Summary: I made many friends, had a great time and got to be a part of a magical, beautiful play in an awesome place. Yes, please, any time, thank you!
Right after I finished my second production of Irma Vep, I went off to play in my second production of A Midsummer Night's Dream! Last time I was Demetrius; this time I was Oberon and Theseus - at the Millbrook Playhouse in Pennsylvania! Millbrook is an awesome theatre and I'm so happy that I was there. The Playhouse is very popular and people come out in droves to see the plays. There are usually productions up and running in both of their theaters (a main stage and a black box) with another play rehearsing at the same time - so the Playhouse, an old converted barn, is a beehive of industry - and a wonderful, positive community. I frequently found myself walking past an actor from another show in a hallway and we'd ask each other about our respective projects. And with so many artists, designers, carpenters, directors and technicians, our communal dinner times were always a blast.
I'm very proud of our Midsummer. Teresa assembled a very strong cast. I especially loved working with my scene partners, Ariel as Puck/Philostrate and Mary as Titania/Hippolyta. We aimed to create as restrained and refined Athenian characters as possible, to create the greatest contrast to our dark and wild fairy characters. We wanted the fairies to be animalistic and physical - Puck and Oberon would signal each other with animal noises, climb all over the set and could smell characters before they entered. Titania and Oberon's relationship was very sexual and visceral, with an intense emotional core expressed through prowling, violent physicality. It was a total treat to commit so fully to our scenes and then spy on the other characters as Oberon while "invisible," as well as to watch the mechanicals' ridiculous clowning at our wedding in Act V.
All of the actors lived together in a large dorm complex at Lock Haven University. I had limited access to the internet there, which I LOVED. Without facebook et. al. as a distraction, I had more time to spend with my castmates - we'd often stay up late talking. I would go to the university's gym most mornings, and often some of us would go to the local coffee shop together, or walk along the nearby river. After shows we would all go out together to get VERY inexpensive drinks. There was also an opening night party every week, which would involve a fancy gala at the playhouse. And every Saturday post-show the playhouse has a cabaret that audience members would stay for and that we'd all perform in. I hosted it the second week with Jonathon (my roommate, who played Demetrius) and we had more fun than should be allowed. The third week was themed "Christmas in July" - and I dressed up as a Christmas elf and gave a PSA about Krampus, the Christmas Devil (a real German tradition - look it up!)
Summary: I made many friends, had a great time and got to be a part of a magical, beautiful play in an awesome place. Yes, please, any time, thank you!
I thought it would be fun to post photos from both of my productions of Irma Vep side by side - I played Nicodemus and Lady Enid last year at Cortland Repertory Theatre last year and I played Jane and Lord Edgar this year at Lost Nation Theater. The styles and designs of the two shows were quite different - between that and playing opposite tracks, the whole process was an awesome challenge for me.
Before we get to the pictures, I should post our reviews from the more recent LNT production!
Jim Lowe of the Times Argus said we "played off each other with an intimacy & discipline with the depth of a theater version of chamber music…. It was joyous fun and sidesplittingly funny….several audience members were sure there were more than two actors performing until they were told otherwise at intermission.” You can read Jim’s whole review here – and you can also read the interview he did with us during our rehearsals here.
OH and you can WATCH an interview with us – spliced together with some rehearsal footage! Here it is!
Alex Brown of Seven Days wrote “Scheer is equally adept at wordless clowning and mile-a-minute dialogue, and he turns his limber body into a comic instrument in itself.” She also used words like “lithe,” “acrobatic,” “graceful,” and “androgynous”! She ends the piece by saying “Love and Scheer connect so well onstage that they remind us of what only live, collaborative theater can do. As tightly rehearsed as this show is, the actors never telegraph a moment. Each exchange blooms up fresh before us, with all the hard work concealed and all the fun conveyed.” You can read her whole review here.
You can read reviews from last year’s Cortland production on my reviews page.
And NOW – the PICTURES
Christopher Scheer and Eric Love (Scheer Love, as it were)
Sometime last week I decided I would write a blog post about gratitude, even at the risk of sounding like a New Age facebook status update.
I’m in Montpelier, doing what I love for my job. April Fools’ Day marked the 4 year anniversary of having no day jobs. My singular day job was a few months at Starbucks, after my contract with New York Circus Arts ended and before I got a job offer from Theater of the American South.
When I’m not acting, I clown and coach and model – I’m always creatively engaged. Last year I did three major out of town projects on my own and two tours with Doppelskope. This year I got rave reviews for King Executioner at Theatre for the New City, slowly grew an underground NYC following with Doppelskope, and booked two summer gigs.
Both of these are favorite shows of mine that I get to do again – playing different characters! I’m playing the other track in Irma Vep, which is a fascinating experience. I can now say that I’ve played every character! And after Irma closes I’ll go on to my second Midsummer, this one at the Millbrook Playhouse. I played Demetrius two summers ago at Lost Nation, and this time I’ll be playing Theseus and Oberon!
There were a lot of exclamation marks in that paragraph. I’ll delete none of them.
I’m so grateful that I get to keep experimenting and pushing the boundaries of clown and theatre with Doppelskope. I’m so grateful that I can take my experiences working with the Jim Henson Company on X-Tink-Shun and use them in my new puppet projects. I'm so grateful for the communities I've found in the underground clown, theatre and puppetry scenes of NYC - and that I can explore the world and come back to them.
And again, I get to experience these feelings in Montpelier, surrounded by trees and mountains, sore from the gym, from the chiropractor and sore from picking up Eric in every conceivable way. These are all good hurts. I’m surrounded by great people here – and it’s a small town, like the one I grew up in. I get to walk everywhere. I get to feel like I’m home.
Woo hoo! Did I express gratitude?
I'm at one of those relaxing times when I have plenty of work in the upcoming months. Here's an upcoming performance schedule, with listings through OCTOBER!
April 18th at 8PM: Shrink: Puppet Therapy at the PIT!
May 4th at 9:30pm: The Existential Variety Hour at the Tank!
May 16th at 8pm: Shrink: Puppet Therapy, back at the PIT!
June 6th - 23rd: The Mystery of Irma Vep at Lost Nation Theater in Vermont (playing Jane and Edgar this time)
July 12th - 21st: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Millbrook Playhouse in Pennsylvania (as Oberon and Theseus this time - I was Demetrius two years ago at LNT!)
October 7th - 10th: Doppelskope performs (An Existential Sing-Along) and teaches at Muhlenberg College!
There are still spaces to fill in, of course, and as always there are irons in the fire. Stay tuned...
I’ve had a fantastic year!!!!
A Varied Theatrical Season
I’m really proud of the three major regional and stock productions I was cast in this past year – I got to perform in three VERY different styles.
I performed in A.R. Gurney’s Black Tie, Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
So that’s Gurney – a popular contemporary playwright whose characters are very realistic. That’s Ludlam – whose Ridiculous Theatrical Company was well known for making absurd and totally unrealistic characters. And that’s Shakespeare – who is known for being Shakespeare.
I got to see the ins and outs of two wonderful theatres that were new to me – the Hampton Theatre Company and Cortland Repertory Theatre – and return to Lost Nation Theater and play Laertes again (I played Laertes there four years ago in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged).
I was nominated for “Best Actor in a Play” in the 2012 BroadwayWorld Central NY Awards for my performances as Lady Enid and Nicodemus Underwood in The Mystery of Irma Vep at Cortland Rep. I also racked up a ton of quotable accolades from critics and reviewers for all three projects, as well as for my creative love child – Doppelskope!
Doppelskope Explores Everything
In addition to regularly being employed by other theatres, my own theatre company grew in leaps and bounds. This is a true dream project for me where we let our freak flags fly, explore the bizarre themes that motivate us, let ourselves play with clown, puppetry, magic, music, acrobatics and improv, and get rewarded constantly by loving audiences.
Ora and I had been collaborating for over a year on little projects, including a ten minute piece called An Existential Sing-Along about a severely insecure kangaroo puppet and also about the nature of reality. Then, only days after I returned to NYC from the Jim Henson Company’s X-Tink-Shun in Philadelphia, we premiered our new hour long version of An Existential Sing-Along to an enthusiastic packed house at the People’s Improv Theatre.
A week later we flew to New Orleans to unleash our weird on the New Orleans Fringe Festival, befriending many new audience members, clowns, acrobats and weirdos – and we kept refining the show. Back in NYC, we developed new material at Puppet BloK.
Then, after a few months, we took the show to New Mexico! We were invited to the Penasco Theatre by Poki McCorkle. Poki McCorkle is a mime, balancer, juggler and cool guy who is as good as his name – we met him in New Orleans. I’d recently heard that another New Mexico theatre, The Cell in Albuquerque, was looking for acts too, so we cobbled together a two week tour between the two theatres.
It was at this point that our show, which had been evolving continuously, really began to take on a solid and smooth form. Based on feedback we received from John Leo back in NYC, and from Dennis Gromelski (artistic director), Caitlin Aase (aerialist and clown) and Poki (Poki), the show went through a few more radical shifts. We rewrote the beginning. Our base characters became very clear, and we kept our red noses on the whole show. My character, Stampy, stopped speaking unless he was animating a puppet or playing another character. One matinee at the Cell was cancelled, so we spent the hour improvising and devising. It was thrilling.
We were set – we returned to NYC and over the summer played three more packed shows back at the PIT. We added an improv segment. We touched lives. We were weirder than ever.
This fall we premiered our new series at the PIT: Shrink, Puppet Therapy. This is an hour long, entirely improvised puppet show. It’s like jumping off a cliff and landing on fluffy mattress. It is so fun.
On February 2nd we’ll be premiering ANOTHER monthly series – The Existential Variety Hour. This will be hosted by our clown characters from The Sing-Along and feature new puppetry and magic pieces from us, as well as the work of a different featured guest artist each month.
It is all very exciting.
Accidental Dialect Coach
Without promoting at all, I found myself with a lot of new dialect coaching gigs in the late spring and early summer!
In NYC I coached Bosnian and Italian for Nora’s Playhouse’s production of The Fallen, and I coached Dad Doesn’t Dance, a wonderful one-woman show for the Edinburgh Fringe. I also had a bunch of private clients!
I’m acting and puppeteering for King Executioner: a Wartime Love Story at Theatre for the New City for the Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre. This will play at the end of March and beginning of April
I’m going to be in Irma Vep again! At Lost Nation Theater in June! This time I will likely play the other track – i.e. the characters I didn’t play last time. Very exciting
In April I’ll be doing a one day puppetry festival at Daemen College in Buffalo, with Liz Dapo, one of my collaborators from X-Tink-Shun.
And I'll continue performing both Shrink: Puppet Therapy and The Existential Variety Hour.
“Some who stood out to this audience member include Christopher Scheer as Rosencranz and Eric William Love as Guildenstern; like their compatriots, Scheer and Love played other characters as well, but they came across as especially loveable as the comic relief and pals to Hamlet. Scheer also shone as Laertes, Polonius’s son.” - Cassandra Brush, Montpelier Bridge
“[Hamlet] enjoyed the most exciting fight scene in memory. Christopher Scheer gave Laertes, Ophelia's brother, dimension as he sought revenge for his father's death…. And Dan Renkin's fight choreography was genuinely exciting.” – Jim Lowe, The Times Argus
“The dynamic acting was sometimes a bit overwhelming as I don't usually sit in the first row. I kept on getting sucked into the story and forgetting it was a play.
I really liked how connected you made Laertes to his family. Even though he's physically absent for the middle of the play, his ties to Ophelia and Polonius resonated throughout. You made him completely believable as the angry avenger because you had set up those relationships so strongly.
Perhaps it was because the action happened right at our feet, but I was completely struck by the enormous shift I could feel when Laertes is wounded by the envenomed blade. It was as if his entire worldview pivoted and all the consequences struck home. I can't point to what you did that conveyed that, but it was like an avalanche!
I choked up (again!) when Laertes begs forgiveness of Hamlet but I think I got a better grasp on why this time. The plea is so desperate and so genuine that you can't help but respond.” – Morgaine, audience review
“1. How do you make your voice so dark chocolate-rich and intense? Utterly luscious. 2. As Laertes -- How much fun is it to die with that much style and depth of feeling?” – Sarah Andrews Squier, audience review
“Scheer’s strong Laertes stands out.” – Alex Brown, Seven Days
Three weeks ago I was closing Irma Vep at Cortland Rep. Towards the end of the run I found out that there were some audience members who didn't realize till later in the play that I was playing both Nicodemus and Enid. That made my night! At the final performance, I got spontaneous applause at many of my entrances, exits and laugh lines. It was a perfect way to go out. Cortland was a great experience. I would go back in a heart beat!
In my last post I predicted how insane my two weeks in NYC would be. I was either modeling, clowning or otherwise performing every single day. Marina and I devised a longer version of The Possible and the Imp. The piece is an experiment in stillness and minimalism and it's so gratifying to hear the piece reading for an audience. I'd like to keep performing it as well as turn it into a short film Ora and I finished our three month run at the PIT of An Existential Sing-Along. This will the last time for a bit that Stampy, Ora and Joey will go on the ultimate quest for truth with an audience. Starting soon, Ora and I will be launching two new Doppelskope series, one a set of puppet improv shows, and the other a monthly existential variety show featuring new doppelskope material and special guest artists.
Now I'm back in VERMONT! It is so good to see all my familiar friends and collaborators here. I'm going to get a good night's sleep, hit the gym, and head to the first read through!
There is so much going on, all of it positive! I'll be spending two weeks in NYC between Irma Vep in Cortland and Hamlet, and a lot will be happening there.
I'll be performing (and developing further) The Possible and the Imp with Marina Tsaplina at the MuseIAM on September 13th. We'll also be working on The Domovoi.
I'll be modelling both weeks at the Janus Collaborative. I also already have one clown gig and will hopefully book more.
An Existential Sing-Along will return to the PIT on September 20th. http://thepit-nyc.com/show/an-existential-sing-along-4/?cur_d=120920&cur_m=1209
I also just realized that I dialect coached two full length plays this year, and worked with many private clients, and that I'm very grateful for that.
We've been getting a lot of great press coverage for Irma Vep and it motivated me to start collecting my other press quotes into one place. They need to get their own page on the site but for now they go here:
Reviews of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
“Lost Nation Audience Nearly Dies Laughing
The usual way to review a play is to describe what happens on stage. But the current offering at Montpelier’s Lost Nation Theater, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” is not a usual kind of play, and describing it would be really, really hard to do.
So instead of describing the play, we’ll describe the reaction of the audience. That’s easy.
This reviewer has never—at Lost Nation or anywhere else–seen an audience laugh so hard and so long as at this play. Simply put, we were convulsed with laughter for almost the entire 90 minutes at the sheer mad genius of what was happening up there on the stage.
Lost Nation Director Kim Bent assembled an amazing cast of three young actors—who are also trained variously as a magician, clown, and a cellist—from three corners of the country—New Mexico, New England, and Louisville/New York City, and simply turned them loose on this outrageous, madcap romp through Shakeseare’s plays.” - M.D. Drysdale, The Herald of Randolph
“Actors Aaron Aubry, Eric Love and Christopher Scheer prove their mettle as comedians (and Love as a cellist and Scheer as a magician, as well) in this madcap comedy.” – Jim Lowe, Times Argus
Review of The Possible and The Imp (devised and performed by Christopher Scheer and Marina Tsaplina)
“Minimalist, sexy, funny, touching…” Jim Moore (www.vaudevisuals.com)
Review of Black Tie
“ He handles the emotional side of his character with a sense of honesty and rawness…” - Michelle Trauring (Southampton and East Hampton Press)
Reviews of An Existential Sing-Along (devised, written and performed by Ora Fruchter and Christopher Scheer)
“One long, pleasurable sucker punch.”
“Just the right amount of weird”
“Awesome, surreal puppetry”
“Beautiful, delicate and funny. It made me feel better about life.”
“Makes me feel good, like drinking a smoothie”
- Audience Reviews
“These two slightly off-the-wall and uninhibited artists take the personalized human experience and condition to an entirely new level….
Singularly, Scheer and Fruchter’s energy are downright enchanting, but together, they put forth what appears to be mind-numbing brilliance….
You instantly feel a connection to one of several rudimentary pieces of felt. The puppets mirror our inner angst, apprehensions, aspirations and tiny voiceless, internal thoughts. They are a way for us to speak an unspoken truth about our lives, loves and lamentations…. The masters of puppets make no attempt at hiding the fact that they are indeed puppeteers. The plane of disbelief is broken as you watch the actors control the furry little beasts on stage before your eyes.” – Alan Vetter, Taos News
Reviews of The Mystery of Irma Vep
"Vep is a blast...A great show, fun, entertaining and irreverent. John DeSilvestri and Christopher Scheer are both newcomers to CRT, but with theater credits up one wall and down the other. It looks like they've earned everyone one of them."
- Katie Hall, The Cortland Standard
“This striking set allows director Bert Bernardi to turn the stage into a cartoon frame for the ghoulishly outsized performances to come, and DeSilvestri and Scheer oblige with tour-de-force performances....
(They) probably met for the first time a few weeks ago, but they attack the show with the gusto of a veteran comedy team."
Bryan VanCampen - The Ithaca Times
"Two skilled actors under Bert Bernardi's direction delighted the audience with stunningly quick costume changes and even more stunning character changes, along with exits and re-entrances timed to the split second” - Neil Novelli, The Syracuse Post Standard
“Elsewhere Ludlam’s dialogue is not always Irma Vep’s strongest asset. Many of the gags rely on puns, such as the comparison of virginity with a balloon. Somehow many of the worst groaners turn up in the mouths of characters played by Christopher Scheer, who has a way of rescuing the situation by taking on a look as if he were covering up for audible flatulence….
More effective are Ludlam’s scripted improvs that look like pop postmodernist violations of form, like having Scheer in drag shout, “Well, any man who dresses up as a woman can’t be all bad.” Or, with Scheer again, having Lady Enid begging to see Nicodemus and not comprehending why he won’t appear….
Actors DeSilvestri and Scheer, sane, perfectly timed fellows, win our admiration and our applause.”
- James MacKillop, The Syracuse New Times
Reviews of Christopher Scheer’s Right Leg in The Mystery of Irma Vep
“Nicodemus has one wooden leg, and Scheer gets maximum laughs with that premise, flailing and stumping around with the leg moving at all angles. He can use it to make major comedy out of sitting down.” - Neil Novelli, The Syracuse Post Standard
“That artificial limb has a way of taking on a life of its own, springing up when least expected or flying over the heads of the unwary.” - James MacKillop, The Syracuse New Times
Cortland is BEAUTIFUL, and we are staying at a beautiful Lake House. And not to be superficial, but all of my dresses for Irma Vep are SO PRETTY.
I'll be returning to Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier, VT later this fall to play Laertes in Hamlet - directed by Kim, and featuring Kate, Eric and Caleb.
This picture is from a recent performance at The Muse. It has nothing else to do with this post. Pictures are good, right?