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Tag: theater

Furry Drama(tic Arts) – The Forgotten History of the Furry Musical, Part 2: Furry Tales

by Patch O'Furr

Patch here, with Part 2 of the story submitted by guest writer Duncan R. Piasecki.

In Part 1, we mentioned the theatrical nature of anthropomorphism: how fursuiting is related to a world-wide love for humans performing as animals. In the mainstream, it’s in musicals like the stage version of The Lion King or Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. Then, as we discovered, there was even a small, overlooked chapter of fandom history with not one, but at least two musicals focusing on the furry subculture.

One of these unique projects was Yiff!/<furReality>, which was fading from memory until we rescued documentation from the director.  It can make you wonder… while the mainstream celebrates anthropomorphic performance, why haven’t such ambitions carried forward as fandom has grown?

Perhaps the ideas may get tried again, with bigger and better resources, stages and audiences this time. Looking into that may get you excited for a certain con in 2018.  More on that at the end. (-Patch)

Duncan R. Piasecki continues with the story of the other musical:

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Furry Drama(tic Arts) – The Forgotten History of the Furry Musical, Part 1: Yiff!/< furReality >

by Patch O'Furr

Article submitted by guest writer Duncan R. Piasecki. (Part 2 is here).

Let’s face it: we furries are a pretty theatrical bunch. Fursuiting is, in itself, a form of performance art, dramatic and striking, and probably the most visible aspect of our culture to anyone looking in from the outside. (It’s certainly what is talked about the most in the media).

None of this should surprise anyone here, even those of you who stumbled into the furry internet after straying off the normal path. In fact, it’s not even that surprising to the outside world. One need only look at, say, ultra-successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, or the stage musical version of The Lion King, to see that the visceral drama of humans performing as animals is widely acknowledged the world over.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. No, actually, we’re going into a deeper rabbit hole (har), one that many of you probably didn’t even know about: the furry musical.

No, not the ones with furries as the characters in focus. One with furries in focus. As in, us. As in, fursuiting, going to conventions, role-play, yelling at people online, and that sort of thing. More surprising to all of you, perhaps, is that there wasn’t one, but actually at least two musicals about furries being our regular old selves… both written by people not entirely within the fandom.

In Part 1, we’ll look at a musical where our request for documentation yielded a generous response by the director.  In Part 2, we’ll look at one that seems to be a fading memory with no record to be found – as well as an exciting happening to come in 2018.

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Theatrical Panto-animals, Part 3: History book reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

These “Panto-animal” history articles share a discovery of amazing proto-Furry happenings, in an overlooked era of Pantomime theater in Victorian Britain.  Stunning photos show why the topic is worth uncovering.  From those scarce records, a handful of actor names stood out with wide publication in their time for “animal impersonation”.  They were not necessarily playing specific “fursonas”, a difference from Furries today – but they earn fan author Phil Geusz’s general label, “paleo-furry.” Charles Lauri was mentioned in Part 1 – and Fred Conquest in Part 2.

51R-RcAYq6LFred Patten reviews the Conquest biography, loaned by the LA public library.

The best Pantomime theater actors seemed highly diverse in their talents.  That only included a small amount of animal costuming, although a few like Fred Conquest specialized in that.   This biography was reviewed in hopes of picking out scarce Panto-animal details, which have been forgotten by time, because very little was ever printed about them.

This Amazon.co.uk review of the book earned a quote in Part 2:

Now that it has become respectable to admit enjoying popular entertainment, the story of the Conquest family deserves to be better known. They were one of those colourful theatrical dynasties who flourished from Victorian times until well into the twentieth century. Many of them were actors who, between them, took on everything from Shakespeare to pantomime; my favourite was the one who played the animals or “skin” roles.

Fred did find amazing costuming stories, even if most of it wasn’t of the animal kind.  These shows must have been incredible spectacles, the “big budget movie” productions of their time.  I’m very sad I couldn’t find any illustration for the giant floating demon head! Let Fred explain more. ( -Patch)

Conquest: The Story of a Theatre Family, by Frances Fleetwood; W. H. Allen, 1953; 282 pages.

(Fred:) The book includes many illustrations, both photographs of actors, and reproductions of 19th century engravings of fantastic stage plays of acrobatic actors in grotesque costumes cavorting about.  The plays included many scenes of fairies and demons flying above the stage on wires, and there are many accounts of wires and ropes breaking and actors being seriously injured. Read the rest of this entry »

Theatrical Panto-animals, Part 2: Feedback, history and sources roundup.

by Patch O'Furr

Update to Part 1:  “If there was a Museum of Furry, theatrical “Panto-Animals” would be a major exhibit.

My first Panto-animal history article shared a discovery of amazing proto-Furry happenings, in an overlooked era of Pantomime theater in Victorian Britain.  Stunning photos show why the topic is worth uncovering.  From these scarce records, a handful of actor names stood out with wide publication in their time for “animal impersonation”.  Charles Lauri was covered in Part 1 – and here is Fred Conquest:

FredConquestHubbard2

Pantomime plays were popular entertainment, considered beneath the “high arts” realm of British theater.  They were not treated as equally worthy to record or remember, so these photos are all the more special because of it.  These pre-movie live happenings seem forgotten today, compared to the era of cinema that came shortly afterwards – where popular artists like Charlie Chaplin (the first international movie star) gained high respect as subjects to study and remember.

In our time, popular culture has gained respect it never had.  What used to be “nerd culture” is now the biggest Hollywood industry.  The tiny niche of Furries is one of few areas still looked down on, but that seems to be changing as it grows.  I think it’s a great time to rediscover and connect old, forgotten traditions such as Panto-Animal performance – what esteemed Furry fan author Phil Geusz calls “paleo-furry.”

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If there was a Museum of Furry, theatrical “Panto-Animals” would be a major exhibit.

by Patch O'Furr

IN THIS ARTICLE: Don’t miss the story of Charles Lauri, a famed “animal impersonator” who thrilled the stages of Victorian London, but is little known today. The story of his acting skill, uncovered from an 1893 magazine, could be an inspiration for fursuiters everywhere.

15038897804_834fc833e6_oMany people are familiar with a unique team costume for Halloween – the Pantomime horse, that takes two people to play it.  Like a tandem bike, it makes an interesting buddy situation.  This jogs a vague memory from when I was very young, of a 1960’s Flintstones cartoon with Fred and Barney in such a costume.  It may have been a dinosaur, or a false memory, but the silly situation must have happened in old comedies to the point of cliche. TVtropes has it under Animal Anthropomorphism tropes.

If you (like me) had no idea what Pantomime meant until just now, let’s start to learn.  The old-fashioned costuming seems like a traditional kind of activity, more social than commercial.  I had an impression of something belonging to the age of door-to-door Christmas caroling, that may be fading away.

Or is it?  In 2013, a Panto Horse race broke a Guinness World Record for most runners (42 teams.)  And, since this is a Furry blog, you know I’m connecting this topic to you and your thriving subculture.  (Imagine that race happening at a con! It would be an easy record to break.)  I’m happy to learn that such fun exists… check out The London Pantomime Horse Race:  a “fantastically silly”, “must-see event.”

This isn’t about Halloween, or silly races.  There’s much more to it.  The spark for this article was randomly running across 100-year-old photos of theatrical animal costumes.  They made me do a double-take – did some fursuiter have a time machine!?  They were incredibly well crafted, and made me very curious.  I wondered why they were made so well, and for what purpose?  They were fursuits- many generations before there was such a thing as Furries!  I thought the topic had a lot of potential.

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