Continuing my backlog of posts, here's a post about my production of Gruff! at Long Island Children's Museum. The good folks at LICM saw our production of Gruff! at The People's Improv Theater as well as well as a performance of our Off-Broadway run at Vital Theatre Company. They loved the piece and wanted to do their own production - but they wanted Doppelskope to join them on their creative staff for the project. This was my first time directing on my own, and the first production of Gruff! that tried hiding the puppeteers (which is now my preferred style for the piece, and I'd like to go further with it.) Here's a sizzle reel from the production!
Here's our first table-read of the piece....
And here's a production still...
Toby, Ora and I have also adapted Gruff! into a screenplay. I would love to see it on the big screen. I think it's unique as a direct call to action against climate change for family audiences, and I think the world needs that now.
I'm fine! Are you fine? I do hope you are. This covid-19 epidemic is a stressful and terrible time. I am grateful to be healthy and safe - and to finally have some free time.
Lost Nation Theater's spring production of Gruff! was, of course, postponed. The summer premiere of The Comedy of Wizards (a fantasy musical adaptation of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors by myself and Toby Singer) was likewise postponed. My Brooklyn hospital residencies as a pediatric clown are VERY much postponed (I'm more of an existential worker than an essential worker.)
What am I doing? I'm writing - Toby and I continue work on The Comedy of Wizards, and Growl! needs reformatting.
I'm learning to make my own puppets - watch out world!
I'm learning more German.
I'm practicing juggling.
I'm practicing monitor puppetry.
I'm playing a lot of Munchkin (I highly recommend this board game if you have two or more fellow quarantiners) and hnefatafl (a great board game for two players, and a great compromise since Kate Kenny won't play chess with me and this game is slightly similar. Plus, you get to pretend you're a viking when you play it.)
I'll also be updating this blog with a backlog of updates and content going back two years! Oi. I'm planning to roll out posts on some kind of semi-regular schedule so I don't get overwhelmed. So, to start with, here's a short slide show of pics from Twelfth Night at Lost Nation Theater in the summer of 2018, directed by the amazing Amanda Rafuse.
I also doubled as Fabian, who ended up being a preppy stoner in this production. Somehow I don't have any photos of that!
It just occurred to me that this was also the last play that Kate Kenney and I got to act in together. Since this blog is mostly perused by important directors and influential casting agencies, and not just by my mother, I hope you will take note and rectify this situation post haste (but after the epidemic.)
Until next time...
Sometimes this is what a work week looks like...
Day 1: transport set from LI to Manhattan, do two performances of The Amazing Story Machine.
Day 2: MC and perform magic at a new circus show at The Muse, ABCirque and Play.
Day 3: Work on costume and script for upcoming Circus/Puppet/Variety show about gender.
Day 4: Write synopsis for new glove puppet show.
Day 5: shift as Pediatric clown at hospital.
Day 6: Memorize lines for upcoming production of The Turn of the Screw. I'm playing 3 or so characters.
Yesterday we had our first read through for Twelfth Night at Lost Nation Theater and it was a wonderful experience. It's a revelation to hear the play out loud, share your work with your cast for the first time, and take in their choices. There was more laughter than you sometimes hear at a table read, especially for Shakespeare.
I also know and have worked with most of the team already, and those that I haven't are fellow LNT regulars so I already feel familiar with them. This in itself is a remarkable feeling - a reunion of a rehearsal process, a homecoming.
Meanwhile Ora and Jacob are hard at work on The Amazing Story Machine back home in NY.
I miss working on Gruff! (the team at LICM killed it btw) but being up here and doing Shakespeare again with so many friends is the perfect antidote.
I GOT SOME NEW KILLER REVIEWS!
GRUFF! GOT A KILLER NEW REVIEW TOO!
DOPPELSKOPE WON A GRANT FROM THE JIM HENSON FOUNDATION!
We'll be using the funds to create a new show called The Amazing Story Machine.
I MADE A NEW PUPPET REEL!
CREATURES OF YES IS STILL AWESOME!
I puppeteered several characters in this amazing Christmas special. New character voiced by me coming soon!
OTHER THINGS ARE HAPPENING!
I recently played Perseus in Andromeda by Kate Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls! I'm getting ready to direct Gruff! at the Long Island Children's Museum. I'm returning to Lost Nation Theater this summer to play Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night. Things! Things!
Well it's been a year since my last post and there are a lot of updates! Let's start with Doppelskope.
Doppelskope: Taking Over the World Maybe
GROWL! The completion of The Grilogy
In the summer 2016 we premiered Growl! at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, thereby completing our puppet musical Grilogy (Gruff!, Grimm! and Growl!). Growl! is a zany reinvention of Goldilocks that could be summed up as "baby bear's revenge, but also lots of 1950's-style commercials for fake woodland products and ridiculous chase scenes and a lightsaber karate battle". We deconstructed capitalism, explored the ethics of scientific inquiry, and flushed a bear down a toilet.
Artistic Director (and one of my mentors) Charlie Richter called the show our "most hilarious entry yet" and "performance art for kids".
All the main characters were played by Ora's beautiful, intricate tabletop puppets, but parts of the show were told with giant overhead projections, and others with tiny rod puppets. I love playing with scale.
Ara Bartlieb of Lehigh Valley Stage called the show an "effervescent concoction" and "inventively eye-popping". He also wrote
“More adults than tots littered the theater during yesterday's 1PM performance, and I honestly can report that their response was even more enthusiastic than the youngsters'. And, trust me, the tykes were getting their money's worth of giggles and often outright guffaws at the non-stop onstage antics of this fine assembly of actors. I am willing to bet that, unless you're under ten years of age, you won't be able to keep up with its relentlessly sharp turns and witty reinterpretations of the story you thought you knew. The show runs one hour to the precise tick of a finely wound watch, with nary a child nor grandparent nor nanny showing signs of distraction for even a second.”
You can read Mr. Bartlieb's entire review here.
One of the songs from the show became a stand-along slam piece that we were able to perform twice at La MaMa. Check out the video!
An Existential Sing-Along goes to Puppet Showplace
In November 2016 we brought our original signature show to Puppet Showplace in Boston. We had befriended the artistic director, the fantastic, talented and intelligent Roxie Myhrum at the 2015 National Puppetry Festival. We stayed with Paul Vincent Davis while we were there, and it was a real privilege to hear some of his stories and puppetry/life wisdom.
In Defense of Pleasure
Back in October of 2016 I finally premiered my solo show In Defense of Pleasure at Lost Nation Theater. I've been performing at LNT for eight years so it felt absolutely like the right place to premiere such a personal work, in a place that's come to feel like a second home with many important friends and family. The show is about my early years in NY, struggling to make a living as a clown, to find love, and to reconcile my background studies in philosophy with the realities of freelance clowning.
Jim Lowe of the Times Argus wrote that my performance was "very personal, and very funny….it was certainly for adults, but filled with plenty of child-like joy. The stories were riotously funny, as told by an expert storyteller. Throughout, Scheer offered samplings of his magic tricks and comic schtick. He brought a couple of brave audience members into the show, involving them in his delightful zaniness. But In Defense of Pleasure is a lot more than a barrel of laughs. Beyond the clownish exterior is a man seeking love and truth."
The Creatures of Yes
I dialect coached Maybe Never Fell for Axial Theatre! German accents (my favorite). I continue to be the resident pediatric clown at three Brooklyn hospitals. Ora and I performed twice at Puppet Playlist and we had a weekly performance of SHRINK: Puppet Therapy going for a little while.
I am currently performing in Wild by Atlas Circus Company (back at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre). It's a beautiful nouveau cirque show about a boy who joins a group of run-aways in the jungle. I play the first run-away he befriends who brings him into the tribe.
1. It's awesome to be back in the air for a show
2. I am way better at juggling now
3. It's amazing working with Noah Dach, Tommy McCarthy and the whole Atlas team
4. I am always sore
Being too busy to update your website means you're successful, right? Or just bad at the internet? Or good at not being on the internet? Enough chit-chat, down to brass tacks. We've got 8 major theatre productions and several other exciting gigs to cover, which I'll do in roughly roughly chronological order.
Team Spirit's Surrender
The 39 Steps
The Comedy of Errors
Right after 39 Steps and Comedy of Errors, Kate and I devised our own mini-circus to perform at Lost Nation's annual halloween party! Widdershins is a hybrid of aerial acrobatics, clown and theatre. We're currently shopping it around to book gigs.
I played Orpheus in Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at Lost Nation Theater. Eurydice was the most beautiful, moving, epic and effective theatre project I've ever been a part of. It was directed by the extremely talented Eric Love, who I've now been working with for years as an actor and who has rapidly become a formidable director. I played opposite the sublime Kate Kenney. The play was a beautifully integrated hybrid of text, aerial acrobatics, music, mask and dance.
Jim Lowe called Eurydice "a spectacular dream."
Alex Brown wrote "In outstanding performances, Kenney and Scheer emphasize the simple clarity in Ruhl's distinctive language. They play lovers without irony and suffer without artifice, giving equal weight to the play's humor and its dreamy lyricism....Scheer is a charming mix of ardent and offhand. His love never needs its flames fanned — he has simply discovered a powerful truth and doesn't need to embellish it."
It's always exciting to return to LNT and grow with my ensemble members old and new.
Lost Nation produced Kim Bent's adaptation of Treasure Island in rep with Eurydice. Jim Lowe wrote that I "created a colorful and delightfully enigmatic Long John Silver." Arrrrrgh!
Ora and I played Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. Toby accompanied live all summer. As Ora frequently pointed out, I was born to play a German steampunk clown.
Grimm! is a new family musical about the wonder of storytime and imagination, and the new challenges that families face as personal devices divide our attention. In Grimm!, a dad falls under the spell of the Blue Glowing Madness and gets lost in his personal devices. His daughter Charlotte must travel through her storybooks and through outer space to save him. In this highly interactive, fast paced show, audience members cheer for storytime and blast lasers at attention-sucking alien robots.
The Morning Call described Grimm! as "bizarrely inspired" and said "Doppelskope has crafted a creative and quirky fable about imagination!"
Muhlenberg professor Irene Chien nailed it with this audience feedback: "The show was thematically dead-on in terms of playfully (and non-didactically) addressing the tension between the undivided attention of live, face-to-face storytelling that parents all aspire to and the reality of parenting distractedly while attached to mobile devices. And it gave the kids and I a platform for an important and hopefully ongoing conversation about how those screens of 'blue glowing madness' fit into their lives and our family interactions. As a parent who is sick to death of Disney's colonization of fairytale princesses as plucky but ultimately insipid and gender-normative, I appreciate the irreverent physicality and boisterousness of the two main female actresses, and the re-imagining of the Grimm fairytales to focus on the agency rather than passivity of the girl characters while still remaining true to the brutality of the original stories. The puppetry and choregraphy with the smartphone/tablet lights was clever and played tricks with stage illusion in a visually delightful way. Harriet's (three-year-old) feedback: 'I loved it! It was so funny and not scary at all! The glowing was mysterious.'"
The National Puppetry Festival
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Back at Lost Nation Theater, I dove right into a new quick change comedy. I played Sherlock Holmes as well as all the alluring females and dastardly villains. Jim Lowe wrote "Christopher Scheer, a Lost Nation veteran and virtuoso clown, plays Holmes and most of the other characters, morphing quickly and easily."
As You Like It
Kim Bent cast me as Touchstone in As You Like It, inviting me to bring whatever clown skills I could to the table. This got me inspired about the role of clowns in Elizabethan theatre, and through a little research I discovered that then (as now) the clown's most important function was rule-breaking. I stuffed pancakes and mustard in my mouth during my first speech and tried to share them with the audience, I got attacked by a raccoon in the forest, and I generally ignored the fourth wall (my favorite).
Also, in an innovative move, Kim had me play Audrey (Touchstone's new girlfriend) and William (a rival suitor). Audrey and William were both portrayed by sock puppets that Touchstone invents out of boredom and desperation while stranded in the forest.
Jim Lowe wrote "Contrasting [Rosalind's] subtle comedy was Christopher Scheer’s ridiculously funny clowning as Touchstone. This wasn’t slapstick; rather it was overt comedy that was delivered with wit. It was just too funny, and it fit this play perfectly. (He also plays Audrey and William, but you’ll need to see the production to find out how.)"
Alex Brown wrote "the boldest move is the production's most memorable innovation - all three sides of the Touchstone-Audrey-William triangle are put in one actor's hands. That hint as to how it's accomplished is the only one you're getting, but actor Christopher Scheer conveys all the necessary nuances of a last set of lovers in a play already stuffed with them.
Next up... the future! Stay tuned.
11 AM - Costume fitting for upcoming stilt walking gig
1:30pm - Hospital clown shift
5pm - rehearse "clown and chicken" interaction at The Muse (see picture). This is for a benefit performance this weekend.
6:45pm - aerial silks class
9pm - puppet improv rehearsal
This week has also involved design meetings, script writing, and grant and residency applications. Also looking forward to magic performances and an entire weekend of Shrink: Puppet Therapy.
Check out this interview I did with the fantastic Erin McIntyre for broadwayworld.com - we discussed my upcoming shows in Allentown and in Montpelier, as well as Doppelskope. Speaking of which, Ora and I just had a successful run at The Tank of An Existential Sing-Along. Here is an awesome review!
Upcoming performance calendar:
Shrink: Puppet Therapy
March 20th @ 7pm @ The PIT
April 11-13 @ The Tank
Gruff! A New Family Friendly Musical... with Goats!
June 18th - July 26th
The 39 Steps and The Comedy of Errors
at Lost Nation Theater
September 18th - October 19th
That's all for now!
I started improvising again with Ora almost right away. Here we are performing at the Gershwin Hotel. We've done several more performances of our full length improv show Shrink: Puppet Therapy at the PIT - and also a special Halloween-themed improv show called Shriek: Puppet Therapy. People keep thinking our improv show is scripted, and that our scripted shows are improvised. It's very flattering!
In August I also helped devise a physical theatre piece called For the Sins I Can Remember for Vagabond Inventions which they performed at IRT in October - because of my availability, I just rehearsed the role in August before Denni Dennis stepped in to play the character. This was a very exciting process. Also, I was still playing the character when the company had their photo shoot, which led to me being in beautifully weird shots like this one. Also, we were the Photo of the Week in Time Out New York! That was my second time as Photo of the Week this year!
So I'm cringing in the corner of a freight elevator wearing short white pants in one picture, and I'm making a puppet arm wrestle another puppet in the other - but I'm still in two different Photos of the Week!
And while we're talking about strange press, I should mention that the NY Post strongly suggested that I might be the internationally famous street artist, political activist and filmmaker known as Banksy.
(I'm not Banksy, but I did get to ride in his truck and operate his puppets)
Rewinding somewhat, I spent a good part of September participating in Fiasco Theater's Free Training Initiative! Here's our entire class at a beer hall with our magnanimous teachers, Jessie Austrian and Noah Brody.
This class - which focused on Shakespeare and rehearsal technique - was inspiring, recharging and an amazing learning experience.
Next fall I'll be diving back into Shakespeare at Lost Nation Theater of Vermont- playing both Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors. I look forward to bringing all of my new tools, perspective and awareness from this class to that process! The Comedy of Errors will run in repertory with The 39 Steps, in which I'll be playing Richard Hannay. Mustache party!
In September I also helped Andy Sapora pull off a surprise edition of tinyDANGEROUSfun to surprise John Leo for his impending nuptials.
Andy ended up breathing fire outside during intermission, and I may have taken my clothes off in the second act...
In the beginning of October, Doppelskope went to Allentown to perform and teach during a brief artist residency at Muhlenberg College. I can't stress enough what a wonderful experience this was. Everyone at Muhlenberg is so positive, intelligent and talented - faculty, staff and students alike! We performed our signature show - An Existential Sing-Along - and it was amazing to realize how directly this show speaks to college students!
This was a really great step for us as a company. We're now very excited about the idea of touring around to more colleges!
We recently brought the Sing-Along back to NYC, performing it at the Tank last week. Next month we're premiering The Apocalypse Show at the Tank - and in February we're doing a full weekend run of the Sing-Along at the Tank as well.
This poster is hanging in my room now....
Here's a picture of me at Muhlenberg with my first clown teacher - Francine Roussel. Francine invited Ora and I to guest-teach her Experiments in Acting Class. Francine's students were all awesome - and it was great to re-meet Francine as an adult!
Oh! And Muhlenberg has invited Ora and I to write and direct a show for their Summer Music Theatre season! We'll be adapting The Three Billy Goats Gruff into a family-friendly musical with puppets. I'll be performing in it as well.
More details to come!
As the project with Banksy was wrapping up, I was asked to perform a sock puppet (pictured left) for a segment on NY1 with Shelley Goldberg and Cheryl Henson, promoting the Puppets on Film festival.
I ended up seeing several films in the festival as well, it was a blast.
Oh, and if you have Time Warner, you can watch the clip from NY1 here!
More Vermont news - Lost Nation Theater asked me to perform an aerial act for their annual Edgar Allan Poe Spooktacular. My first thought was "oh no - I don't have an act." My second thought was "ooh! I have an idea!"
I devised a new aerial act that I'm quite proud of - I finally figured out how to combine clown with aerial acrobatics. My character Stampy had a wonderful time on the ground and in the air.
I'm pictured here simultaneously warming up and entertaining as part of the lobby pre-show.
I wish I had photos and video from the act itself. I'm hoping to perform this act more in the future!
OH! And I was nominated for best actor in a play for my performance in Irma Vep at Lost Nation! (I was nominated last year for my Irma Vep performance at Cortland Repertory Theatre as well, where I played the other half of the characters.) I was also nominated for best featured actor in Hamlet (in which I played Laertes). LNT's Irma Vep is also up for Best Play, and many of my talented colleagues are nominated in almost all of the categories. You can vote HERE.
That's all the news for now. I imagine I'll be following up with more details about The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The 39 Steps and The Comedy of Errors - as well as upcoming Doppelskope projects - and hopefully other exciting news as well!