Ray Caspio (they/he) creates beautifully grotesque characters whose comedic allure invite you into their queer realities where they unpack identity and American culture to scrutinize the multifaceted manners in which we relate to each other. Ray’s work recognizes the immediacy and impermanence of performance by embracing theatre as a living event. Walls between performer and audience are obliterated. The work becomes as alive as we are: consciously existing in that moment when we all gather to play.
Ray is a performance artist, actor, teaching artist, visual artist, and the Founder of Michael Chekhov Center Cleveland. Their work has been recognized as transcendent, magical, powerful, riveting, intensely honest and unflinching, with Ray being called a shapeshifter of an actor. They have created pieces spanning theatre, cabaret, installation, web, and personal storytelling, and served as performer-creator in numerous devised works, originating over 30 roles. Ray’s original creations have been performed at BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival, Cleveland Public Theatre, Theater Ninjas (Associate Artistic Director 2012-2015), Playhouse Square, Playhouse Square International Children’s Theater Festival, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Their work as an actor has been seen at Playhouse Square, Dobama Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre, convergence-continuum, Playwrights Local, Theater Ninjas, and Talespinner Children’s Theatre. Caspio appeared on Best of Theatre lists for Cleveland Scene Magazine (2014 & 2017) and WCPN/NPR’s The Sound of Applause (2014, for the conception and performance of the immersive cabaret exploration of gender, sexuality, and marriage equality, TingleTangle). They were also profiled by Scene as “The Thespian” of 2014.
Caspio has appeared in commercials and short films.
Ray created the Uncle Toots YouTube series and ongoing live performance pieces, in addition to the comedy and conversation podcast, WHO•RAY, which they co-hosted with Uncle Toots.
They are trained in Bouffon (Giovanni Fusetti), Eccentric Performance (Avner Eisenberg & Julie Goell), the Alba Method (Certification Level 2), and Improv & Sketch Writing (Second City Chicago). Ray studies with master teachers of the Michael Chekhov technique at the Michael Chekhov School, Hudson, NY, and the international faculty of MICHA, the Michael Chekhov Association. Caspio founded Michael Chekhov Center Cleveland after a decade exploring the technique to share their understanding of Chekhov’s principles with Northeast Ohio performing artists.
Caspio believes performance is an exercise in spirit and a means of service to illuminate and challenge societal norms with daring honesty, a sense of beauty, and mischief. Every project should carry with it the potential to lift and transform the veils of perception, self, identity, society, and beliefs for artists and audiences.
Caspio has taught for Playhouse Square, Disney Musicals-in-Schools, Cleveland Play House Theatre Academy, MetroHealth Arts in Medicine, Planned Parenthood, the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Ray is available to lead private and workshop sessions in the Michael Chekhov technique and personal storytelling. Their process guides and celebrates the individualities of the artists involved. They believe in respecting the artists’ health, lives, contributions, and time. They believe an actor must be capable of complete transformation and surrender to the will of the character they are portraying. Caspio works experientially through movement, and encourages a sense of ease, curiosity, fearlessness, risk-taking, and play in the studio or in one-on-one coaching sessions.
Ray received a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellowship for their body of performance work.
Caspio is also an exhibited illustrator and graphic designer. Their 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 the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Ray’s series of pop art portraits of retro personalities, Oh, My Stars!, was exhibited in a solo show at Cleveland’s Maria Neil Art Project Annex in 2014. "Growing up, television was my life, and I became enamored with strong female characters, many of whom were funny, campy, and capable of superhuman feats; most of whom existed before I was born. Oh, My Stars! features my ongoing exploration of the personalities who have fascinated, shaped, and taught me since I first learned to twitch my nose in my grandma's front room while writing cursive L's on every page of my baby book.”
Ray is currently working on new drawings and paintings exploring self, the male form, and pop culture.