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!

michaelweb

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 the Director: Kimberly Faith Hickman directs The Twentieth-Century Way

We are very excited to welcome a new guest director to Cincinnati forThe Twentieth-Century Way! Kimberly comes to us from New York City where she has worked with both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including being the assistant director for The Assembled Parties, The Scottsboro Boys, and Clybourne Park!

Could you please tell us a little about your background?  I’m originally from Phenix City, AL – which was also known as “Sin City, USA” in the 40’s and 50’s due to it being a haven for gambling, organized crime and prostitution.

What’s you biggest challenge as a director on any given day?  Today – it’s answering the question below about 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck.  But generally, as a director I feel that the most important part of my job is to tell the story of a play by following the playwright’s intent.  In doing that, I collaborate with actors, designers, producers, stage managers, technicians, etc. and drive the group towards a very specific goal and purpose – which is putting the playwright’s intention onstage.

What has been your most rewarding experience in theatre (besides directing Twentieth-Century Way at Know Theatre of course)?  I have been incredibly lucky and have had many rewarding experiences.  It’s impossible to pick one.  But several of my favorite moments have been sitting in a rehearsal room or production meeting and listening to some of my favorite playwrights talk about their play:  Bruce Norris, Richard Greenberg, Donald Margulies.   I really love writers, so for me, those moments were golden.

Can you describe Twentieth-Century Way in one sentence?  The Twentieth-Century Way is one of the most surprising plays I have ever directed – with its muscular theatricality and unpredictable plot twists, the play will take audiences on a ride that they have never experienced before in live theatre.

If you could give one piece advice to a large group of people, what would it be?  As cliche as it may sound – life really is way too short.  Surround yourself with people whom you enjoy being with.

What is your most bizarre skill?  I don’t think I have any bizarre skills, but most people are surprised when they learn that… 1) I play the drums and 2) I have a deep affinity for rap and hip hop music

Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck? Why?  Definitely 1 horse sized duck.  I could never fight little horses.  They would be way too cute.    

Now is your chance, give us a pitch: in your words, why should people come see Twentieth-Century Way?  The Twentieth Century Way is one of the most fast paced, daring, highly theatrical, funny and evocative explorations of history that I have ever read.  As an audience member, I guarantee that it is unlike anything you have ever seen – and who wants to miss out on that?!   Buy your tickets soon!  Really – stop reading and buy your tickets now!

Andrew Jackson’s Second Blog, or Filling the Space Between Profanities

Jackson here.

American presidents have to stick by a lot of tough goddamn decisions, and I’m often asked by my wife how I could force so much “back-asswards, xenophobic policy pigfuckery” on the Indians, the National Bank, various states and territories, the Legislative and Judicial branches of government and the American people in general. Conquering large swaths of continent ain’t always easy, folks, especially when you’re attempting to usher in a shiny new era of populism in direct opposition to a fully feckless Congress, fiscally manic Washington aristocrats and an entire race of people whose most enduring legacy to this country is leather fringe and fucking rain sticks.

Pictured here; a fucking rain stick.

Keeping America safe is about keeping America informed. Information is what puts food in our mouths, bullets in our guns and freedom in our mouths and our guns. Despite the media’s misinterpretation of the facts about me, I trust the public eye will see me for what I am. Everyone makes mistakes; everyone has a little blood on their hands, everyone feels a little guilty watching the commercial with the Indian crying because someone threw food on his moccasins.

Maybe I’ve been hasty in my decisions for the sake of this country, maybe the Trail of Tears amounts to genocide and a gross misappropriation of executive power, but the important thing is fuck youAndrew Jackson doesn’t just do the will of the people, he is the will of the people. Listen. I’m a flawed guy, admittedly, and that’s why I’m doing this whole Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson thing. Now, more than ever, the American people should understand the current politics of their nation, the politics that can be traced through the long colon of American history, all the way back to my ass, which is where I pulled them out of in the first goddamn place.

Entertainment is the key to reaching the masses, and though my usual way to the heart of a person is by shooting it with bullets, the way to the heart of a civilized people is through art, through the theatre. Because I’m also a person, a really sensitive person. Plus, Rachel is getting tired of my war stories and bedtime roleplay requests.

"Let's cut each other with my knife. Just the tip."

Really hope she doesn’t read this blog.

Essentially, the goal here is just to entertain the masses. Stuff got hella complicated when I tried to actually change this country and it looks like things aren’t getting any easier. Hate-mongering politishits have only gotten politishittier and there’s no room in the modern world for me, a man of ideas so old they predate the Democratic party. Example; I had some minor issues with the way the banking industry made its profits at the expense of the American people, so I shut it down. Really, honestly, does the idea of revamping a corrupt American banking system resonate with anyone anymore?

Thought not.

It seems like politicians have either pumped my ideas full of bovine steroids or forgot about them entirely. Every precedent I set has either been swept under the rug or expanded to the point of absolute cock-boggling absurdity. Even I didn’t see the Patriot Act coming, and I invented the idea of an uberpowered executive branch.

I’m just spitballing here, but when was the last time a new party asserted itself in this country? Come on, people. Kowtowing to the Washington elite isn’t only unpatriotic, it’s goddamn boring. Can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m starting to miss the frontier. Hell, at least you could smoke inside in 1828.

Everybody out there in cyberspace, listen up. Even if politics aren’t your thing, even if you don’t like music, even if you’re not a human, come see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Sex, rock n’ roll, war, leather, weasels; this show is everything you never knew you always wanted. Everything and more.

On Building Metaphor out of Bridges

On my first read of Collapse, I got really excited about the script. It’s funny, timely, heartbreaking, and weaves together metaphor and events that are just crazy enough to feel real in a way that’s both powerful and entertaining.

Plus it has a couple of “how the heck are we going to do that?” moments that make theatrical design in quirky spaces particularly exciting.

For the characters in Collapse, the I-35 Bridges (both the old one and its replacement) are a constant presence in their lives. In creating the world of the play, we wanted the structure of the bridge to be an omnipresent visual for the audience, physicalizing the psychological presence.

The design of the bridge structure that forms the set is a bit of a mashup between the old Bridge and the New.  The old bridge was quite complicated visually, with crisscrossing girders that affect the play of light and shadow.  It’s a twentieth century bridge, with all the hopes and dreams that carries.

The I-35 Bridge Before its Collapse

The New I-35 Bridge

The New Bridge, on the other hand, is sleek and contemporary, a bridge for the 21st century. With it’s pale colors, it’s a canvas for other light, and has a way of fitting in with the landscape rather than imposing itself.

With it’s elegant concrete arches, it would be extremely difficult for us to replicate the majesty of the new I-35 Bridge in our space with a 12 foot ceiling.

And the design of new bridge doesn’t really work for one of the scenes in the play.

So, rather than being slavish to either the old or new reality, the bridge that we put on stage draws elements from both structures (the design of the guardrail is, for example, based on drawings from the approval process for the new bridge).  Our bridge has complicated crisscrossing elements while maintaining a 21st century feel.

The elements of I-beams and girders also make our bridge multipurpose: it’s the exposed industrial beams of David and Hannah’s Loft Condo; it’s the pipes and girders of the basement where a support group meets; and it’s the bridge itself, whether illuminated and present or as a shadowy reminder.  We also kept the color story of the bridge in pale grays as a nod to the new I-35 Bridge, that way, as with the new bridge, we could wash the structure in colored light to give it a very different feel.

A rendering of the stage layout for a scene from Collapse.

Here you can see a rendering done in my drafting software, Vectorworks.  As a designer who’s continually travelling, I always use these kind of 3d renderings to communicate with the director and other members of the production team.  This way I could be working in California while sending drawings to Jason Bruffy in Florida.  We would talk, I would tweak some things, and then by the end of the day we could have updates to the rest of the Know team in Cincinnati.  Working with a traditional physical model, this process could take weeks.

Collapse Floor Treatment

The final overall visual element for the show is the floor, which you can get a sense of in the above rendering. I wanted the floor treatment to be evocative of light coming through the twisted girders of the wreckage of the old bridge, as though even though the structure we see is pristine, the shadow it casts is a continual reminder of the accident.  Here’s a quick view of my concept for the stage from above.

And here it is, when all of those elements come together.

Collapse, Onstage.

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.

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.