5 Questions with Alex Knox, our Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine

5 Questions with Alex Knox, our Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine

This week, we sit down with Alex Knox, who plays Charles Babbage in our production of Ada and the Engine, now extended through April 7th at studio/stage!

Tell us a little about yourself and theatre/film/TV background. Where have we seen you before?

Alex Knox, playing Charles Babbage in <i>Ada and the Engine</i>, now extended through April 7th!

Alex Knox, playing Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine, now extended through April 7th!

I was on stage most recently as Young Ebenezer in A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory South Coast Repertoryin Orange County. The production has been running for 39 seasons and I’ve been involved in the last five (and also one other time, in 1995, when I played Peter Cratchit as a kid!). I performed my solo show No Static At All at the Hollywood Fringe in 2013. You can also hear me narrating audiobooks on Audible.com.

Check out some of Alex’s audiobooks!

Tell us a bit about your character. What have you learned about them in this process? What’s most fascinating about their personalities? What makes them tick?

Charles Babbage is fascinating! He was brilliant and famous in his time, and yet he struggled to finish many of his greatest inventions (such as the Analytical Engine). I’ve been interested in what caused that – was it fear of seeing how his creations would fare once they were actually put to use? Or was he simply too ahead of his time? I also love the letters he exchanged with Ada Lovelace. You can really see how much he cares about her in the way he writes.

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in <i>Ada and the Engine</i> by Lauren Gunderson

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson. Photo by Matt Kamimura.

Talk a bit about your favorite parts of the process, both in terms of your character work and the production in general. Give us a sneak peek behind the scenes.

I adore working with this team. Heidi Powers creates a rehearsal room that is playful and encourages us to take risks. It’s the best kind of environment for making art! The cast is amazing, and it’s especially fun to work with Jessie Sherman who’s a dear friend from my college theater program (UC Santa Barbara).

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in <i>Ada and the Engine</i> by Lauren Gunderson. Photo by Matt Kamimura.

Jessie Sherman as Ada Lovelace and Alex Knox as Charles Babbage in Ada and the Engine by Lauren Gunderson. Photo by Matt Kamimura.

 

 

Who are some of your personal heroes and why?

Alex Knox as Lord Byron in Tennessee Williams' <i>Camino Real</i>

Alex Knox as Lord Byron in Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real

I’ve been fascinated for a while with Lord Byron. I played Byron in a production of Tennessee Williams’ <i>Camino Real</i>, and found it amazing that he became famous for his poetry. I love imagining a time when poets were famous like rock stars. Byron was the quintessential Romantic, indulging in his passions and lusts, and yet his poem “She Walks in Beauty” is about a very deep, almost reverent love for a mysterious woman he saw at a funeral. I think that poem reveals a different side of Byron. I love how that poem is so central to our play, too – to me, it sums up Babbage’s love for Ada.

 

Why is this story so important to tell? What do you most hope audiences get from this production?

Aside from being a gripping, funny, heartbreaking tale, I think our show is important because it gives the spotlight to an incredible woman, Ada Lovelace, who is finally getting her due as a visionary and pioneer in the field of computer science. She’s an inspiration to me, not only because she was a female in a field (and time) dominated by men, but because she looked at things in a unique way. She saw possibilities where other geniuses (like Babbage) couldn’t. We can all be inspired by her ability to look for ways to make the impossible possible.

Ada and the Engine must close April 7th. Get your tickets now!

Jim Martyka’s An Old Secret and Timing…All In The premiere Down Under!

Jim Martyka’s An Old Secret and Timing…All In The premiere Down Under!

TU’s Director of Publicity Jim Martyka is thrilled to have two of his original short plays making their international debut at the Short + Sweet Festival in Sydney, Australia, currently running.

In Timing…All In The, John and Paul are roommates. John is very lucky. Paul is very unlucky. As they both pursue their dreams in the City of Angels, we see their lot in life manifested in their daily interactions and learn how more often than not, luck simply comes down to timing.

In An Old Secret, three special friends try to hide from society by burying themselves deep in a forest. All is going well until a good-natured but dim country bumpkin comes to visit. Now the ladies must do what they can to protect themselves and a secret no one can know…

Jim is excited to share two scripts developed with his company to an international audience, especially as part of such a prestigious festival!

About Jim Martyka

Jim Martyka is a founding member of Theatre Unleashed and serves as the company’s Director of Publicity. He has acted in several of its productions, including The Birthday Boys, 25 Plays Per Hour, Boy Gets Girl, Sleeping Around, The Devil’s Bride, A Feast of Snacks, A Very DIE HARD Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, which he adapted for the stageJim has worked in numerous independent films, TV and national commercials. He is also the founder and executive producer of the production company Hold For Plane Pictures, which has produced 24 short films in less than four years. Jim is also an accomplished journalist, published author, book editor, consultant, playwright, musician, poet and a former Guinness World Record Holder for watching the most consecutive hours of movies without sleeping (53 and a half hours!).

About Short + Sweet

Short+Sweet is a global festival brand, presenting highly successful Theatre, Dance, Cabaret, and Song Festivals around the world. We provide audiences with exciting and contemporary works that challenge and entertain. Short+Sweet’s mission is to build theatre-going audiences around the world. Beginning as a small festival of 10 minute plays in Sydney, Australia, we have grown into a global organization. Short+Sweet has made a huge impact on the Australian theatre scene through developing new, original work with emerging artists and providing a platform for established artists to showcase their talents. Our vision is simple – a more creative world 10 minutes at a time! For more information about this year’s festival, check out their website!

5 Questions with Roger Fojas, choreographer for Ada and the Engine

5 Questions with Roger Fojas, choreographer for Ada and the Engine

This week, we sat down with Roger Fojas, choreographer for Ada and the Engine and asked him the 5 Questions! Here’s what he had to say:

*So, tell us a little about yourself. What is your artistic background?

Ringmaster Roger with Lucent Dossier

As a performer, choreographer and clown, I’m a founding member of circus troupe Lucent Dossier Experience, as well as company members with Astra Dance Theater, L’Unkles Boink, Silayan Dance Company, Sypher Arts Studio, and the Alien Fight Club. In 2005 I toured as Ringmaster Roger with the band Panic! at the Disco, and I’ve performed and choreographed in circus productions at festivals around the world (Coachella, EDC, LIB, Boom!, Symbiosis, Lollapalooza, Electric Picnic, etc.). I was Dr. Caligari in Astra Dance Theater’s production of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I’m also known for creating interactive theatrical productions (The Goblin Cabaret as part of the annual Labyrinth Masquerade, Forest Furries Show, The Yellow Suit Society, and The Curious Kukuricoos at the Electric Forest Festival).

*Who are some of your influences?

My influences in movement can vary in range of areas like the world of clowning to contemporary dance as I often enjoy movement and work that that can explore the many levels of emotion and story in the human experience. I work professionally as a clown but I don’t like the thought that I have to create big laughs in order to clown. I can make people just feel as a clown as well. I also don’t think dance has to be about who has the best extensions and turns as I’m not that kind of choreographer or dancer anyways. I tend to be more about the human experience in the art of whatever I’m discovering. And I like how it affects emotion and visual patterns for me. Here are a few that help influence me in that regard: Stefan Haves, Bill Irwin, Slavas Polunin, Sonya Tayeh, Ryan Heffington, DV8 Physical Theatre, Pina Bausch, to name a few.

*So, what is your concept for the movement in Ada and the Engine?

When collaborating with director Heidi Powers I wanted to create specifically with the concept of The Engine in mind and making that the additional texture to the play. When thinking about the various characters and the certain situations and scenes and interactions they have, I’d think about the mechanics of the individual human relationships they’d have to one another and how that might relate to the mechanics of a machine. I’d allow that to inspire any of the stylized movement and dance conceptualized within the show.

*Amazing. And what has the process been like working with the actors thus far?

This particular show has been about discovering, through workshop, the process of what it’s like to be a part of a theoretical machine. Even if we are a human element in that engine, together we can make it work. Conceptualizing how each character fits within it in order for it to work helped us workshop the movement of the actors that went into the work. In any movement and/or dance I put into the show, I decided to incorporate the concept and feel of how an Engine works (or in today’s terms, a computer). For instance, The play itself could be a conceptual engine, the theater, its monitor, the seats, its keyboard, and the actors are its internal parts. When thinking along these lines, we play with the structure and patterns in which the characters would create and then find the textures and movement that could arise from that.

*What is something you’ve learned about Ada or any of the characters during this process that you didn’t know before?

I didn’t know much about Ada Lovelace or Charles Babbage before getting involved in this production so diving into this history has been an incredible wealth of information for me from the very beginning. As for the true historical aspect of all the characters in this play, I’ve gotten to realize that the heart of the life experiences and all its varied raw sensitive triumphs and flaws, beauty and emotions can be a timeless and relatable journey in any decade anywhere in the world and history just by being human.

Get tickets for Ada and the Engine, opening March 21st!

Soda STOMPs

Soda STOMPs

This past weekend was the 25th Anniversary of STOMP at The Orpheum in New York City.  Starting on Friday March 1st alumni STOMPERS made their way back to their old stomping grounds in the East Village. Theatre Unleashed‘s very own Soda Persi was among them.

Soda began her journey with STOMP at a coffee shop in South Pasadena CA flipping through Backstage with her best friend. Her friend saw the open casting announcement and convinced Soda to go for it. She went to the open call in Burbank and stood on line for three hours with 1,100 other hopeful STOMPERS. Groups of 40 to 50 people at a time were brought into the small dance studio with only a handful making the cut. This went on all week. Soda made every call back and at the end of the week, two woman and four men were cast. Soda was on her way to NYC.

After six weeks of blistered hands and feet and a handful of bruises she was ready to perform at the Orpheum. A few months later Soda was sent out on the National Tour. This was her life from the summer of 1996 to the fall of 1998 when she decided, at five months pregnant with her first child of five, that it was time to hang up her STOMP shoes and go home.

21 years later and STOMP alumni from around the world are sent emails inviting them back to where they all started. Though she was apprehensive, as it had been over two decades since her last STOMP performance, Soda knew she had to do it.

Soda took the stage this past Sunday March 3rd for two special SOLD OUT anniversary performances featuring STOMP rockstars from the last 25 years.  Soda was humbled, honored, and over the moon to be a small part of a grand occasion!

About Soda Persi

Soda Persi in STOMP, circa 1996

Soda was born in Hollywood CA and spent most of her childhood in dance class and gymnastic competitions. At the age of 7 she had her first theatre experience when she was cast as a Faerie in the California Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. Soda was hooked! From there she was in every production in high school and college and toured with the Asian American theatre company Here’n’Now and then finally ended up being cast in STOMP at The Orpheum in NYC and the North American tour. After a couple years on the road she decided it was time to settle down and raise a family. Five kids and 20 years later Soda is back on stage and loving every moment!

About STOMP

STOMP, an off-Broadway show mixing percussion, movement and visual comedy, has been making music with everyday items for 25 years. Matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and more fill the stage with energizing beats at STOMP, the inventive and invigorating stage show that’s dance, music and theatrical performance blended together in one electrifying rhythm. STOMP has been packing in audiences at the Orpheum Theatre since 1994, and is still running strong.

For more information, check out StompOnline.com

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