The art of ventriloquism is a stagecraft that involves a person, called a ventriloquist, manipulating their voice so it appears that the voice is coming from elsewhere.
While it originally began as a religious practice in ancient societies for people to get in touch with the dead, thanks to world famous ventriloquists like David Strassman, the act of ‘throwing one’s voice’ has changed forever.
International comedy star David Strassman has returned to Australia to entertain the masses in his brand new show ‘Careful What You Wish For!’.
His two famous puppet friends, Chuck Wood and Ted E. Bare, have been cracking up audiences for many years and this show is an all-new creation from the dark and twisted mind of the puppet master.
Strassman said his ‘Careful What You Wish For!’ show will be unlike anything he’s ever produced before.
“If you ever see me live it’s quite a different experience than just seeing me on television or YouTube,” he said.
“My show is a full-on stage production. We have moving lights, special effects, robotic puppets… it’s phenomenal.
It’s not just a guy standing there in front of a microphone with a puppet and his hand up its bum.”
Strassman’s new show truly ventures down the rabbit hole. Alternate realities? Parallel universes? It’s a mind-bending journey into a world where nothing is as it seems.
Chuck and Ted E. Bare are back but a strange ‘wish’ transforms them into comical alternate selves, taking over Strassman’s mind.
“Chuck has heard rumours I’m retiring and so that means he would literally die and end up in a suitcase for the rest of his life,” Strassman said.
“So in order to prevent me from retiring he wants to take over my mind and bribes all the puppets to come with him to the dark side. In a tumultuous argument, I pretty much wish I’d never worked with these puppets and through the magic of theatre that wish comes true.
“I then enter a porthole where I arrive in a reality where my puppets don’t exist but their twisted counterparts do. So throughout the whole rest of the show I have to find my way back to this reality talking to the other twister counterparts that exist.”
Strassman said whilst his shows usually stick to a script, he’s fortunate enough as a comedian to be able to improvise and provide some ‘off the cuff’ banter between himself and his puppets from time-to-time.
“This show for example is a 120-page script but the great thing about what I do is because I’m the only one on stage I can improvise,” he said.
“Other performers in a stage show like ‘Wicked’ can’t change a word but because I do all the voices I’m constantly adding new and topical material and every performance morphs into something different.”
Another interesting aspect in Strassman’s stage shows is his ‘Puppetronics’ invention, which brings puppets to life, even when he’s not around.
In 1986, Strassman placed robotics in his main ventriloquist character, Chuck Wood, inspired by his remote-controlled airplane hobby.
“Puppetronics is basically using robotics and an age old art form,” Strassman said.
“What I’m doing in this show is I’m operating Chuck live a few metres away from me robotically. I’m physically not touching him but I’m still doing his voice and operating the controls, it’s quite phenomenal and amazing.”
Strassman’s interest in magic and ventriloquism was inspired by a visit to the Magic Castle in downtown Hollywood as a young boy.
The Magic Castle, recently featured in ‘Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year’, is a private club that only professional magicians are allowed to attend. Following this visit he asked his father to purchase some professional magic tricks so he could perform for kids in his Chicago neighbourhood.
Strassman said even to this day he still plays regularly at Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle.
“I’ve played the Magic Castle many times and I’m the only ventriloquist to play it other than magicians. Magicians don’t consider me a magician, even though I really am,” he said.
“I once opened there for a famous UK magician called Dan Redgrave, I actually got to be last on the bill, so he technically opened for me. Dan’s a big deal and won UK ‘Magician of the Year’ twice and it was an amazing gig.
“To be accepted by magicians in their own private nightclub and then letting me top the bill with one of their best was a great experience. It’s 25 rooms of magic and a lot of alcohol.”
Following Strassman’s visit to the Magic Castle and rise to fame after performing ventriloquism on the streets of New York for money, he’s now created more than 10 different puppets that he’s used throughout the years in his various stage and television shows.
Strassman said the loveable Ted E. Bare would have to be the audience’s favourite puppet, but he himself finds it difficult to single out his own.
“I don’t have a favourite because each puppet is their own character with years of back-story and they all have their own hopes and dreams,” he said.
“Each time I do a show I’m moulding new aspects of their stage personas and it’s really such a joy seeing each one grow and develop.”
David Strassman and his friends will perform live at the Rooty Hill RSL this Sunday, November 6 at 6pm and 8.15pm. Tickets are $44 for adults. For more information and to purchase tickets call 9625 5500 or visit www.rootyhillrsl.com.au.