Saturday, March 2, 2013

Harlekin and the assignment

Kaiser had to take matters into his own paws to get attention.
I've turned in my major paper this morning, it counts for a third of my completion grade so here's having my fingers crossed, and my toes crossed. And anything else I can cross.
The paper was supposed to be a 10-15 assignment with a optional class and theme. The teacher for the chosen class would then create the problem based on your theme. I chose history, and my theme was America in the time between the world wards. I ended up writing an 11 page paper on the reasons for, and consequences of the crash of 1929, along with a rundown and evaluation of Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal policy. It was pretty interesting stuff, a lot of my favorite fiction takes place in those times but I never really knew much about it.

An old fashioned beer wagon outside a pub. I snapped this pic on my walk.
Well, it's springtime and that means birthdays, lots of 'em. I've always loved giving gifts and this year is no exception. To celebrate the end of assignment week I decided to treat myself to a walk in the good weather. I used to take walks all the time but apparently moving out of my parents' house has turned me into a lazy bastard. Go figure. On my walk I went by a bookshop to buy a b-day present for my flatmate Miki and found a book for myself on the peacock pantomime theater in Tivoli.

If you don't know what pantomime is, It's a form of theater that relies heavily on archetypes, dancing and of course most importantly the ability to act while shutting up. Something Robin could have used in Batman forever. The pantomime theater in Tivoli is severely old, I think Tivoli was built around 1846 and the theater shortly after that. The pantomime tradition in and of itself is ancient. It takes one of the archetypes, the comedic servant (in Denmark known as Pjerrot), from classical era Greek theater.

It's called a peacock theater because the peacock functions
as the curtain, the tail closes, the wooden peacock is lowered
intothe floor and behind that is the stage.
Well, loosely, Pjerrot as we've come to know him as more grounded in the Italian comedia d'ell atre tradition, along with the other 3 main personas: Harlekin, Columbine and Kassander. What's interesting about pantomime, to me at least, is the fairy tale like aspect to it. Pjerrot himself has become heavily embedded in Danish culture by now - you are expected to know that there is two versions: one is the purely pantomime-based character who shuts up and busts some sweet moves, the other swaggers around doing magic tricks and making kids happy. Both incarnations are drenched in the sea of awesome. Of course if you're one of those clown fearing peeps, you may not agree. Personally, I acknowledge that being a performer of any kind takes a load of intelligence and humility and especially if you are playing one of the country's most beloved icons. Imagine if Uncle Sam had originated in a play, the guy playing him would have a huge weight on his shoulders whenever he performed in front of an audience. I believe that the sheer age and timelessness of these plays and characters is breathtaking and surely a tradition  deserving of keeping alive. I'd go as far to say that the Popeye the sailor cartoons or Mickey Mouse cartoons - yeah even the Mario games probably takes a cue from the archetypes of pantomime. If you're ever in Copenhagen and want to see the sights, forget about the little mermaid or the canals for a bit and consider visiting Tivoli. This is one of the origins of storytelling waiting for you in the world's ONLY peacock theatre, and if you end up not liking it, hey, Tivoli is still a themepark. Go ride the rides and eat some candyfloss.

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