Ray Caspio

"a shapeshifter of an actor" - Cleveland Plain Dealer

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The Art of Storytelling Returns to the Cleveland Museum of Art

Four Saturdays, February 6–27, 2016, 11:00–1:30 p.m., with a final storyteller’s showcase on Saturday, February 27, 2:00, Lecture Hall. Led by Ray Caspio (writing & performance) and Laura Mlakar (writing).

"Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced teller of tales, this four-week workshop challenges you to find new depths in both art and yourself as you craft, polish, and perform a personal narrative inspired by works on view at the museum. With exercises in performance, writing, and more, discover how art can become a catalyst for powerful stories and personal expression. Can’t make the workshop? Join the storytellers as they share their stories in a final showcase on February 27."

Registration & workshop information can be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art's website:
http://www.clevelandart.org/learn/workshop/art-storytelling

Last March I asked eight people, anonymously, to write what their goal in The Art of Storytelling was.

•"To create a moving or funny story + have the courage to tell it."
•"To shape a story that will be theatrical and enlightening."
•"Fun"
•"To refine writing style to better connect with people, make story more enticing, engaging, relevant."
•"Learn how to select events from my own + other's lives that would form a compelling story, and how to describe those events."
•"Create a piece. Surprise myself."
•"Make the ghosts of my family storytellers proud of me. To do it well."
•"To create a strong image of feeling in another's head. As well as learn techniques in both writing and performing arts."

It's pretty safe to say these goals were surpassed. Last year's inaugural storytellers took huge risks and were fearless in their writing and performances. This diverse group, ranging in age from 14 to 60, created moving, hilarious, and poignant pieces, and opened their hearts—their whole selves—in performance, to create a magical afternoon of storytelling theater. They were unforgettable.

Authentic, honest, barrier-free storytelling creates a space for empathy to be cultivated and allows for profound transformative experiences in both the artist and the audience. I believe that Art is saying "Yes!" to your truth and sharing it with the world. When someone is being exactly who they are and sharing their story from their heart—and sharing it in a simple way that allows me, as an audience member, IN—well, that feeling…I hope we've all had it happen at least once.

In my work as a performance and teaching artist, that feeling is what I seek from myself and those who have given me their time and trust to guide them, whether from the stage or in a classroom.

I recently conceived and performed a show (Theater Ninjas' TingleTangle) that leveraged stories from my journey with sexuality and marriage equality to show how oppressive laws and hate speech effect the queer population (its second run closed, by the way, the night marriage equality was made legal across the United States: kismet). During its first preview performance in 2013, I noticed a visibly uncomfortable audience member while performing a monologue and song that dealt with me being called a "faggot." After the show, he approached me, extended his hand, and said in a choked-up voice, "I don't have the words right now except to say I need to go home and think about how you made me feel. What you said and did brought up and made me rethink so many things I've said and done. Thank you." It was...huge. I believe everyone has the power to do this.

In The Art of Storytelling, we celebrate, as an ensemble, the myriad ways visual art can effect the individual. You will be guided through the creation of your piece. You will develop tools and learn techniques to cultivate an authentic, honest performance and then get on stage and share the truth of how art has impacted you. If you've had no writing and performance experience: great. If you've had writing and performance experience: great.

The Art of Storytelling will benefit everyone. Laura and I will make sure of it. We can't wait to find out your goal and guide it to the stage.

-Ray

Creative Workforce Fellowship

"Forty Cuyahoga County artists working in the disciplines of craft, dance, design, literature, media arts, music, theatre and visual arts will each receive $15,000 in 2016 through the Creative Workforce Fellowship...which are made possible by the residents of Cuyahoga County through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the County's public funder for arts and culture." - Link to full press release at Community Partnership for Arts and Culture's website

I am elated to be one of those forty artists and it's a great honor to be among such stellar company, which includes several past collaborators. My Fellowship is in the Theatre: Improvisational/Spoken Word/Storytelling discipline. Authentic, honest, fearless, barrier-free, from-the-heart storytelling creates a space where empathy is cultivated and allows for profound transformative experiences in both the artist and audience. This Fellowship will allow me to travel and further study techniques vital to my foundation as a performer, creator, and educator in Cuyahoga County. It will provide me the formal training in improvisation and comedy writing I've craved for years. And I'll have the time and brain space to focus on creating and developing my own projects, which includes bringing a certain Uncle Toots to his next level in a live performance piece!

Much more exciting stuff to come.

The past few years, especially 2015, brought great focus, belief, and acceptance in myself, my work, and what only I'm able to do. This Fellowship is the product of that. To everyone who has been a part of who I am, both as a person and an artist (same thing)...thank you. I'm looking forward to what the Creative Workforce Fellowship adds to my story.

To close this out, here is a work sample from my Fellowship application, written and performed by me, from a Fall 2014 performance of TingleTangle: a show conceived by yours truly and created with some crazy-talented Theater Ninjas who gave their souls to the production during its experimental Prelude performances in 2013 and 2014 (directed by me, original compositions and arrangements by Sean Ellis Hussey), and its full runs in Fall 2014 and June 2015 (directed by Jeremy Paul, original compositions and arrangements by Eric M. C. Gonzalez: both CWF recipients), which poignantly closed the night marriage equality was made legal across the United States. 

 

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.