Meet Michael McKeogh from The Twentieth-Century Way

We are very excited to welcome a new face to Know Theatre’s stage for The Twentieth-Century Way! Michael McKeogh comes to Cincinnati from Chicago, Illinois where he has graced many area stages. We asked Michael a few questions. Enjoy!

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Will you tell us a little bit about your background? From Detroit, went to undergrad with The Know Theatre’s Andrew Hungerford. Played Picasso to his Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The irony is that I PLAYED an artist but Andrew actually IS a genius.

Can you tell us about the moment you knew you wanted to be an actor? I never had that “moment.”just got involved in high school on a whim and started falling in love with telling stories.

How do you prepare for a role? That’s my dirty little secret but I’ll give you a hint: it’s more about questions, less about answers.

Tell us about your favorite role (besides your role in The Twentieth-Century Way of course). My most recent role was Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine of the American civil war. With a role like that there comes a larger sense of responsibility. You are playing a version of a person who really lived so you want to honor him but also bring yourself to the part. It was a wonderful gift.

Tell us just a little bit about your character in The Twentieth-Century Way. Mr. Brown is a complicated dude. Desperate and eager, but at the same time confident and grounded. He also struggles to self actualize, which is what really draws me to him.

What has been your strangest experience as an actor? Definitely when I carried a live lamb across the stage. Nude. Definitely the strangest. Especially for my in-laws.

If you were to be declared the ruler of your own country what would you name it and why? That sounds terrifying. Much harder than being an actor. I’ll pass.

The inquiring masses want to know, why should they come see The Twentieth-Century Way? Give them the hard sell! It’s like no other show that they will see this year. 2 actors 19 roles 1 indelible ink pen.

Thanks Michael!

Click here for more information about The Twentieth-Century Way! 

Meet Jason Podplesky

What role are you playing in the show?
Anton [They keep forgetting about Abe]

How long have you been acting?
All my life. My mother is also an actress so I grew up in a theatre.

Have you been in a show at Know Theatre before?
No, this is my first.

Who was the first politician you voted for?
Bill Clinton

What was the first play you ever saw?
Jesus Christ Superstar

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!?
I always believe in taking the A train.

Was Abraham Lincoln gay?
You betcha!

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

After a long day at work I like to…
go to rehearsal

What is your alcoholic beverage of choice?
Yuengling Beer

Do you enjoy big, gay dancing?
I do indeed.

You’re stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life. There’s plenty of food and water and, heck, maybe even satellite TV – BUT, you can only wear one of the following outfits for the entirety of your stay: A child’s Halloween cowboy costume, a wet-suit, a Santa Claus outfit, or your Birthday suit.
I would need a few clarifications before answering. Does the cowboy costume come with a gun? Would I have to wear the beard with the Santa outfit? Is this a tropical climate, as I chafe in very humid weather.

What’s your favorite kind of pie?
Free.

Corn: On the cob or off?
On. Definitely. Unless its creamed. I love me some cream corn.

What was the name of the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated?
Our American Cousin by Tom Taylor. (Thank you google.)

Have you ever stood in the middle of a field and looked up at the stars?
Yes. I was flat on my back at the time 😉

If you could say one thing to Abraham Lincoln, what would it be?
Beware of actors with guns.

How often do you sneeze?
Fairly regularly. Every day I suspect. I sneeze in 2’s.

2 + 2 = ?
5

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.

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.

How I First Met a Puppet

Roll back in time with me. It is early March 2010. I am in St. Louis attending the Midwest Theatre Auditions located on the campus of Webster College. This is not my first time at this audition conference, but I am still full of nervous excitement. However, this year was different than the past two. I knocked my audition out of the ballpark.  To change it up, I decided to do something ballsy and sing a song completely out of context. This has now has become my norm. Songs like Poker Face, Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo, Tik Tok, Total Eclipse of the Heart…you get the idea. So needless to say, I had a healthy plate of callbacks to attend. And I was planning on making it to them all. I wrote down all of my callback information, gathered my belongings, and was on my way…

So, I’m doing my little callback thing when the story really begins. I am sitting in the hallway reviewing some material when a couple of gentlemen walk by and recognize me. “Hello, MJ,” they say. “How are your callbacks this year? You had a great audition!” I greet them and thank them. These guys called me back last year for their company in Missouri. They peruse my list of callbacks as we briefly chat. Then, one of these dudes exclaims, “Oh! Madcap! Have you gone to that one yet?” I reply, “No, not yet, but I am planning on it.” The fellow continues, “The lady who is running that callback is crazy and such a good time. She sat behind us in the auditions. You will love her!!!” With my interest peaked, I headed straight for my callback with Madcap Puppets from Cincinnati, where I met the one and only, Mel Hatch Douglas.

Now for those of you who don’t know Mel very well, crazy might actually be the best singular word to describe her. But Mel is not crazy in the typical sense. She is crazy in the most endearing, lovable kind of way possible. Mel is passionately fond of all kinds of diet soda, has a huge mane of curly long hair usually found in perfectly crafted braids, she wears a watch on her ankle, and has a way of showing love and compassion to almost every single person she meets. None of this means that I had a good callback…

I sucked. Let me reiterate…I SUCKED! I walk in and immediately notice all of the hand-in-mouth puppets. They seemed to be everywhere. These are the puppets that we, as Americans, are most familiar with because of shows like Sesame Street and Avenue Q. We start the audition and I, quite frankly, could not get a damn thing right. I started with a voice that was too harsh. Mel stopped me and started laughing as I began to cough. Frequently, I would speak for the puppet without moving it’s mouth. Often, I would not even look at the puppet at all as I moved it around. Mel was gracious and kind…but let me be the first to say, I wasn’t ready for puppetry yet. Or so I thought.

I arrive in Cincinnati a mere six months later as the resident actor here at Know Theatre. Eric informs me that I will be working on a show called The Dragon. He explains that this will be the last show of our season and it will be a collaboration with another company in town, Madcap Puppets. Somehow or other, I did not make the connection right away. I knew we were going to be working with puppets and having virtually no experience in the field, I was wary.

The day of the first workshop arrived. I sit upstairs patiently awaiting the work. I see what appears to be a costume rack with long wooden figures hanging from it with strings. “These must be our little puppet guys,” I think to myself. We are just about to start the workshop when none other than the good ol’ Mel Douglas comes trudging up the stairs and into the theatre. Little did I know we would be working together after all!

I have to say that though my first experience with Mel and puppets was very poor, my second one, working on The Dragon, was quite the opposite. Though the style of puppetry is very different from that of hand-in-mouth puppets, I think I have come a long way since my days of callback misery. In earnest, it is being around trained puppeteers such as Mel and John that has informed everything I have done and everything I have learned. They are brilliant artists. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn a craft that I would have never tried otherwise.

La Vie Boheme

The financial life of an actor can be described in one word: tragic. And in all fairness, being poor sucks. However, the bohemian lifestyle has its higher points as well.

I have found that by living the life of a poor actor, I am not only more grateful for the things I have and can afford, but, I am also quite creative when it comes to spending. Riddle me this: It is the end of the month. I am patiently awaiting my next paycheck. My Coffee Emporium account is at nil, I’m out of smokes, the pantry is slim pickins, I owe my roommate five bucks, and my gas tank leaves a lot to be desired. What do I do? Well typically, I prioritize. Do I always make the right choices? I would say less than regularly. I usually pick gas first, and then scrape some coins together to go have a beer with a friend and say to hell with the rest of the list.

Then, of course, there are the “cop out” options. For example, why buy a song on iTunes when I can easily just listen to it on YouTube. Or perhaps I can’t find the right shirt to wear to an opening night party at the theatre. I can always borrow one from the costume shop and forego the twenty-five bucks I would have spent at Target.

I know, that no matter what, I will find a way to make ends meet. Even if my car runs out of gas and I have to take the bus for the rest of the month. Or even if I have to survive on only cereal and ramen for a few days, all will be well. And, I have to say, I kind of enjoy it.

The way I see it – everything does happen for a reason. I am learning a lot by going through this time in my life. And I am so happy and grateful to have a job in my field right out of college that pays me. And I don’t have to pay rent! I am so lucky!

One day I will be rich and successful (here’s to hoping!) and I will look back on these days and smile. Until then, I will just listen to “La vie boheme” on repeat, and celebrate the lifestyle I have chosen along with the cast of Jonathan Larson’s Rent.

Cheers! In the immortal words of Mark Cohen, “We raise our glass, you bet your ass, to la vie boheme!”