BWW Interviews: Christopher Scheer Returns to Lost Nation Theater This Fall
Christopher Scheer is a favorite with Central Vermont audiences. Vermont theater-goers have seen him in a number of Lost Nation Theater productions, including THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED), A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP. When we spoke this past week, Christopher shared some thoughts about his work with Lost Nation and filled me in on some of his upcoming projects.
EM: You're based in New York City, but you seem to be in Vermont pretty frequently!
CS: Yes. I have a really strong connection with Lost Nation Theater, and Montpelier has come to feel like a second home.
EM: Have you had a favorite Lost Nation show?
CS: They were all great in different ways. My first show was THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED), and it was very memorable. It was in their fall slot where they had, I think, for years done a Shakespeare piece and they were trying something new. It felt serendipitous - they brought together me, Eric Love, and Aaron Aubrey; and Kim Bent was directing. It became a really unique piece of chaos with a shocking amount of audience interaction and lots of unexpected things every performance. It was a great first exposure to Lost Nation and to Vermont.
EM: You've had some cast-mates who you've gotten to work with a number of times at Lost Nation, right?
CS: Yes, Aaron Aubry several times, and Kate Kenney. Eric Love has actually been in every show that I've been in [at Lost Nation]. He'll also be in the shows this fall. So, I couldn't tell you what it's like to perform in Vermont without Eric, because I have nothing to compare it to! Kim [Bent] and Kathleen [Keenan] have frequently directed our pieces, and I'll be working with Kathleen again this fall.
EM: And what's happening this fall?
CS: I'm very excited about this. We're actually doing two shows in repertory, which I've never done at Lost Nation or anywhere else. We're doing both THE 39 STEPS, which I've wanted to be in for years, and THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, which is my favorite Shakespeare comedy. Myself, Eric Love, and Kate Kenney are going to be in both of the shows. It's also a longer performance run - more than the normal three weeks - so I get to be in Vermont longer, and I get to work with these people who I love longer. I'm really looking forward to it.
EM: Did you see THE 39 STEPS when it was in New York not too long ago?
CS: I did - I got to see it when it was playing at New World Stages. I really admired the precision that they had, all of them. That level of specificity in the style was really great. I'd be excited to do [the show] anywhere, but especially at Lost Nation where it has felt like every season we've been developing our own physical vocabulary and style.
[For example,] THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP last year was a two-person show with me and Eric [Love], and Kathleen [Keenan] directed it. It was highly choreographed and tightly specific in a way that I didn't think anyone could pull off. But we've been working together as an ensemble for so long that every step, every eyebrow, every shrug was just like a machine.
EM: When you're not in Vermont, it sounds like you have lots to keep you busy in New York. There's Doppelskope, and is Yellow Sneaker still happening, too?
CS: Yes, Yellow Sneaker and Doppelskope are both primarily myself and my collaborator, Ora Fruchter. Yellow Sneaker is her company that does various children's entertainment and educational gigs, while Doppelskope is our company where we do experimental and interdisciplinary work that usually combines various kinds of puppetry, clown theater, magical illusion, and sometimes improvisation. Doppelskope is taking up more and more of my time as things go on. Right now we're preparing for our first New York City run of AN EXISTENTIAL SING-ALONG, which is kind of our signature show. It's a clown and puppet and magic show geared towards adults, about existentialism. And anxiety. And uncertainty. And obsession. And death. We're very excited about it!
EM: And when is that happening?
CS: February 21, 22, 23 at 7pm at The Tank, which is an amazing black box space right in the New York City theater district.
CS: Another exciting thing for me right now is that I'm premiering an aerial clown act on Sunday, February 16th at The Muse in Brooklyn. It's my clown character Stampy, performing on aerial silks. I created the performance at Lost Nation's Edgar Allen Poe Spooktacular, and I liked doing it so much that I thought, "I have to do this more". So now I'm doing it in New York for the first time.
EM: I stumbled upon a video of your one man show UR-BOY and almost died laughing. So great! When and where was that video shot?
CS: That was back in 2008 when I was an apprentice at The Actors' Theater of Louisville. They have a great program that they do with their apprentices where they each develop a solo performance. In school, the things that had excited me the most were physical theater, and theater that might use text but isn't based in the text. This is one of my favorite theater memories: To help me develop my piece, they assigned me a director and a dramaturge. It's the only time I've ever had my very own dramaturge! Dramaturges are all about text, and I had the various source materials I wanted, and we cut them up with scissors and moved them around on a page until they were in the order we wanted. The dramaturge, Amy Wegener, had this look of gleeful mischief in her eye that you normally only see when there's a child who you're letting do something they're not supposed to do. Her career, like any dramaturge, is about honoring texts, and so with the ability to cut it up and do whatever we wanted, there was just this childish glee in the air.
EM: May I share the UR-BOY video with my readers?
CS: Of course!
(Check out some Christopher Scheer video footage at the end of this interview.)
CS: The other thing that's taking up a lot of my attention is that Ora [Fruchter] and I as Doppelskope, are writing our first musical. It's called Gruff, with an exclamation point - GRUFF! It's the first family-friendly thing that Doppelskope has done. Doppelskope's material is usually a little edgier and wilder, but this is a family-friendly musical that combines puppetry and physical theater. It's based on The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and it's about radical environmentalism. It teaches children how we're destroying the world and how we can potentially stop that. I think the tagline is going to be "a new family musical... with goats!"
EM: That sounds fantastic! When will we get to see it?
CS: It's premiering at The Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre in Allentown, Pennsylvania this summer. Ora [Fruchter] is directing it and designing the puppets. I'm performing in it and I'll be - and this isn't a term you hear often - I'll be the puppet captain. You know, like a fight captain or a dance captain. I'll maintain the puppetry segments after Ora leaves. After that, a little bit of August is unaccounted for but if it ends up being vacation time, I won't be upset!
Catch Christopher live at:
The Muse, Brooklyn, NY (Sun. 2/16 at 8pm)
The Tank, New York, NY (Fri. 2/21, Sat. 2/22, Sun. 2/23 at 7pm)
Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, Allentown, PA (Summer 2014)
Lost Nation Theater, Montpelier, VT (Thu. 9/18 - Sun. 10/19)
More info at www.scheerbrilliance.com.
Photos courtesy of Christopher Scheer.
AN EXISTENTIAL SING-ALONG Teaser
Christopher Scheer's One-Man Show, UR-BOY