Friday, May 19, 2006

What G.B. Shaw Doesn't Know Won't Hurt Him

Both my husband and I were struggling actors for a good many years. We met in the theater – my husband came in to audition as a replacement for an actor that had suddenly dropped out of The Country Wife a week before we opened. Husband fit the costume . . . and a career was born!

I’ve been thinking about how some people are just so quick thinking – some of Clay Aiken’s ad libs on stage are wonderfully funny. Some people have it – some don’t. Usually, my husband is one of those quick-witted types. One time we were doing Shaw's Arms & The Man he did kind of have a moment . . .

The play takes place during the 1885 Serbo-Bulgarian War. Raina is a young Bulgarian woman and one night, a Swiss voluntary soldier in the Serbian army bursts into her bedroom and begs her to hide him, so that he is not killed. Captain Bluntschli is supposed to say "I am a Swiss, fighting merely as a professional soldier. I joined the Serbs because they came first on the road from Switzerland."

Well, husband starts talking very confidently "I'm a Serb . . ." and my eyes bug out of my head since he's pretty much changing the whole play with that one mistake.

I interrupt and say "You're a what?" Well, he knows by the sweat pouring off my forehead and the twitching of my lip that he said the wrong thing. So, deep breath and he starts again "I'm a . . . I'm a . . ." small voice "serb" . . .with a question-mark at the end.

By now, I'm freaking cause if he's a Serb we have some serious problems with the rest of the play. "You are not" I ad lib "you can't be". Husband takes a deep breath and says - "I'm a . . . Bulgarian?" - Well that's worse because if he's a Bulgarian then he doesn't have to worry about hiding in my Bulgarian bedroom. "I don't believe you." I say.

By now, I'm convinced that the audience is thinking "I thought Shaw was a great playwright -- what the hell is this crappy dialogue?

Well, Husband is not happy with my ad libbing - so he breathes deeply once again and decides maybe if he says it louder he can get away with it. "I'm a Ser. . ." "You're a what?" I interrupt louder still, eyes bugging out of my head. "I'm a . . . I'm a . . . *deep breath* . . . *sigh* . . . I'm sooo confused."

Stifling laughter at this point, I figure what the hell - and I say stupidly - You sound like a Swiss (whatever the hell that means). Relief comes over Husband’s face as he continues "Yes, yes. . . I'm so tired I can't think straight . . . I'm a Swiss fighting for the Serbs . . ." and we're back in business.

Poor George Bernard Shaw rolled over in his grave. But "I'm soooo confused" can still send us into fits of giggling whenever we say it.

Being quick on your feet is definitely a plus in the theater. And on the concert stage. One of the things I adore about Clay Aiken is how entertaining he is, even when he's not singing. Here's Clay - thinking quickly on his (big) feet.

Thinking about acting and Clay Aiken – I’ve definitely noticed a change in his delivery of a song. For shear perfection – I’m reminded of the brilliant Barbara Cook, who, in addition to being a sublime performer, teaches a master class for professional singers. As described in this review of a DVD by George Dansker who took her class in 2005 – “After only a few moments she was able to help each singer find the essence of a song and to communicate its meaning to the audience.” Barbara Cook

I remember the first time I noticed something had changed in Clay Aiken’s delivery of a song from when I simply just fell in love with the voice. I remember commenting on it to a friend of mine. It was as if he was using an acting technique called The Inner Monologue. When done correctly, the inner monologue is what brings you to your lines. The idea is that you are thinking and it is your thinking that forces the words out. – it’s what changes your intonations, lends credibility to what you are saying (singing) and prevents lines (lyrics) from being uttered in a void. By the time I saw Clay’s performance of I Survived You in Charlotte during the Not a Tour – I was convinced he was using the technique, even if he may not have given it that name. The Video jumps a bit at the beginning but settles down so you can really see the intensity. To me, it's all there in his eyes and it translates right into his body and his voice.

During the JukeBox Tour in the summer of 2005 – his rendition of I Can’t Make You Love Me brought me to tears. I already knew he had an exquisite voice but it was the nuance and subtlety and conviction in the song that were outstanding.

Here's this blog's Quote: "I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for my creativity." Gilda Radner

If you haven't already read Pink Armchair's wonderfully entertaining blog about a very special musical audition - be sure to check it out: Lost By A Nose

Thanks for visiting - and please - don't be shy about posting comments - we love the feedback and it makes it more like a real conversation . . . and that means even you anonymous people . . . Join In!

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CB said...

I have seen you tell that story in person more than once and I still laughed out loud reading it here.

Clay's quick and sarcastic wit is the second reason after the voice why I think he is the entertainer of his generation.

Pink Armchair said...

I love this story! Theatre stories are the best. And yes...Clay's wit is one of the very best things about him...if he wasn't such a great singer, he could have been a wonderful standup comedian and emcee.

(and thanks for the plug!)

Anonymous said...

The links are wrong. They don't lead to the right videos. To test this I scrolled down and ones below still work.

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

Thanks Anonymous - the links have been fixed and they are now viewable.

TheClayBlog said...

Those clips are pretty funny!! He is so naturally funny!!

Casper said...

He is SO darn funny. I love his sense of humour! Oh and the singing videos were great too... but the sense of humour just gets me every time. He is so great! :)

beauzzartz said...

WOW. I strapped on my earphones to listen and watch Clay's face as he connected to each and every word. A truly beautiful interpretation.

Did ya notice the way that backlighting framed in those shoulders in ICMYLM? Where is that clip from? I don't remember seeing that closeup before. I'll remember it now!

Your story about Mr C-N and the "Shaw follies" was priceless. I can just picture him spurting out "I'm a ...I'm a...serb? BWAH!
Glad he got over his identity crisis just in time. hee.

punchycats said...

Funny, funny story! I had not watched that video of ICMYLM for a while, what a gorgeous performance. Sigh.

Pamela said...

Hilarious story about your husband! What a two should go on tour! LOL

Great videos...awesome blog. Thanks!

theresa4624 said...

What a great story! The videos were a bonus .... I was at both those concerts and they are 2 of my favorites (especially Charlotte NAT -- hair of perfection)!

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

Yeah clayblog and casper - I'm a sucker for a guy with a great sense of humor.

Beauzz - hang around - there's more MrC-N stories a coming! Boy you sure can make that backlighting sound sexy. Yum. That's from Meadowbrook. I cried when I heard him sing it there - and turned and CB was crying too. Turned and MrC-N had tears in his eyes as well.

Punchycats - I can watch that video over and over and it never fails to affect me.

Pamela Do you think we can open for Clay next tour?

And YES theresa4624 - to me Charlotte NAT was the Everything Of Perfection!

Vox Vixen said...

Clay is one quick-witted guy. I don't remember seeing the vid of the foot rubbing before. It was fun to watch it.

Clay certainly does seem to live the lyrics of certain songs. When he does, his performances are goose-bump inducing.

CB said...

I wasn't crying, I was SOBBING. Shaking shoulders kind of thing. Surprised the heck out of me. The man in front of me wiped a tear too.

Meadowbrook! I love seeing Clay perform there.

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

Forgive me - CB was sobbing. SOBBING. And I love a gal who gets all emotional like that.

MrC-N was reading the blogs after coming home from a meeting - and he watched the ICMYLM video again. He said "I can't watch that without getting tears in my eyes". It really is a remarkable performance - and it's amazing that it translated so well in the large theater like Meadowbrook - yet has all the intimacy and reality on the video as well.

~ YSRN ~ said...

Hee. That story was hilarious!! And then a complete turnabout with ICMYLM. *sniff* I think that was the best rendition of the whole tour.

I admit, driving into Gilford I was thinking WTF... buses come through here? And then it opened up and the lake appeared and the venue was mahvelous! Good Times!

christelklein said...

"I can't make you love me" ... thank you for that. Says it all. Hope it makes Clay's new CD.

It's one of my most cherished moments from the Jukebox tour.