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or Letha
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A character in a stage play or musical comedy. Leth is the character's name if male, Letha if female. Leth rhymes with Seth and Letha sounds like Lisa with a lisp. Actually, the names are not so important, but are at least plausible as male and female names. I'll entertain suggestions for better names.

The play could be nominally about anything, and should have a title relevant to this nominal subject. Perhaps "The Lazy River," nominally about life on the Mississippi.

But as the audience discovers more and more conclusively as the show continues, the real subject of the play is the actor "playing" the part of Leth or Letha, who has utterly and completely "forgotten" his or her lines. Comedy ensues as the actor comes up with increasingly ingenious and outrageous ways to compensate for the sudden loss of memory, and by the time the audience has figured out that the forgetfulness is actually written into the script, the comedy comes from the increasingly impossible situations with which the character is faced.

For instance:

For Leth's first spoken lines, he starts by pausing long enough for the audience to begin to think he's forgotten his lines, but then, being a consummate professional, he saves the scene by "improvising:"

>Leth: Why Louise, I simply don't know how to respond to you. In fact, I feel almost like that time when we were in that school play together, and I totally forgot my lines. How embarrassing that was. I thought...
>Louise: But you did finally remember, and told me you were glad to see me.
>Leth: ("remembering" his lines) And that's just what I should say to you now. I *am* glad to see you...

The play continues with Leth finding increasingly innovative ways to sneek peeks at his lines that he has written on his hand, inside his costume, on the upstage side of props. He also finds clever ways to improvise dialogue that gives him the opportunity to shout the word "Line!" and he makes up action that gives him excuses to disappear offstage momentarily, and to stand near the wings so his lines can be fed to him from off-stage.

Late in the show, as the audience has figured out the score, Leth is involved in a duet with Louise. Of course, when Louise "hands off" the song to Leth, he has no clue what the script predicts he'll sing, but by now he's confident of his ability to improvise. And the first time, he barely makes it in time rhyming brilliantly with Louise's verse. But the second time he's called on to improvise in rhyme, Louise's leading verse ends with "orange."

The show ends before the nominal plot is resolved, in a situation from which it is utterly impossible for Leth to recover, when he throws in the towel , walks to center stage, faces the audience, and declares, "And they all lived happily ever after. The end!"

The character may become part of theater jargon, with future actors referring to real recoveries from memory lapses by saying, "Man, what a leth that was!"

(Lethe is the river of oblivion)

beauxeault, Jan 28 2002

(?) Conrad And The Seven Dwarfs http://www.yasser.org.uk/play.htm
No responsibility accepted for unfunny jokes. [-alx, Jan 29 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Pestles Poison Flagon Dragons http://www.reelclas...ctors/Kaye/kaye.htm
Found it! [goff, Jan 31 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]


       I'm sure I had something intelligent to add to this debate but I seem to have forgotten...
goff, Jan 28 2002

       Baked, in every Repertory and Amateur Dramatics company the length and breadth of the country (although not usually deliberately).
angel, Jan 28 2002

       Yeah, angel, the point of the idea is that it *is* deliberate, which eventually becomes the source of the comedy. It could also provide a library of recovery routines available to the repertory and amateur companies you mention.
beauxeault, Jan 28 2002

       I like the idea, but from what (little) I know of theatregoing culture it'll stop being a surprise after the first couple of shows, or as soon as the critics weigh in.
bookworm, Jan 28 2002

       To keep it fresh, the 'Leth(a)' characters 'improvised' lines could be changed periodically. Making the show a little different each time would also give the audience a reason to return.
phoenix, Jan 28 2002

       I can envisage imaginative adaptations of established stage plays in which the Leth and/or Letha characters appear alongside the original dramatis personae. (Letha listening intently to Hamlet.)
angel, Jan 29 2002

       Their is a writer who creates plays about a disasterous amateur dramatics company that have this kind of thing. One I read through and attended castings for featured the lightings and prop man being forced into playing Noel Coward.
Aristotle, Jan 29 2002

       If you were to follow up on [angel]'s suggestion, and they happened to be doing a production of Othello, wouldn't we be bound to observe somewhere along the line that "Leth is Moor"?   

       As usual, beauxeault, a delight.
jurist, Jan 29 2002

       Baked in a more clumsy manner in the school pantomime I wrote (see link), where the lead actor eats so many of the cast that the 'real' play can't be performed. Had the added bonus that half the time the cast could wander around on stage with scripts.
-alx, Jan 29 2002

       I nominate Danny Kaye (obviously through the magic of CGI in the film adaptation of "Lazy River") to play the part of Leth. Seems to me he did this shtick in at least three or four of his classic comedies...Though for the life of me , I don't recall one involving either Huck Finn or Mark Twain.
jurist, Jan 29 2002

       Sounds similar in spirit to the one act (5 minute) plays that they used to perform on The Generation Game (UK TV programme). The 'proper' actors would perform the play and then the two sets of contestants would take their turn in the lead parts, with their lines written onto various props, always slightly changed from the original to produce a series of hideous puns.
DrBob, Jan 29 2002

       Though i think, UnaBubba, that it was a little t'act leth to point that out.
But what I want to know is: Do the rest of the cast laugh at the mistakes or not? Or in other words, do they humour leth, or are they humourleth?
goff, Jan 29 2002

       Who could play a role like Danny Kaye?
thumbwax, Jan 29 2002

       Sounds like a mix between "Noises Off" and "Who's Line is it Anyway." "Noises Off" is a great play/movie where all the actors have side things going on that effect the play itself. "Who's Line is it Anyway" is a hilarious tv show that the US stole from the UK (UK version better, but I'm not one to start something) where stand-up comedians play off each other.
barnzenen, Jan 29 2002

       I could accept Michael Caine in lieu of Danny Kaye, provided there was no singing involved. Perhaps Laura Linney could stand in for any part Virginia Mayo would have played...Okay, beauxeault, we've nearly got a script and are half cast....What's the next step?
jurist, Jan 31 2002

       "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle, the flagon with the dragon has the brew that is true..."
[beauxault] Or 'purple'. Or more fittingly perhaps, 'pastry'.
goff, Jan 31 2002

       "I am I, Don Quixote …" snicker, I like the concept.
reensure, Jan 31 2002

       goff, or is it "the chalice from the palace holds the pellet that is poison"?
DrBob, Jan 31 2002

       Ah but the chalice from the palace was broken, and replaced by the flagon, with the figure of the dragon.. See link
goff, Jan 31 2002

       "Call me... Israel."
phoenix, Jan 31 2002

       "If music be the food of love - mine's a violin sandwich"
goff, Feb 01 2002

       It occurs to me today that Leth/a might also "forget" blocking directions, as a way to "up the ante" in the late stages of the play. So when the drunken pugilist throws his first punch, Leth/a dodges it and the drunkard collapses in a heap. But then when he revives for his second assault, Leth/a is busy trying to read cribbed notes from a prop instead of dodging the punch...
beauxeault, Feb 06 2002

       All the World's a Stage - so who is riding shotgun?
po, Feb 06 2002

       Now that the SuperBowl has played out, maybe we could get Leth some blocking instruction from some of the off-season guards and linebackers, beauxault. Then again, perhaps (s)he'd prefer some half-time instruction from Britney Spears.
jurist, Feb 07 2002

       I like - now I can tell everyone I'm just 'playing Letha' when I fluff up my lines. Pray for me. [+]
bookends, Jun 10 2005


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