Ray Caspio

Performance & Teaching Artist

I am a performance and teaching artist whose original work explores identity and shatters the boundaries between performer and audience. I craft multidimensional characters capable of living in any environment, and have honed the delicate art of creating authentic connections with audiences. I was awarded a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellowship in Theatre: Improvisation/Spoken Word/Storytelling for this work. A panelist said, “[Caspio’s] skills are beautifully articulated through [his] sense of timing, ease of delivery, and charismatic presence.”

Scene Magazine calls me a "riveting...magical performer," and profiled me as 2014's Thespian. I was awarded Best Risk Taker by Scene that same year for the conception and performance of TingleTangle, the acclaimed Weimar cabaret-inspired evening created during my tenure as Associate Artistic Director of Cleveland’s Theater Ninjas (2012-2015). The piece leveraged stories from my journey with sexuality and marriage equality to show how oppressive laws and hate speech affect the queer population. A critic recognized that audiences left with "a challenge to free yourself to be who you are," a core element of my artistic ethic. TingleTangle was last performed in 2015 for a sold out run that poignantly closed the night marriage equality was decided across the United States.

Other performance and contributing-creator credits include the original productions The Turing Machine (co-writer), The Excavation @ the Cleveland Museum of Art (lead creative team), Ninja Days @ the Cleveland Museum of Art (producer), Erato & Luigi (creator and co-writer), Code: Preludes (lead creative team), and Marble Cities (assistant director); and the scripted Black Cat Lost and Telephone with Theater Ninjas. I have performed at Cleveland Public Theatre (The Santaland Diaries 2015 & 2016, co-produced by Playhouse Square; At-TEN-tion Span; The Importance of Waiting for the Eagle at Big Box '14; and co-creator of the performance installation, Peek, at Pandemonium ’12), convergence-continuum (An Apology…by Doctor John Faustus, Give Me the Map), and Talespinner Children’s Theatre (The Tale of the Name of the Tree).

In 2011, I created the character of Uncle Toots and now serve as his “manager”. We have worked together on his YouTube series; as co-hosts of the podcast, Who•Ray; in TingleTangle; in Your Ask is Mine, parts 1 & 2 during Theater Ninjas’ Positive Reinforcements; and in my self-produced Sunday Dinner with Toots, a partly-scripted/mostly improvised interactive comedic storytelling experience about family dynamics, aging, sexuality, the many forms of love, and the lifelong impact of our smallest choices. Sunday Dinner with Toots was created through the recollections of Uncle Toots and his sister, Aunt Barb, as well as interviews with first and second generation Italian-Americans who grew up on Cleveland’s East Side. During its February 2017 debut, Sunday Dinner with Toots sold out three of its five performances, and served homemade pasta and stories to almost double its initial audience goal.

My teaching artistry is built on a foundation of ease and joy through the Michael Chekhov technique, and integrates Alba Emoting, Bouffon, Clown, Linklater voice, audience interaction, personal storytelling, and improvisational methods. My students learn to recognize and develop their Creative Individuality and are given the tools to truthfully and unabashedly share their hearts with audiences. One student said, “[Ray] really opened up my eyes to what acting is all about, but also, more importantly, how to better interact with others in life. It really had a positive effect on me.” I study with MICHA, the International Michael Chekhov organization, and expect to receive a Certificate of Completion from their teacher training program in June 2018.

I teach for the Cleveland Museum of Art, MetroHealth Arts-in-Medicine, and Playhouse Square’s Disney Musicals-in-Schools. For three years, I toured Northeast Ohio elementary schools with educational workshops based on productions in Playhouse Square’s Children’s Theater Series programming. While at Theater Ninjas, I forged the company’s partnerships with Planned Parenthood and the LGBT Center of Cleveland, and led workshops for teens at those organizations. I also teach privately.

My comedy and conversation podcast, Who•Ray, is available through iTunes and my website.

I am an exhibited illustrator.

My illustrations are whimsical, character-based, pop art portrayals of cultural personalities. My 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.

I received my illustration degree from Cuyahoga Community College, where my teachers included fine artist Shirley Aley Campbell.

I am influenced by the pop culture and style of the '60s and ‘70s. 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 he was born. My first solo illustration exhibition, Oh, My Stars! (2014, Maria Neil Art Project), featured 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.

background photos by Frank J. Lanza Photography, courtesy of Theater Ninjas
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Ray Caspio 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.