"I Tapped My Husband's Back" and Charles Aznavour's "What Makes a Man (Comme Ils Disent)" closed Act 1 of the 2014 run of TingleTangle. Here is video of this segment, one of my favorites to perform in the production. These pieces talk about societal, familial, and ingrained prejudices, as well as Love in various forms.
I'll never forget performing and exploring these pieces—their words—the day marriage equality became a thing, which happened to be the closing performance of TingleTangle's second run! To say they took on an entirely new meaning would be an understatement.
(You'll also hear a bit of Mischa Spoliansky's "Maskulinum-Femininum" at the beginning of the video.)
produced by Theater Ninjas (2014-2015)
conceived & performed by Ray Caspio
original compositions, arrangements & accompanied by agleam/Eric M. C. Gonzalez
directed by Jeremy Paul
lighting design by Ben Gantose
costumes by Kevenn T. Smith
stage managed by Kaitlin Kelly
assistant stage managed by Christina Dennis
at Guide to Kulchur
Theater Ninjas’ original production, TingleTangle, was an evening of personal storytelling, songs and conversations about sexuality, marriage equality, the many angles of oppression and the power of compassion. It reveled in the nuances of identity and how we all use performance to communicate our truest selves to the world. Monologues I wrote and performed, drawing on my experiences as a married gay man in Ohio, formed TingleTangle’s core. TingleTangle sold out and extended its run in Fall 2014, and returned in June 2015, poignantly closing the day marriage equality was fully legalized nationwide.
"Maskulinum-Femininum" music and lyrics by Mischa Spoliansky
"I Tapped My Husband's Back" written by Ray Caspio
"What Makes a Man (Comme Ils Disent)" music and lyrics by Charles Aznavour, arranged and accompanied by agleam/Eric M. C. Gonzalez
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:
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."
•"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.
"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.
Opening today and running through December 20th for 19 performances at Playhouse Square: The SantaLand Diaries!
written by David Sedaris
adapted by Joe Mantello
directed by Cathleen O’Malley
starring Ray Caspio
Outcalt Theatre at Playhouse Square, 1407 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
Produced by Cleveland Public Theatre, The SantaLand Diaries by acclaimed author David Sedaris is the semi-autobiographical story of a 33-year-old out-of-work actor who takes a job as “Crumpet,” a Macy’s Christmas Elf, in 1989. Crumpet’s hilarious recount of the trials and tribulations of the Holiday Season is sure to bring a smile to even the grouchiest face! Starring Ray Caspio.
Tickets: $30.00, various dates and times
Available through Playhouse Square's box office:
Interview with Dee Perry on The Sound of Applause
Thrillist Cleveland: "The one man tour de force Ray Caspio"
News Herald: Ray Caspio finds lots with which to identify in David Sedaris' "The SantaLand Diaries"
My new portrait of the icon that is Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur from Bewitched. I'm excited to have him join my Oh, My Stars! series.
Available as prints, clothing, mugs, home decor, phone cases, iPod cases, bags, and stationery:
Theater Ninjas’ Celebrated TingleTangle
Returns this June During Pride Month
Cleveland, Ohio, June 1, 2015 — TingleTangle is back! Theater Ninjas' production of this original, hilarious and poignant look at gender, sexuality and marriage equality sold out and extended its run last fall, and will be brought back for a limited engagement this June! This mobile show features a mix of new material and old favorites.
TingleTangle is an evening of personal storytelling, gender-bending songs and no-punches-pulled conversations about marriage equality, sexuality, gender, oppression, hate speech and compassion's transgressive power. This cabaret-inspired performance responds to a conflicted, changing world, with love, empathy, humor and the desire to understand…not to mention some out-and-out desire! This provocative evening revels in the nuances of identity and how we all use performance to communicate our truest selves to the world.
The show returns this June, coinciding with the expected decision from the United States Supreme Court on marriage equality and in celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month. This limited engagement runs one weekend only in the Waterloo Arts District at Maria Neil Art Project, June 25 and 26 at 8pm, and June 27 at 2pm and 5pm during the Waterloo Arts Fest!
“TingleTangle was an incredible success during its first run and I’m thrilled to be bringing it back at such an important time in the nation’s history,” said the show’s conceiver and star, Ray Caspio. “The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on Marriage Equality, no matter what it is, will have an effect on my life and marriage, as well as those of all other LGBTQ citizens of this country. We’re going to have a lot to talk—and laugh—about.”
TingleTangle received unanimous raves and appeared on numerous “Best of Theater 2014” lists, including Cleveland Scene Magazine and WCPN 90.3’s Sound of Applause.
Theater Ninjas is the Food Truck of Cleveland Theater. We’re a nomadic company who seeks out new and exciting spaces to perform. Working in non-traditional venues gives us an opportunity to reimagine how and why we tell stories, and helps us to create deep, fascinating worlds for the audience to explore. We’re always experimenting; always rethinking what theater can be: as entertainment, as art and as out-of-the-ordinary experiences.
More information about the out-of-the-ordinary experiences in Theater Ninjas’ ninth year can be found at http://www.theaterninjas.com.
conceived by Ray Caspio
directed by Jeremy Paul
original composition & arrangements by Eric M. C. Gonzalez
starring Ray Caspio, Ryan Lucas & Amy Schwabauer
stage manager Franny Gallagher
original costume design Kevenn T. Smith
June 25-27, 2015
Thursday & Friday @ 8pm
Saturday (partial performances from the full production during Waterloo Arts Fest) @ 2pm & 5pm
@ Maria Neil Art Project
15813 Waterloo Road
Cleveland, OH 44110
Behind Star Pop
General Admission: $15
Ages 18-25/Over 65: $10
Saturday: Free (partial performances from the full production during Waterloo Arts Fest)
Group discounts available for 10 or more
theaterninjas.com or (440) 941-1482