Backstage Blog

Q&A: Shockheaded Peter

There is nothing really that compares to Shockheaded Peter. Our creative and design teams were tasked with building an entire production based on less than 30 pages of dialogue. Difficult? Yes. Challenging? For sure. Yet, everyone involved in this extraordinarily original and creative production has remarked that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of their theatrical careers.

We asked them a few questions about the making of this wild and crazy ride.

Marc Caro-WillcoxMarc Caro-Willcox

What attracted you to the show?  Choreographer Michael Mizerany!

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it?  Scary, fantastic, thrilling, dark, smart.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process?  Creating an entire show from 23 pages of text was such a wonderful experience. The rehearsal room was so open and encouraging. Learning how to clown was quite the experience!

Sarah ErringtonSarah Errington

What attracted you to the show? Rob Lutfy. I had never heard of the show and he spoke about it to me about a year ago. I listened to some of the soundtrack by the Tiger Lillies and it’s about the weirdest thing I’ve ever listened to. So of course I was fascinated! Being a weirdo myself, I looked forward to not only working on the show but working with and under Rob’s direction. It’s the kind of show that can be anything you want it to be. There is no structure. The script is a barely 30 pages and no written music for the band. So what you see here, you’ll never see again. This is all from the minds that have come together for this project here at Cygnet. It’s been an experience I’ve never had before. Pure collaboration and overwhelming generosity. I have learned so much from this entire process and couldn’t be more thankful.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? I think it is morbidly beautiful. It’s grotesquely awe inspiring. Human. There is a strange juxtaposition of beauty that comes from the horrible things that can happen in life.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process? It’s been such a generous group of people that I have felt nothing but support along the way. I am not the spectacular element of the show, but I am compelling it to happen. It’s also a character that is not something I typically play and yet there is still something within that I am finding I can identify with.

Donny GersondeDonny Gersonde

What attracted you to the show? The bizarre theatrical aspect.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? Frightening, playful, sadistic, unsettling, intriguing.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process? It can be difficult to remember all of the content we go through in a single rehearsal, but it’s a very welcomed challenge. Devising theatre is not easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding processes for an actor. To truly create your own track and show with a group of other professionals; absolute bliss. Plus it’s really scary, dark stuff that makes it all the more interesting to dive into.

Siri Hafso Siri Hafso

What attracted you to the show? The creative team, the fact that it hasn’t been done in this area before, and the abstract story.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? Abstract, physical, heart-wrenching, dark, fun.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process? It’s pushing the limits and taking me out of my comfort zone, which is exciting and challenging. I am learning a lot and doing things I’ve never done or seen before on stage.

Adrian AlitaAdrian Alita

What attracted you to the show? Rob Lutfy. I love the way he works.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? I understand the adjectives previously used to describe the show, but I believe this production offers a new narrative and context for the horror. One might even see redemption and closure for the show’s main characters.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process?  This is the kind of opportunity actors fear and relish simultaneously! It’s a chance to collaboratively create theatre. A high risk, high reward situation.

Danielle AireyDanielle Airey

What attracted you to the show? I have never worked for Cygnet before, but always heard amazing things about it. I am fairly new to the musical theatre scene and have only done classical shows. This is the first time doing a show so far outside my comfort zone, and I can already tell how much I have learned and gained from doing it. It is an amazing opportunity to push our boundaries and be transported to a new world.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? Artistic, passionate, creepy, distorted, other worldly.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process? The most challenging aspect has been breaking my natural habits as a technical dancer to become the creature or character appropriate for the show. It has been about taking what is so ingrained in my body and manipulating it to something new, creative, and distorted. The creative process has been incredibly unique because we are creating something new and organic. From day one, Rob created a comfortable environment that made us feel safe to explore and play. This has been the most collaborative show I have ever done. It is our show, not just a show.

Isaac KalimoIsaac Kalimo

What attracted you to the show? I love all things horror/creature related and out of the norm.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? Creative, out of the norm, reality meets nightmares, and the “What if all the things your parents tried to scare you with really did happen?!” It’s a one of a kind masterpiece of how children who misbehave get punished. It brings you back to those myths you’d believe as a child.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process? Being part of the ensemble cast means I’ll be playing different characters, which, I love. But sometimes changes can occur in a flash, and I have to snap out of one character into the next in a matter of seconds.

Kevane La'Marr ColemanKevane La’Marr Coleman

What attracted you to the show? I was most attracted to the music, dark, and bizarre story. It also appealed to me because the script is so short, that I was intrigued as to how the cast along with the director and the production team were going to turn this into a full-fledged musical.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? Intriguing, bizarre, demonic, volatile, strange, scary, shocking, cruel, dark, grotesque, macabre, genius, fun, amusing.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process? The most challenging, yet exciting part about working on this production is the idea that the script is simply a road map for the show and that we are having to build a show from the ground up. I am not sure that I was initially prepared for the dark places that this show would take me, but by having the ability go to those dark places and transform, those are the times where I am able to find the humor in the show because the show is so extreme. I think that this show would push any performer out of their comfort zone because it is forcing each of us to step out of what we know as traditional theatre. It is hard to know in a show like this what is going to be too much, but we work together really well collectively, as an ensemble to ensure that we are telling the story the way that each of us wants to.

Mariel ShawMariel Shaw

What attracted you to the show? Working with director Rob Lutfy.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? Your wildest nightmares made reality.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the creative process? The most exciting thing is the collaborative, improvisational creative process. Rob excels at hiring exceptional people both cast and production team and then giving them the freedom to create. Through it all, Rob is always there to lend his expert opinion and guide the ship with his vision.

Michael Mizerany Michael Mizerany

What attracted you to the show? The subversive nature of the text and songs but also working with Rob Lutfy again.

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Working with a such wonderful creative team is the most exciting part.

Shirley PiersonShirley Pierson

What attracted you to the show? As a visual artist, designing Cygnet’s production of Shockheaded Peter is a quintessential project because seldom does the costume design play such a defining role for the entire production. Yes, costume always supports the individual character and production, however for me, since Shockheaded Peter is actually a picture book come to life, the picture becomes the focus and the words, or text, play the supporting role. You may be able to establish fear and influence the behavior of someone with words, but visually showing reasons for fearing is clearly more powerful.

It’s been described as vile, despicable, horrific, and absolute bliss. What words would you use to describe it? A visual thriller with a chilling aftertaste!

What do you find most challenging and exciting about working on this production? Even though the text for Shockheaded Peter is a mere 22 pages, the visual presentation requirements found within present large design challenges. The creative team has approached these challenges through the use of physical and visual theatre. There are so many images that have helped shape and frame the design language being used. Strongest influences for me have been: the picture book itself, German Expressionism, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Tim Burton, Grand Guignol, and Comedia Del Arte. Collectively, the creative team is striving to bring the audience member into that dark imagination, incite a bizarre discomfort and alarm that would manifest as nervous laughter. And when they are asked in the show, “What is under your floorboards?” hopefully an almost audible shiver will be felt throughout the theatre.

Catch Shockheaded Peter through June 18th!