Adventures of a Semi-Wild Animal Tamer

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Vent Haven Convention - Day Four (Saturday)

Mon, Sep 2nd, 2019 at 12:00 AM

The last day of the convention was a short one for me, as the morning had been set aside for visits to the Vent Haven museum. However, since I got to Erlanger early and I'm not crazy about large crowds in small spaces, I'd opted to visit the museum on Wednesday morning. So, I took the opportunity to stay up late Friday night for the open mic event, and slept in on Saturday morning. Thus, my day started with lunch, and then the discussion panel session on International Ventriloquism, which featured the performers from the previous night. That offered some great insights into their perspectives, including how they got started and the challenges they faced.

The last panel session was with the major puppet builders at the convention who make soft/fabric sculpture puppets. This included Jet of The Dummy Shoppe, Mary Ann and Melissa Taylor (mother and daughter) of MAT puppets, Barry Gordemer of Handemonium, and Steve Petrella representing Axtell Expressions, with insights from Ingrid Crepeau, an accomplished builder and performer whose primary work was back in the 1980s and includes full-body costume puppets (one of my own specializations). The history portion brought out interesting details about soft sculpture puppets in the ventriloquism world, including a little about one of the early soft sculpture builders in the vent world, Vera Finley. I particularly liked the insights from the builders about the highlights of their processes, crazy stories of designs gone wrong, and tips for people looking to have a puppet built by a professional builder.

After dinner came the final show featuring the "All Stars". Unlike many previous years, none of the Vegas headliner level performers were able to come, but Vent Haven still had three very nice acts. The first two were cruise ship performers Don Bryan and Lynn Trefzger-Joy with very different shows. Bryan, who performs on luxury cruise ships, used his Noseworthy old man character in a great conversational comedy piece ending with them doing a song for a new female character that Bryan recently made and is testing out. Trefzger, on the other hand, performs for Disney cruises, and used a large soft sculpture camel who was rather uncooperative, then switched to an equally rowdy preschool girl (also soft sculpture) before finally getting three volunteers up on stage. She then did crazy voices for them as they moved their mouths on cue when she tapped each one on the shoulder. Something like that can be very hit or miss depending on the volunteers, but this instance went over wonderfully well.

Taylor Mason finished up the show in a style more common to hard hitting stand-up comics, but still done to the PG-13 rating of the convention. He fit his act to the nature of the convention by telling us about how he got started in ventriloquism while introducing several pig puppets that he (supposedly) used as he was starting out. It was simple in some ways, but his style and regular pokes at the audience for giving him laughs for such simplicity ended up working very well.

It's always a little sad when the last show is over and its time for things to wrap up, but someone ran a karaoke event in a much too small room that proved very popular, keeping a lot of people in the hospitality area much of the rest of the night. The dealers rooms stayed open for a few more hours, though some dealers had already left by the end of the evening shows. I walked around the different areas one more time with my red fox, Savannah, then hung out in the large main atrium to reflect, as the noise in the hospitality area was a little much for me. I ended up speaking with a few people passing by, but mostly just tried to relax and decompress slowly.

I'm still processing it all right now as I write this on Sunday evening, but I feel like there's a very good chance I'll be back eventually. Maybe not next year, but quite possibly the year after, 2021. It's the kind of event worth returning to periodically, but I'm not sure I want to make it a yearly activity. Until then, I'll be looking at my own work in a new light and thinking about ways I can integrate ventriloquism that aren't just the standard old comedy routines. Not that there's anything wrong with a good comedy routine - it's just that I've never been sure that I'm cut out for traditional comedy, and now I have a little more insight to work with that might just help me find an even more comfortable niche for me, someday.

Mood: cheerful