Comedy gets physical with new Body Electric group

Junior Hallie Perlman studied the art of physical comedy, like exaggerated facial expressions, in Maine and Greece with famous clowns Avner the Eccentric and Richard Saudek. She started Body Electric when she returned to Emerson.

Body Electric is the first physical comedy club on campus and focuses mainly on the theatrical side of comedy. The performing arts major said she dreamed of starting such a club since transferring to Emerson last year from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. The Student Government Association has not yet recognized the organization.

“I want Emerson students to recognize the importance of physical comedy,” Perlman said. “Physical comedy transcends language barriers, social politics, and regular politics.”

Perlman said she started this club because she thought Emerson’s theater department needed more fun. She said she hopes one day her group can deliver a performance that inspires others to try physical comedy.

“Clowning makes your life more fun—it makes it better,” Perlman said. “I think that is what Emerson’s theater program needs.”

Perlman said the club welcomes everyone and will not hold auditions. She said she wants people to come, leave their stresses behind, and enjoy themselves. She said she plans to put on one to two performances next semester revolving around dressing up in clown costumes and performing silly, circus skits. The shows will also contain audience participation games.

For now, she said she wants to focus on building trust between the members and teaching basic skills like character improv and acting playfully.

“I want to create a community of people who are passionate about physical comedy and love to have fun,” Perlman said.

Body Electric met for the first time on Nov. 9 in the Paramount Center. Perlman said she drew inspiration for the name from her favorite poem, “I Sing the Body Electric,” by Walt Whitman.

Six people attended the club meeting on Friday. Freshman performing arts major Brady Baca said he considers himself inexperienced with physical comedy but wants to learn more about the techniques that go into it and how to apply them to other areas of theater.

“Physical comedy is an underrepresented field at Emerson that could benefit a lot of students,” Baca said. “I would like to have a physical comedy class at Emerson.”

Baca said he believes physical comedy provides actors with more options to work with when performing on stage.

“Physical comedy is important to actors because in theater your body is your instrument,” Baca said. “It’s an extra skill to have in an audition room and is something you can work with when you are in rehearsal.”

Perlman said standard comedy troupes at Emerson tend to focus on sketches whereas physical comedy revolves around the actor.

“You are using your physical skills to make people laugh,” Perlman said. “This is the best part of being an actor.”

Perlman said she believes theater needs more fun and does not require drama. She said physical comedy means connecting with your inner-child and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Perlman said she hopes Body Electric will engage Emerson students, and she thinks everyone can relate to physical comedy.

“We might not all laugh at the same jokes, but we may find it funny seeing a huge facial expression or a person failing at something because we can relate to it,” Perlman said.

Sophomore performing arts major Devin Davis-Lorton said Body Electric interested her because of her passion for acting and desire to step out of her comfort zone.

Davis-Lorton said she admires slapstick comedy because it uses actors’ bodies to tell a story. She said she believes the act of performing goes beyond just one’s voice but involves physicality as well.

“I feel like Body Electric will not only be a fun experience but will also be a good use of my time since I will be learning everything I need to know about physical comedy,” Davis-Lorton said. “Everyone just seems like they are having a great time and being themselves.”

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