Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Carla Rhodes, Cecil Sinclaire, and Defying Expectations in Art

"I think no matter what happens 
with me in my life ...
Carla Rhodes with Cecil Sinclaire, photo by Hanna Toresson (

... I will always be doing 
something artistic."

My comedy partner and I were once paid a tremendous compliment. One night, after hosting a burlesque show in Hollywood, an audience member approached us and said, "I can't believe you guys are real." I took it to mean we were filling a niche, bringing to the stage a fresh take on the (sometimes hackneyed) comedy tropes we exploit.

There is a constant tension between reality and our idealized hopes and dreams. We feel this tension on Christmas Eve, before walking into a new job for the first time, and in the darkened theater. The best variety acts thrive by traversing that tension, manifesting the impossible; by both satisfying the expectations the audience doesn't know it has and defying expectations of what is actually possible.

I can't believe Carla Rhodes is real.

I was hosting the Monday Night Tease the first time I saw Carla and Cecil. I love vent acts, but they are fairly rare. I was anticipating the act, but completely unprepared for it. Carla plays into vent tropes and subverts them. Ventriloquism is a musty, old art form? Well here's a musty, old vent figure named Cecil who exploits and explodes the audience's expectations. Carla bills as the "Rock 'n' Roll Ventriloquist," and it's apt: conceptually, her act is cranked up to 11. And she kills.

Emily Sheskin and Veena Rao have put together a Narratively video about Carla, entitled Secrets of a Die-Hard Ventriloquist. The video is short and sweet, and well worth your time. Click here to go watch it or check it out in the embedded video below.

Carla is based in New York, but she does get out to Los Angeles from time to time. Be sure to like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to find out when you can catch her act live.