Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pooja and the Wooden Detective- Family Therapy with a dummy

Steve and Harry's "Conversations With My Dummy" podcast

I slipped on a wet rock in the woods and fractured my elbow a few days ago making it difficult to type (or produce my audio podcast "Conversations With My Dummy". Fortunately it's my left hand so I can still perform ventriloquism when I need to talk to Harry.  So I figured this is a good time to do a cut and paste job. Keeping up with the theme of illusion in the past blogs, I'm sharing an excerpt from my young adult novel "Pooja and the Wooden Detective".
The leitmotif of the novel is illusion (see below) and one of the themes is Steve Dubois' illness. He can't differentiate his dummy, Dicky from reality. 
Below you have a synopsis of the novel and then a page or two of  Steve's reply after Pooja, his protege, who's learning ventriloquism herself with her puppet Maya, asks him what he talks about in therapy with his dummy. Dicky is upset because he's not going on a double date with Steve.

Excerpt from Pooja and the Wooden Detective
A Young Adult Novel
By Steve Charney

POOJA is a 13 year old East Indian girl in love with ventriloquism. She's smart, savvy and precocious. Her teacher, STEVE DUBOIS, is a magician and ventriloquist way too attached to his dummy, DICKY, for his own good, but Dicky protects Steve from his personal demons until his therapist can cure him.

Pooja, Dicky and MAYA (Pooja’s own puppet), solve mysteries on stage and off. And with her pal, COOPER, they discover who murdered the man at the BrouHaHa comedy club, who and why foreigners are after an 80 million dollar CANDI® doll and what makes Steve Dubois tick.

The leitmotif is illusion. This is reflected again and again in the animated dolls, Dicky, Maya and the quantum computerized doll, Candi. Several key characters are in disguise. Even the murder in the first paragraph has been faked. The metaphors and descriptions continue the theme. The key to solving this humorous mystery is exposing the deceptions and uncovering the truth.

But first Steve had bad news for old Dicky. Dropping to a bench in a small park, he turned the boy's head towards him and looked intensely into his glass eyes. "I’m not taking you to Lulu’s." 
"She invited me. It’s gonna be a double date. Remember?"
"My doctor is right. You're an enabler. I'm leaving you home."
Pooja sat next to them. "What's an enabler, Mr. D?"
"It's someone who protects you out of love. Because of that, it's harder to cure yourself. Right, Dicky...Dicky?" Dubois poked the boy. The dummy jumped. "Yeah, So?" He looked at his ventriloquist and raised his eyebrows.
"Mr. D, I'm not an expert or anything but can you really blame Dicky? I mean you're  making him talk, right?"
"But I can't help it. He's protecting me from inner demons.
Pooja perked up. "Demons? You got demons, Mr. D?"
"It's like this, Pooj. You sit in the back of your classroom with Maya, your puppet, on your lap. When a kid wants to be your friend, Maya bites her head off because you're scared. Maya protects you so you don't get hurt again. So Maya is the only friend you have. But she's imaginary! And every time you make a real friend she convinces you to act crazy until your new friend runs away. You don't get hurt, but you're all alone.
"That hurt would have to have been a whopper, if you can't even remember what it was."
"Yep. That's what my doctor says. Dicky won't face it either."
Dicky whispered, "Nothing to face. I wasn't there. I came later."
"It split me in two. To heal, I need to face it head on. The problem is, Dicky likes things the way they are."
Dicky raised an eyebrow."Why wouldn't I? Steve doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs or eat junk food. I'm his only vice. What’s the big deal? It's good I'm enabling him. Keeping him from getting hurt is why I stick around."
"I get it now, Mr. D, he's fighting for his survival. If you're cured, you won't need him anymore and like one of your magic tricks, he'll disappear. But you gotta do it. I'd hate it if I didn't have any friends except a puppet."
Dicky shook his head. "Some pal you are, Poo, trying to break up best friends. That's mean." 
Steve gave it to Dicky good. "She's right! It’s not normal. Don’t you see? I want real friends. Not you." 
"What about Pooja?" Dicky said. "She's cool. Or was, until she tried to break up our friendship."
"Pooja is cool. But she's a teenager. I need to be with someone my own age."
"I'm your age."
"You know what I mean!"
The boy hopped up and down on Steve's knee. "This is the best relationship you’ve ever been in! I shudder when I think of your mom. Or that girlfriend who sponged off you for three months and then disappeared.  I never ask for a dime, and I help pay the rent as part of our comedy team."
Steve was welling up. "This isn’t healthy. Don’t you see that?"
He began to weep. Tears dripping down his cheeks. Dicky and Pooja stared. 
Embarrassed, he lowered his head into his hand. "I don't wanna be like this."
Pooja wanted to hug her teacher and tell him it was all right. But she couldn't. "I'm not an expert or anything but you gotta remember who that person was who hurt you so badly." 
Dicky tilted his head. "Are you talking to me or Steve?" 
Pooja patted Mr. D's shoulder. "You, Mr. D."
Now both of Dicky's eyebrows sprung up. "What about me? Don’t I have a problem too?" 
"You are the problem, dude."
"Oh, snap."

Mr. D sniffled. "You wanted to know what I talk about at the doctor's. Now you know."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The illusion of ventriloquism

As I wrote in my first blog, my passionate interest is uncovering truths, both deep and shallow. This informs my work, my play and what I think about in bed late at night, in the dark. 
Ventriloquism is a perfect medium for playing with illusion. And it is play. The dummy appears real, he speaks intelligently with the ventriloquist and yet it's deception. As a stage performer I can be performing magic at an outdoor festival and attract people walking by, but as soon as Harry pops out of my trunk and sits on my arm, the crowds gather. Everyone is fascinated by my relationship with him (especially me!). 
Ventriloquists love playing this head game. Ventriloquism is an illusion but to break the fourth wall adds another layer that I find endlessly fascinating.

Steve Hewlett-Arthur, why do you keep singing that song over and over again?
Arthur-I just can't get it out of your head.

Monk-Where's my microphone?
Nina Conti-You don't need a microphone only I do.
Monk-Well that ruins the illusion doesn't it? 

Harry- You're the greatest ventriloquist in the world, Steve. 
Steve- Aw, I wouldn't say that. 
Harry- Neither would I, but you just made me. 

There's something about the dummy admitting he's not real or (in the case of Harry) fighting what's obvious to everybody that reveals a deeper layer. That's when it really gets interesting. Here's a routine with Harry that illustrates the point. 

Steve-You're not real, Harry, and I'm going to prove it to this audience by having you shut up for the next 30 seconds. Starting right (looks at his watch) NOW.
Harry-...Did we start already?
Harry-I didn't know that. 
Steve-You don't have to know that. As long as I know that. 
Harry-Now I know I didn't have to know that, but until you told me I didn't have to know that, I thought I had to know that.
Harry- I have no idea what I just said.
Steve-For the next thirty seconds, you will not say another word. (looks at his watch again) Starting...NOW!
Steve-What are you doing?
Harry-You didn't say I couldn't hum.
Steve-There's no humming. No talking. 
Harry-Can I burp?
Steve-NO! (looks at his watch) Starting now. 
Harry-.....Can I fart? That should be allowed, because you're not really throwing your voice, it's coming out the other end.

How surreal and fascinating to argue with your puppet about his sentience. It's spooky, man. But funny as heck, because unlike the movie Magic or those Twilight Zone episodes, I'm safe.

Or am I?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My First Blog

Steve and Harry's "Conversations With My Dummy" podcast

This first blog of mine gives you an overview of my work and interests in life. As this blog carries on I'll be writing about each subject at greater length. 
When someone writes my biography after I'm dead they'll look for an overriding theme. I'm about to make their life easier. 
My struggle is about uncovering layers of deception to get at essential truths. I do this playfully as well as seriously. My favorite routines as a ventriloquist, is to make a doll (or voice characterization if it's a radio show or podcast) appear real and then bursting the bubble of the allusion. I always loved sitcoms when the camera pulls back revealing the set the show is being shot on. Or when the star breaks character and turns to address the audience. I do this a lot in my stage act and on radio. 
As a stage magician I create miracles even as the audience knows it's a trick. 
As an author, my book, Pooja and the Wooden Detective, has as a leitmotif the uncovering of what's real and what isn't, Nothing is what it appears to be. The man murdered fakes his death. The android is indistinguishable from a human. Steve Dubois talks to his dummy, Dicky, as if he's real etc. More on this in another blog.
As a longtime Buddhist meditator, I investigate my mind. Not the mind's empty constructions, but what is the mind itself.
I love physics. As scientists learn more about the universe, they're understanding our world is an allusion, not as a metaphor, but in actuality. Quantum mechanics, Einstein's Law of Relativity, all delve deeply into these issues. What's real, what isn't? 
Biocentrism is a subject investigated by Dr. Robert Lanza and Bob Berman. This is the theory that reality is not "out there" but only exists inside our minds. 
All of these subjects I'll discuss in more detail as time goes by (or does time go by? Does time even exist?). 
But that doesn't mean there's no time for pure silliness, or joking around. 
As I say to Harry in my act: Remember, we are but dust.

And Harry asks: What's butt dust?