Domo? Domo: Robot Cabaret uploads to Milwaukee
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Mid-February is the most brutal time of year in Milwaukee. The weather is either cold enough to retroactively give you frostbite last August, or warm enough to guarantee diving face-first into a grey, slushy snow pile while walking down the street. The sports doldrums are in full effect, and Hollywood dumps its garbage in anticipation of marketable hits like The Hangover Part III. Happily, local theater group The Quasimondo is offering a unique way to fend off the darkness with Robot Cabaret, running from February 14 to March 2 at The Fortress (101 E. Pleasant St.). The A.V. Club interfaced with director Brian Rott, and translated his answers for the hyoo-mans.
The A.V. Club: What is Robot Cabaret? Is it actors? Robots? Both?
Brian Rott: Robot Cabaret is a completely original theatrical piece devised and written by the acting ensemble. We began rehearsal discussing themes surrounding robots, artificial intelligence, and the future of technology. We gave ourselves only one premise: The story would focus on a troupe of machines putting on a cabaret for the entertainment of human beings. Through discussion, research, and improvisation, characters and scenes emerged. Next, Micheal Guthrie [assistant director], Jessi Miller [associate director of Quasimondo], and myself connected these scenes into a loose narrative. The show follows the traditional cabaret structure with a variety of acts. It features singing, dancing, music, movement, comedy, circus, puppetry, etc. Our Robot Cabaret is set in the near-distant future where man and machines are at odds and segregated, but the cabaret itself is a safe house from the robot majority. Here, humans and robots can freely mingle.
AVC: Whom did you line up to perform the show?
BR: The Quasimondo is an ensemble theater, and we’ve built this show from the ground up as an ensemble. Michael Guthrie plays the Master of Ceremonies. He co-founded The M.U.T.E.S. and brought knowledge of comedy and improvisation to the production. Andrew Parchman, local actor/artist/teacher, created the poster art for Robot Cabaret, built robot costumes, performs a robot rap, and plays The Detective. Michael Weiss, our previous makeup designer for Nutcracker Vs. Mouse King, mixes live music on turntables as the onstage DJ and plays one-half of an evil robot duo [the other half is played by Ben Yela]. In addition to acting, Michael designed the robot makeup, and has built a nine-foot robot suit. Jessi Miller choreographed a hula-hoop routine and adagio duet.
Also, Matt Martell composed much of the musical score, played by our in-house robot band, The Antiques. The band includes Sarah Ann Melstrom who also plays a mad scientist, and Jenni Reinke who plays her robot apprentice. Both performers have been core members of our ensemble throughout our inaugural season.
AVC: What was the inspiration behind doing a cabaret about robots?
BR: This is the fourth show of our first season here in Milwaukee. We began with a written play, The Seagull 3D by Anton Chekhov, then created original adaptations from source material for Halloween Tree and Nutcracker Vs. Mouse King. With Robot Cabaret, an idea I’d been kicking around for a while, I wanted to change the process. I presented simple themes instead of a particular text to the ensemble to create with. This is an entertaining and provocative performance that exemplifies our company’s commitment to ensemble-driven creation of new work.