Ray Caspio is a performance and teaching artist whose original work explores identity and the performer-audience relationship.
He felt alienated from himself and those around him as a closeted gay child of multiple divorces. Performing autobiographical moments as himself and through original characters explores that alienation and the curious state of being alive. He uses clown and physical principles to connect with and encourage people to know themselves and others better. Comedy and physicality reveal universal truth in an accessible way. Ray builds authentic connections with the audience and creates a haven from a culture inundated with impersonal media stimuli.
Scene Magazine calls Ray a "riveting...magical performer" and profiled him as 2014's Thespian. He was awarded Best Risk Taker for the conception of TingleTangle, which leveraged stories from his journey with sexuality and marriage equality to show how oppressive laws and hate speech affect the queer community. A critic recognized that audiences left with "a challenge to free yourself to be who you are," a core element of Ray's artistic ethic.
During his tenure as Associate Artistic Director of Cleveland’s Theater Ninjas (2012-15), Ray conceived and performed the aforementioned TingleTangle: the acclaimed Weimar cabaret-inspired evening of personal storytelling, songs, sketches, and no-punches-pulled conversation about marriage equality, gender, and sexuality. TingleTangle was Theater Ninjas' highest attended ticketed production ever in the company's then nine year history, and the only Ninjas show to extend its run. It was revived in 2015 for a sold out run that poignantly closed the night marriage equality was made legal across the United States.
Other Ninjas performance & contributing creator credits include the original devised productions The Turing Machine (solo show; co-writer), Code: Preludes (Turing), The Excavation and The Excavation @ the Cleveland Museum of Art (lead creative team; Erato, Maurice, Pliny the Younger), Ninja Days @ the Cleveland Museum of Art (producer; Erato, Maurice, Lord Byron, The Curator), Erato & Luigi (co-writer), Marble Cities (The Magician), The Refrain, and Monster Play (Dr. Frankenstein; co-production with Cleveland Public Theatre); and the scripted Inoculations (Andrew), Black Cat Lost (Right), and Telephone (Watson). He was also a creator on, and performer in, Arboreality/The Nest, a sensory friendly space designed by artist Ian Petroni for children on the autism spectrum during 2014’s International Children’s Theater Festival at Playhouse Square. He created the character in, and was part of the development of, Playhouse Square & Theater Ninjas' upcoming touring production, The Lunar Landscape.
Ray has also performed at Cleveland Public Theatre (The SantaLand Diaries at Playhouse Square; The Importance of Waiting for the Eagle at Big Box '14; At-TEN-tion Span; and co-creator of the performance installation, Peek, at Pandemonium ’12), convergence-continuum (An Apology...by Doctor John Faustus...), and is proud to be the first actor to appear on the Talespinner Children’s Theatre stage (The Tale of the Name of the Tree).
Ray is the creator of the Uncle Toots web series, and starred in the the short films Cast Off and the multiple award-winning Loss Prevention.
His training includes Alba Emoting, Michael Chekhov, and Eccentric Performing (Avner Eisenberg & Julie Goell).
Ray teaches for Playhouse Square Community Engagement & Education, Playhouse Square’s Disney Musicals in Schools program, the Cleveland Museum of Art (The Art of Storytelling, returningFebruary 2016), and MetroHealth Arts-in-Medicine; and he has taught in Theater Ninjas’ collaborations with Planned Parenthood and the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. He teaches workshops in our community focused on identity: developing tools to cultivate honesty as it intersects with stage presence. Students become more effective communicators as they access their truth, reinforcing how powerful it is to be seen. His philosophy is acceptance of self, the moment, the process and those around you.
Ray received a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellowship. The Fellowships is a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. Funding for the Fellowship program is made possible by the generous support of Cuyahoga County residents through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
Caspio is also an exhibited illustrator.
Ray’s illustrations are whimsical, character-based, pop art portrayals of cultural personalities. His work has appeared on billboards, posters, postcards, print ads, clothing, and the web for clients such as The National Organization for Women, Cuyahoga Community College, Playbill, the independent comic book So Super Duper, various theatrical productions in Cleveland and Los Angeles, Theater Ninjas, and Ninjas’ collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art.
He received his illustration degree from Cuyahoga Community College, where his teachers included fine artist Shirley Aley Campbell, and he is influenced by the pop culture and style of the '60s and ‘70s. Growing up, television was his life and he became enamored with strong female characters, many of whom were funny, campy, and capable of superhuman feats; most of whom existed before he was born. Ray’s first solo illustration exhibition, Oh, My Stars! (2014, Maria Neil Art Project), featured his ongoing exploration of the personalities who have fascinated, shaped, and taught him since he first learned to twitch his nose in his grandma's front room while writing cursive L's on every page of his baby book.