David Strassman | Steve Altman | Andy Vere | Foster Entertainment

David Strassman

"Duality. Everyone has it.  I just wear mine on my sleeve, literally!".  "Jack" -Duality


The “V” Word

“So, what do you do?”, he asked. “I’m a ventriloquist”, I mumbled. “Oh… You do birthday parties?”

All my life I’ve been stuck with the stigma of being “one notch below a juggler”, and one step, “…above a mime.” If someone we’re to give me the choice between seeing a Ventriloquist and getting my tooth pulled, I’d go for the dentist; and I am a Ventriloquist!

The trouble is, very few ventriloquists of recent memory have taken this ‘end of the pier’ art form and put character into their puppets. They talk fast, or sing a sophomoric song, and basically show off saying, “Look how clever I am!” Having said that, UK Ventriloquist, Nina Conti, is in my opinion, the one exception!)

Lack of imagination made me challenge the convention. After a drunken but very creative night with a mate, we figured out a way to put radio controlled airplane servos into my puppet, Chuck, so he could move by himself. Thus, a bit of high tech tomfoolery was born with an element of theatre. Chuck and I have an argument on stage, he sacks me, I leave, and he finishes the show all by himself. Opening the door to character conflict and pathos, I began fleshing out my puppets with all the parameters you’d find in a stage play: neuroses, foibles, objectives, and well thought-out lives. Thus, no daggy songs or back-and-forth interplays for no reason, but funny and clever routines with objectives, conflicts, and pathos.

My latest incarnation, “Duality”, written and directed by Steve Altman, (with a lot of input and dialogue from me), is now pushing the boundaries of Ventriloquism to a place never before visited in history. A two-hander play with a man and a dummy. Set in a psychiatrists office, we observe a very sick ventriloquist, who, scarred from childhood tragedies, uses his puppet to talk to himself, argue his and the puppets existence, all the while covering topics from therapy, to war, to philosophy.

More of a drama then a comedy, (yes, there is some very funny dialogue), this ground breaking play de-constructs ventriloquism while I hold engaging and acerbic dialogue and arguments, talking to the puppet “dead” in a chair, manually with the traditional “hand up the bum” manipulation, and, through very high-tech, wireless robotics.

Never do you think the puppet is alive through black magic or the paranormal, you quickly realize you’re watching a very, very, sick, man. With a jaw dropping realization at the end, this engaging and thought-provoking piece of theatre has left previous audiences sitting in the cars afterwards, debating their own lives and existences.

I am proud to present “Duality”; it is a labor of love, 5 years in the making, my career “piece de resistance”, and with that said, I can now proudly exclaim, “I am a Ventriloquist!”

No, I don’t do birthday parties.
-David Strassman