"Dead Funny" with Visual Aids

Watch as I make a connection from Third Rail Repertory Company to Maryhill Museum of Art in no more than three steps, while using 100-year-old film clips to illustrate. Here goes:

The Toy Cannon and consort were fortunate to secure tickets to Third Rail’s “Dead Funny” on Thursday night. Given the pretense I make of palling around with theater people, I'm chagrined to admit that this was my first time seeing the company. As we rode the elevator to the World Trade Center theater, I felt a twinge of nostalgia for Portland Repertory Theatre, which performed there until the company’s demise a decade ago. Seeing Third Rail member, Gretchen Corbett selling cookies in the lobby reminded me of her performance in the Rep’s production of “Molly Sweeney.” Standing not too far from her was the talented set designer Curt Enderle. Our living room sports a few leftover pieces from Curt’s set for “All in the Timing,” purchased for a song at Portland Rep’s warehouse sale in the Pearl, before it was the Pearl.

But enough trodding down memory lane, and let's quickly get my review out of the way: The performances were uniformly excellent, the production values were top notch, and the script was smashing (though 15-30 minutes too long). I won’t single out any one performance, but the Drammy Committee should create a special category for “Best Display of Courage in Full Frontal Nudity” for Tim True. Bravo! The company deserves all the attention and accolades flowing its way.

What I really want to do is use “Dead Funny” as an excuse to post a few videos I discovered while lazily wandering the web today. If you saw the play, you know that it involves a group of friends as they celebrate and mourn legendary but deceased British comedians. Since many of the references and reenacted routines were unfamiliar to me, I took advantage of the interwebs to search out video clips of Frankie Howerd, Max Miller (The Cheeky Chappy), Benny Hill and others mentioned in the play. It's a good way to kill an hour or two. I discovered an amusing clip of “Little Tich,” who was an English Music Hall superstar at the start of the last century. This clip shows Little Tich performing his famous “Big Boot” routine, which the French film director Jacques Tati is reputed to have described as the "foundation for everything that has been realized in comedy on the screen."

I also found a film of Little Tich performing a parody of choreographer Loie Fuller’s famous “Danse Serpentine.” First, here’s an 1896 Lumiere film of Fuller performing that work (the film was hand-tinted):

The following segment is from a French documentary about Music Hall. Near the end (at about 5:50, right after the minstrels) it has another clip of Loie Fuller's dance, followed by Little Tich’s parody of the same (ca. 6:30).

So ... Third Rail is connected to Little Tich through "Dead Funny." Little Tich is connected to Loie Fuller by having performed a parody of her work. Loie Fuller was friends with Sam Hill, who built his mansion (and a replica of Stonehenge) overlooking the Columbia. Fuller and the Queen of Romania convinced Hill to turn the mansion into what has become Maryhill Museum of Art. It's a small world after all.

I don't have any excuse for posting this last bit of film. Wilson and Keppel were a popular music hall act whose "Sand Dance" capitalized on the popularity of Egyptian imagery that ensued after the discovery of King Tut's tomb. What can I say? I was amused.


Mead said...

Dazzling interpenetrability, MTC!

MightyToyCannon said...

I've often said, "Why settle for being penetrating, when being interpenetrating is an option?"