working. Okaaaay! I remind myself. Don’t think. Just get on with it.

What feels way too big in my body is apparently not outsized at all. That’s strange for me to contemplate. Suddenly, all those comedic scenes that look so effortless on screen are revealed for the intensely laborious processes they actually are. It’s a wonder there’s any fun left in them by the time they’re set.

Dakota and I go at it again with lots of gusto. Everything pares away till we are the only people in the room. No one is watching. There is no camera, no teacher, nothing but Joe and Jerry arguing over whether he will or will not marry his “fiancé.”

I recall, fleetingly, being aware of something I will not remember again till I see the results on video the following session.

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Jeffrey Round.jpgJeffrey Round is a director and writer of contemporary fiction. His latest book, the noir-thriller Lake On The Mountain, has been short-listed for a 2013 Lambda Award. Visit his website: jeffreyround.com.

 

 


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One Comment

  1. Awesome review Jeff! It was great working with you, I had a lot of fun working on this scene!

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