Meet Robert Pavlovich

What role are you playing in the show?
I’m playing Tom Hauser and internet news-maven, Walter. [He forgot Abe]

How long have you been acting?
NYE onto 35 years.

Have you been in a show at Know Theatre before?
Yes, Eurydice and Adding Machine: A Musical

Who was the first politician you voted for?
Jimmy Carter.

Who was the first homosexual person you ever met?
My English Lit teacher in high school. He gave me my love of Shakespeare and theatre in general.

What was the first play you ever saw?
When ya’ comin’ back, Red Ryder?

If train A leaves Boston travelling south at 110mph against a prevailing wind with gusts upwards of 75mph and train B leaves Birmingham travelling northeast at 150mph with a steady breeze at its back, which train is more FABU-LOUS!?
The one carrying Abraham Lincoln to Springfield.

Was Abraham Lincoln gay?
It doesn’t matter.

What is your favorite color (other than Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Green, Purple, and Pink)?
Burnt umber.

After a long day at work I like to…
Wonder where I’ve been.

What is your alcoholic beverage of choice?
Maker’s Mark, one cube of ice, and a glass.

Do you enjoy big, gay dancing?
Yes, but I haven’t mastered dancing like no one is watching – YET!

What’s your favorite kind of pie?
Lemon Meringue

Corn: On the cob or off? 
ON

What was the name of the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated?
Our American Cousin with Laura Keene, one of the first powerful women producers in the U.S.

Have you ever stood in the middle of a field and looked up at the stars?
Yes, but not often enough.

If you could say one thing to Abraham Lincoln, what would it be?
DUCK!

2 + 2 = ? 
HOW RIGID

Finish these song lyrics:  Don’t hide yourself in regret/Just love yourself and you’re set/I’m on the right track, baby…
I WAS BORN THIS WAY!!!!!

Why should people come see Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party?
In this political season, and when it is not, Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party speaks to the fervent wish most of us have – the re-humanizing of political discourse.

Meet Kellen York

As the cast and crew prepare to open Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party in a few weeks, we wanted to take the time to introduce you to the cast members of the production.

What role are you playing in the show?
Jerry. Bailiff. Thomas Jefferson. Abe.
How long have you been acting?
Ten years.

Have you been in a show at Know Theatre before?
I had a line in As White As O, by Stacy Sims. It was “Holy shit,” or something like that.

Who was the first politician you voted for?
Nixon.

Who was the first homosexual person you ever met?
Kinsey scale.

What was the first play you ever saw?
Company.

If train A leaves Boston travelling south at 110mph against a prevailing wind with gusts upwards of 75mph and train B leaves Birmingham travelling northeast at 150mph with a steady breeze at its back, which train is more FABU-LOUS!?
The Boston train. What am I, foreign?

Was Abraham Lincoln gay?
Kinsey scale.

What is your favorite color (other than Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Green, Purple, and Pink)?
Chartreuse.

After a long day at work I like to…
Answer questionnaires about work.

What is your alcoholic beverage of choice?
Johnny Walker Red double. Neat.

Do you enjoy big, gay dancing?
No.

What’s your favorite kind of pie?
Chicken Tikka Masala. Yeah, seriously.

Corn: On the cob or off?
On to look at, off to eat.

What was the name of the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated?
Our American Cousin. Yes, I googled it. Yes, I’m ashamed.

Have you ever stood in the middle of a field and looked up at the stars?
Yes.

If you could say one thing to Abraham Lincoln, what would it be?
Duck.

How often do you sneeze?
Not as often as I’d like.

Why should people come see Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party?
Because I’m obviously very, very funny and clever. And so is the director and the rest of the cast. And there’s pie.

Meet Torie Wiggins

As the cast and crew prepare to open Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party in a few weeks, we wanted to take the time to introduce you to the cast members of the production.

Torie Wiggins

What role are you playing in the show?
Esmerelda, Regina, and Abe

How long have you been acting?
Since I was 2 years old

Have you been in a show at Know Theatre before?
Nope, this is my first [Torie did perform her one woman show Your Negro Tour Guide at the 2008 Cincinnati Fringe Festival]

Who was the first politician you voted for?
Clinton

Who was the first homosexual person you ever met?
My cousin

What was the first play you ever saw?
Something with talking deer…can’t recall the details

If train A leaves Boston travelling south at 110mph against a prevailing wind with gusts upwards of 75mph and train B leaves Birmingham travelling northeast at 150mph with a steady breeze at its back, which train is more FABU-LOUS!? 
Uhhh…the train to Funky Town?!?!?

Was Abraham Lincoln gay?
Probably

What is your favorite color (other than Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Green, Purple, and Pink)?
BROWN

After a long day at work I like to…
Drink a 24 oz. glass of wine

What is your alcoholic beverage of choice?
Wine

Do you enjoy big, gay dancing?
Sure

What’s your favorite kind of pie?
Chess Pie

Corn: On the cob or off?
OFF

What was the name of the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated?
Ummm…Much Ado About Nothing?

Have you ever stood in the middle of a field and looked up at the stars?
Yep

If you could say one thing to Abraham Lincoln, what would it be?
Thanks for the freedom homie.

How often do you sneeze?
At least once a week

Why should people come see Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party?
Its fun.

Fringe Restrospective

[Ed. Note: This post was written the day after Fringe ended, so pretend it’s June 12th and this post will make a lot more sense.]

It’s a quiet night here on Slane Avenue. The first quiet one in two weeks. I wouldn’t say that it’s unfortunately quiet (growing artists do need their beauty sleep) but it’s a lonely silence none-the-less.

For the past fortnight Know Theatre’s “Off Site Storage Unit” (also known as artist housing), located in Norwood, had been the temporary home to various out-of-town artists participating in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. For fourteen days my long journey home from the theater was brought to a close by the soon familiar sights and sounds of a new influx of thoughts, feelings, ideas, and emotions brought with our visitors and new found friends. While certainly there were nights that this unfamiliar barrage of new voices and opinions quickly tired me, especially when the marathon pace set working as a staff member for the festival started catching up to me, no encounter with these artists ever left me without some new insight into who these people were and why they were here. And that’s the beauty of Fringe Festival; it may be exhausting but you’re granted the opportunity to walk away from the experience with a rejuvenated soul. All you need now is a few good night’s sleep.

Year after year I witness out-of-town artists come to our Festival and they almost all agree upon one thing: This is a place where you are made to feel welcome. You are made to feel like a part of our family. This is perhaps the greatest asset we have to our Festival, to our artistic community. We ARE a family. Dysfunctional at times, perhaps, but a family none-the-less. We are joined together in our pursuits and endeavors, as differing in topics, styles, themes, genres, and disciplines as they may be. At the end of the day we’re all preparing pieces of living, breathing art for the community at large and it’s this passion that binds us together.  I feel like we do an amazing job of fostering that communication between artists, whether we’re discussing theatre or just shooting the shit over a beer, and those encounters are worth their weight in gold.

Fringe is a special experience I look forward to every year and I’m counting down the days until our friends return to us – and our yet unmade friends arrive.

Drawing to a Close

Hello all!  It’s Sean and Jae from the Calculus the Musical Tour!  We currently are reflecting on our many months of touring as our contract comes to a close.  It has been a whirlwind of an experience traveling the country for two years in a Hyundai Santa Fe and singing songs about Derivatives.  We did the math with Eric while we were in Cincinnati for the Arts Wave Sampler and we have driven over 70,000 miles during our stint with Calculus!  That’s 1 and a half times around the world!!!!! 

During our travels we have encountered so many wonderful people, viewed sights that take your breath away and learned so much about math, theatre and ourselves.  One thing I’ve learned about myself (Jae speaking) is that I am extremely OCD about hotel rooms.  I mean have you heard about the bed bug epidemic sweeping the country??? No??  Oh, it’s just me?  Well I digress…..

The highlights of tour life truly are the people you meet along the way.  There are so many awesome schools, teachers and students who are passionate about math. We feel so fortunate to bring them a piece of theatre tailored specifically for their passions and strengths.  When students come up to you after a show and tell you how much they appreciated the performance; those moments are priceless. 

And of course, like any cult classic film, there are the Calculus groupies.   I personally never would have thought that two people doing an educational tour would sign hundreds of autographs at events, but we do and some of them are in rather interesting places.  Of course, we get the typical, “Sign my program,” or “Sign my ticket stub.”  But then we upgrade to, “Sign my calculator,” and “Sign my homework,” or even “Sign my pocket protector.”  And then there is the weird of weird’s, “Sign my pectoral,” and the best, “Sign my forehead!”  Yes, the forehead of a young man in Toledo was signed by Sean Powell.  It was sweaty; it was in permanent marker; it was awesome!!!

Another part of our tour responsibilities is the post show Question and Answer session.  It’s kind of like a post game interview with athletes after a big game.  I mean we’re out of breath and sweaty.  It’s a totally logical analogy.  Number one on the list of frequently asked questions is, “Do we really know anything about Calculus?” to which we reply, “Kind of.”  I mean two weeks of Marc Gutman’s crash course in Calculus does not make one a Calc genius.  However, we have learned so much about Calculus over the past two years.  What’s even more is that we have a deep respect for the people who came up with these incredible theories and formulas.  The second favorite question is, “Are you a couple?”  To which we happily reply, “Yes!”  Then we get an enormous round of applause, to which I always wonder what for?  No, in all seriousness, it has been a privilege to spend the first two years of marriage with my husband 24/7.  That pretty much means that our marriage is foolproof right?  What other couple can boast of such things?  Can you imagine the stories we will get to tell our kids someday about how we spent the first two years of married life homeless and performing for over 15000 people? 

All good things must come to an end, and yes Sean and I are not returning to the Calculus tour.  But we are leaving it in very capable hands and we hope these Calcu-actors will bring you much laughter and joy as you continue your passion for math.

We have to say a big THANK YOU to the Know Theatre for allowing us to share in this precious opportunity and finally all the teachers and students who hold a special place in their hearts for Calculus.  You are all incredible people and we wish you many happy PEAKS and very few TROUGHS.

Calculus will truly forever be in our hearts!

Bringing Marionettes to Life

How do you translate acting to a puppet? How do you endow the puppet with expression? Does the puppet become an extension of your body?

Throughout the process of The Dragon, I have received varying forms of the basic question: How do we bring these puppets to life? And my answer has changed and evolved almost daily.

I, along with many others in the cast, consider myself an actor first. This is my very first time working on stage with puppets of any kind. And even those on stage who have significant puppetry experience, had never used marionettes before in a performance capacity, all save John Lewandowski. The rest of us were learning a new art form.

During the first workshops in September, it was just about learning how each puppet works. Every single marionette is built a little differently and has different functions. For example, my main character, Charlemagne, does not have hands. Many of the puppeteers use their character’s hands to gesticulate as one of their main forms of expression. I, however, have the ability to fluidly move Charlemagne’s head. This is a unique form of expression that is specific to this singular puppet. This is one of many examples of how the puppets are built differently and vary in function.

After we learned to adapt to each puppet and their individual “bodies,” the second thing that really came into play was the vocal work. I found myself having to dig even deeper into acting tools such as subtext and inner monologue to keep these puppets from becoming nothing more than objects on stage. We all were working hard to develop dialects, vocal patterns, and pitch ranges that were specific to one character alone. It sounds silly, but many times I also found myself, as the actor, over compensating with my own facial expression. This was something we really had to fight against.

Additionally, there is the problem of eye contact. As actors, one of the first things we are taught is to listen and connect with the eyes to one’s partner on stage. Dylan Shelton, who plays Lancelot, would comment on noticing actors trying to look at him from time to time and how bizarre that felt. We did not even realize we were doing this. It just comes naturally. We had to re-teach ourselves, in a way, to connect with the puppet and then let the puppet make the eye contact for us. Let me tell you, this was and is still one of the hardest things for me as a puppeteer on stage.

So, when it comes to bringing these puppets to life, it really comes down to those three things: learning each individual puppet, vocal work, and eye contact. But here is the real trick we have pulled on all of you…I don’t actually endow the puppet with expression, you do. After each show, when all the work is done, I never once made those papier-mâché faces move. My characters did not frown or smile and their eyes never once even blinked. So who actually brings them to life? I think the audience does. If you are a willing person and you come into the theatre to do nothing more than sit there and be present, you will in fact, bring these puppets to life on your own with your imagination. And that, to me, is the most beautiful thing about working with puppets.

Designing The Dragon (Part One): The Long, Twisting Road

In small theatre, we’re used to often having a quick and dirty design process: thorough but compressed, short and intense. We have a few high-octane meetings, we put together the design, and then we run with it because, well, rehearsals are about to begin.

The design for The Dragon, on the other hand, was a process that was both extended and intense: my first meeting with director Irina Niculescu was in December of 2009.

There are a number of reasons why the process began so far in advance. From an overall design perspective, there was more to do on this show than on many others. For most productions, you’re designing a world around actors, the light in which they perform, the costumes and accouterments that help define the characters they play. But in the case of The Dragon, we were also designing most of the characters themselves.

From a purely logistical perspective, the designs of the puppets needed to be complete by late 2010 in order to give sculptor Lisa Siders enough time to craft the heads of the puppets from my two-dimensional drawings, and the Madcap workshop enough time to build the puppets using a combination of my drawings, Lisa’s sculpting, and technical drawings of the puppets’ mechanisms made by John Lewandowski.

In another departure from standard procedure, we began the design process working more from the ideas of the play rather than the actual script we would use in performance. We had two translations of the original text by Eugene Schwartz on hand, and while they contained the essential action of the play, and many elements that we would keep, the text used for performance hadn’t even been started yet. Even once “finished,” the performance text would continue to evolve, as new plays do, through the rehearsal process.

Why adapt when there are multiple versions of the text available? For one, the play was written for human actors in the mid-twentieth century, and so the play is long, and with too many characters. It would be impossible with our time line, even a year out, to design and build the number of puppets that would be required to perform the complete text.

Beyond that, Irina’s conception of our play of The Dragon was to take the essence of the story and use puppets to explore other aspects of those ideas: themes of manipulation and shifting power. And, in one major shift from the original, Irina had conceived of Elsa, the damsel in distress, as not just a poor maiden, but as a torch singer of sorts, beloved by the town. This both elevated Elsa’s status within the world and allowed an integration of music into the play, something that would help to make our take on the play even more unique.

Finally, incorporating local playwright Alison Vodnoy into the process made the production a truly local collaboration, created from the foundation up for this one of a kind show.

From this starting point, these constraints and opportunities, we began a design journey that would last over a year, full of missteps and false starts, avenues explored and abandoned, leading finally to refined concepts that continued to evolve until the production became fully realized on the Know’s stage at the beginning of April.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be retracing the steps of that journey for each of the design elements. It’d be lovely if you’d like to come along. Just take my hand. What a warm little paw you have. That’s right. Follow me.