Meet the Director: James Peter Sotis

Believe it or not, James asked us to use this shot. :)

Believe it or not, James asked us to use this shot! :)

Meet James, the director of Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension! James is also Vagabond’s Artistic Director and he says that his life plan is “to win the lottery (MegaMillions or Powerball) and do this full time. Because that would be great.”

If theatre is not your full-time job, what do you do on the side?
I currently work for a small startup company called Google. Favorite previous jobs include Chef, Script Reader, and working at a beach (where I love to take long walks).

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far?
My cast and my crew are a retinue of saints. They’re insanely patient, talented and driven. When they’re not making my job absurdly easy, they’re pushing my creative boundaries to places I never would have gone. Every day is awesome theatre yoga.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about this show? Why are you looking forward to making it work?
Defining the spacial/physical/etherial/sonic/visual relationships between all of the various parts of the play. At times, Supergravity can be incredibly fluid, and it’s definitely a balancing act to make sure all of the radical transitions work well and move toward the feelings we’re trying to evoke and the experience we’re trying to create. It’s been a great, invigorating challenge.

Have you ever been fascinated by a certain aspect of science?
Astronomy has always fascinated me. Staring into a clear night sky and really thinking on how each of those little points has travelled light-years to reach us, and some of those stars simply do not exist anymore. The vast distances. Space travel and time dilation and the relative experiences of the stars and planets. It’s all endless and crazy.

Also, Dinosaurs. Always dinosaurs.

What totally confuses you about physics?
How I’m able to constantly trip over absolutely nothing on a completely flat walkway. I’m sure there are undiscovered gravity wells everywhere that my feet are really, really good at finding.

If someone were to read your fortune (a la Carmen in the play), what do you think it would say?
“Hmmm… I see that you will be alive and with all of your limbs for the foreseeable future” (at least I hope that’s what it says.)

Are you listening to any music to prepare for this show? 
Yes! My two go-tos for rehearsal prep are “Steady As She Goes” by the Raconteurs and “Your Bones” by Of Monsters and Men. One brings the energy, one brings the loss; one brings the melancholy and one brings the frustration. (And they’re both awesome).

Meet the Designers: Lucas Garrity, Lighting Designer, Master Electrician

Lucas GarrityLucas Garrity, Lighting Designer and Master Electrician was one of the founders of Vagabond, years and years ago with our first show, Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara and loves Vagabond so much that he keeps coming back! Lucas enjoys the challenge of working with small theatre companies and the sense of collaboration he gets from our inspired production team.

If theatre is not your full-time job, what do you do on the side? 
As with some of the other members of Vagabond theatre is what I do on the side and supply chain management is what I do as my primary source of employment. I work for Raytheon Company in Andover Massachusetts in support of procuring material for the manufacture of defense related materials. For theatre I work with smaller theatre companies for passion and also work as a freelance theatrical electrician and lighting designer to learn more about theatrical production and as a second source of employment.

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far? 
So far working on this production I have most enjoyed the collaboration among the production team as well as the performance team. Vagabond stresses theatre through collaboration and it is a pretty typical morning when I wake up to at least one email time stamped 2am from a production member where they were stuck with inspiration and wanted to not only record that inspiration, but share it with the team. By working together we are able to create a more creative end product.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about your design for this show? Why are you looking forward to making it work?
The most challenging aspect for this show as a designer and as with many Vagabond productions is the lack of resources at our disposal. I do not say that as a negative, but rather as a challenge to be accepted and conquered. I have colleagues working in the Boston theatre scene that let obstacles prevent them from finding creative solutions, but through dedication and determination I have been able to create some of my best work and will do no less for Supergravity.

What totally confuses you about physics?
A lot confuses me about physics! If I had to choose one thing that my mind has a particularly hard time wrapping itself around would be flight. I understand the mechanics of flight and that air has a density that when manipulated by the wing of a plane that density creates flight, but it still just doesn’t make sense that a 300+ ton airplane could defy the laws of gravity. I have enjoyed many a summer day at Revere beach watching the plans slowly descend into Logan and flight just continues to amaze me.

Meet the Cast: Kevin Paquette

Kevin Paquette as TomMeet Kevin Pacquet, who plays Tom in Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension! Tom is a theoretical physicist and a sort of narrator in the show who spends his time obsessing over the secrets of the universe. He ponders things such as parallel universes and time travel. Science is basically his spirituality, and he uses his work to get around his grief, anger, and sadness, rather than just confront them head on. It doesn’t always work in the way he hopes, and when that happens, it only makes everything worse.

If theatre is not your full-time job, what do you do on the side?
I am a server at Zuma Tex-Mex in Fanueil Hall; Home of the $4.00 margarita. It is really really exciting… I wish there was more to it than that, but there isn’t really.

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far?
I am enjoying every part of the process so far, and I think that is because of the people who are involved in it. Everyone really wants to be there and is enjoying themselves, and they are all in it for the right reasons which is to put on a good show. There aren’t any huge egos going around and everyone remembers to have fun. For as serious as this show gets, there isn’t a rehearsal that goes by without laughter. I love going to rehearsal. It’s where I want to be most of the time.

What is your favorite thing about your character?
I love how passionate he is about his work. I think it is the part of him that I connect to the most. The way he feels about the universe, and time and space. Such is the way I am about acting and theatre. He is obsessed with it and consumed by it, which is unhealthy at times, but it brings him peace and it helps him better understand himself and the world around him, which is something I completely understand. It is a part of him. He doesn’t know how not to do it.

Have you ever been fascinated by a certain aspect of science?
Just like Tom, I love the idea of Time Travel. It is probably because of the sort of movies and television I watch, such as Doctor Who. I was also a big fan of history in High School, and I would love to be able to Vacation in the past. Check out Ancient Rome or go figure out this Shakespearian authorship question once and for all. I don’t think I would want to go to my future though, that could get really scary.

What’s the weirdest way you’ve ever entered a building?
I pretty much only enter buildings in practical ways. Though there have been times where I have had to break into my own house via the window because I had lost my key. The weirdest way I would want to enter a building is to just crash through a big glass window and make a big scene, but say nothing and continue to my business.

Are you listening to any music to prepare for this show?
I listen to a lot of music in general and I tend to make playlists for when I am reading a script. Currently my playlist is a lot of instrumental post rock and very ambient music. A lot of “Sigur Ros”, “This Will Destroy You”, and “Broken Social Scene”. It is very relaxing and is a type of music that allows me to read and think. I also think that some of it works very well the sci-fi/ethereal feel of the show.

Do you have any special relationships with geographic locations (good or bad) like the characters in the play have or had with the cabin?
When I was in high school, my friends and I started going to a park near the fens called, “Mother’s Rest”. If we didn’t want to be in school, we would just leave and go there. Hang out, swing, get into all different types of debauchery. We still go there when everyone is in town. It is just so full of love and great memories. I don’t have a single bad recollection of that place and it is very special to me. More so now then when we were in high school because we don’t all see each other as often, but when we go there, it’s as if nothing has changed. I love it.

Meet the Crew: Sam Sewell, Sound Designer

s_sewall-210Meet Sam Sewell, Sound Designer for Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension! Sam drives a pedicab around Boston, but says that her dream job would be wandering storyteller (if those existed) and that theatre is the next best thing!

If theatre is not your full-time job, what do you do on the side?
I ride a gigantic tricycle around Boston that carry tourists mostly to Fenway Park.

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far?
Hanging out with the Vagabond Crew and chances to discuss the play in-depth.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about your design for this show? Why are you looking forward to making it work?
Getting the right feel to accurately represent where we are in the play. The lighting and sound transitions have to convey whole changes in time and reality and have to be seamless in order for this play to work. Lucas [Supergravity Lighting Designer] and I have our work cut out for us. I’m looking forward to making it work because we can create something awesome if we pull it off.

What totally confuses you about physics?
The complexity of the formulas and the whole other language you have to learn in order to work in the field.

Are you listening to any music to prepare for this show?
Always

Meet the Cast: Alyssa Purnhagen

Alyssa Purnhagen as LeslieMeet Alyssa Purnhagen, who plays Leslie in Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension. Her character is a novelist with a feisty attitude. She is tired, drinking and smoking too much to cope with a secret she’s held in for a year.

If you weren’t in theatre, what would be your dream job?
Working in the theatre full time would be my dream job. But, if that wasn’t an option, I would like to own a restaurant. I love good food and good beer. It’s something that everyone can relate to and enjoy together.

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far?
The people. From staff to my fellow cast mates. Everyone is very talented and full of energy. It’s a comfortable, fun place to be.

What is your favorite thing about your character?
Leslie isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. Also not afraid to swear up a storm. LOVE her potty mouth.

Have you ever been fascinated by a certain aspect of science?
The fact that our universe is still expanding fascinates and terrifies me. Carmen’s line “…The swami said, ‘I’ve looked at the stars, and God is breathing out. … Come back to me when you find that God is breathing in.'” SCARY.

Meet the Crew: Josh Friedensohn, Technical Director, Scenic Designer

Josh HeadshotMeet Josh Friedensohn, VTG’s Technical Director and Scenic Designer for Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension! Josh will soon be leaving Boston to study Technical Direction and Production at California Institute of the Arts. His ultimate goal? Working on a Star Wars movie!

If theatre is not your full-time job, what do you do on the side?
Up until a few weeks ago, I worked at Electric Boat in New London, CT designing submarines for the US Navy. You know, “on the side.” If I told you any more, I’d have to kill you.

What has been your favorite thing about working on the play so far?
I’m really enthralled by the script and how many layers really exist in this play. It’s been a lot of fun discussing them with James and fellow crew members to see what elements of the show we want to bring to life technically, and how we’re going to accomplish them. As usual, this Vagabond show is chock full of technical and artistic challenges, and it’s always enjoyable to mesh those two sides.

What do you think is the most challenging thing about your design for this show? Why are you looking forward to making it work?
SPACE. No, not the final frontier. The scenes in this show vary from a real physical cabin to ethereal space to specific memories from the characters’ lives. It’s been challenging to decide how to use the space available to us at the Factory Theatre to give life to these scenes, and also to differentiate them from each other. Based on the conversations and designs we have going, and how the actors will interact with the space, we’re going to use these distinctions to our advantage. We’ll be orienting the seating and staging in a way that’s not common to the Factory, so that opens up a slew of new options that will surely add to the complexity of the play.

Have you ever been fascinated by a certain aspect of science?
Have I ever! Gosh, where to begin? I think the most fascinating thing to me has always been the mind-body problem. It’s somewhat of a philosophical issue, but basically it states that the brain exists as cells, synapses, electrical impulses. So when you say “I moved my arm,” you’re really talking about the electrical firings that went off in your brain to cause you to move your arm. But many people have a problem believing that all their thoughts and actions are just governed by these scientific reactions and differentiate between “I moved my arm” and “My arm moved.” Is there such a thing as consciousness that exists outside the physical manifestation of your brain? Science would say no, but believers in “free will” might argue differently.

If someone were to read your fortune (a la Carmen in the play), what do you think it would say?
“Some men dream of the fortune. Others dream of the cookie.”

Meet the Cast: Devon Scalisi

Devon Scalisi as DanDevon Scalisi plays Dan in Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension, the quick tempered, guilt-ridden alpha male. Devon says that if Carmen (Rachel Katherine Alexander’s character) were to read his fortune, she would probably tell him that he’ll create more ideas and commentaries in my mind than I’m ever going to put action to. And that within this process-based struggle of creation, he’s going to share a love with those closest to him in the most altruistic manner that he possibly can. He thinks she would also probably tell him that he’s sure to accidentally piss off a lot of people along the way, which he blames with a smile on his Irish genes.

What is your favorite thing about your character?
I appreciate Dan’s want to understand ‘the truth.’ Although his motivations for wanting to uncover ‘the truth’ of the terrible events that he and his friends experienced are questionable, the righteousness of his goals come with a conviction that I believe many people rarely experience.

What totally confuses you about physics?
I really enjoy aspects of conceptual physics, big picture reports and conversation. Or even more grandiose ideas like the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. But what confuses me about physics? Everything. If Commander Data can’t explain it to me, then save your breath.

What’s the weirdest way you’ve ever entered a building?
Oh, gosh. Well, I was a little bit of a hellraiser when I younger; bored suburban kids looking for an outlet get into all kinds of trouble. There was the time when I broke into a GE Power Plant when I was fourteen or so by crawling through an air duct. Or the time when I broke into my middle school by climbing through a rooftop sun window. Or the time I scaled a three-story building to climb through a window of a locked apartment. Clearly, I would never do anything like that now, for more reasons than just legality; I’m conscious about walking down steps too quickly now. File this transition under: “Things That Change When You’re No Longer a Kid.”

Are you listening to any music to prepare for this show?
Always. I’m not as into the contemporary music scene these days, but some old stand-byes that are ‘Supergravity’/character-specific: The Pixies “Where is my Mind”, Elliot Smith “Needle in the Hay”, The Methadones “ILL at Ease”, Nirvana “Territorial Pissings”, Modest Mouse “March Into the Sea”, Radiohead “A Wolf at the Door” Green Day “Desensitized,” and Tom Petty “Don’t Fade on Me.”