****UPDATE 5/16/19: Our initial goal of $600 was hit in five donations and within 24 hours of the GoFundMe becoming known! Anything over $600 will now compensate the artists for the nearly seven weeks they'll devote to making this experience a reality. Not to mention their incomparable talents. Thank YOU for your generous, kind support. It is not taken for granted.****
Thanks for stopping by and for considering a donation to help make Uncle Toots' Pasta Dish happen at BorderLight International Theatre & Fringe Festival in Cleveland this July! I'm Ray Caspio, Uncle Toots' creator and manager, and I'm happy to share what our project is with you! (Rewards for your gift are at the bottom!)
WHAT'S IT ABOUT ?
Uncle Toots wants one last pasta dinner in the home he’s about to lose, but more than sauce is stirred up and served when his family and longtime hospice nurse ambush him about a 60 year relationship he packed away. With you, Toots’ wide-eyed sister, Aunt Barb, World War II veteran, Rocky, and Nurse Nancy at the dining room table, a tale of lost love awakens this contentious family to realities they’ve never faced before. Uncle Toots’ Pasta Dish is an improvised performance installation you help bring to life even if you decide to just shut up and eat!
WHAT IS ITS HISTORY?
In February 2017, I self-produced a performance installation with funds from my Creative Workforce Fellowship called Sunday Dinner with Toots, which has evolved into Uncle Toots’ Pasta Dish. The audience — our dinner guests — have complete agency in this immersive experience and participate to their level of comfort as they sit around Toots’ dining room table with Toots, his millenial longtime hospice nurse, Nancy, his "friend," World War II veteran, Rocky, and his wide-eyed sister, Aunt Barb. Our guests help shape the events of the evening based on their actions and responses to the performers. Over homemade pasta, we learn of the choices Toots and family have made that brought them all to the hilariously miserable situations they find themselves in: alcoholism; cancer; love lost, found, and lost again; aging in America; the American health care system; immigration; marriage equality — we tackle it all with hilarity and heartfelt sincerity.
The dinner guests become our co-creators. Their ‘rules’ are simple and weaved into the dining experience. We create an adventurous familial atmosphere that replicates the Sunday pasta dinners I experienced at my Italian grandparents’ house growing up.
In fact, much of the material was inspired by interviews I did with my grandma before she passed away from breast cancer in 2011 in which she told me about her life and our family lore. I also interviewed her lifelong friends to learn about who she was as a young girl and a woman, not just as my grandmother. This piece is in many ways a love a letter to her and to all the people we've lost.
WHO IS UNCLE TOOTS?
“The aged and bigoted Uncle Toots...is a flat-out hoot."
-Christine Howey, Cleveland Scene Magazine
Uncle Toots is a queer Archie Bunker crossed with Vicki Lawrence’s “Mama” mixing the charm of Carol Burnett with the grotesqueness of Barry Humphries’ satirical monsters. Toots emerged from the ether in 2011. Since then, he’s appeared in over 40 YouTube videos, Theater Ninjas’ production of TingleTangle, live sketches, performance installations, and he co-hosts, with Ray Caspio, the comedy and storytelling podcast, Who•Ray. His world encompasses “the good parts” of working class Parma, Ohio: about a mile and a half radius from his home. Toots shows that we are all humans making our way across this planet the best we presently know how, and that there is a way to challenge each other’s perceptions with honesty, heart, and humor. He helps articulate an understanding of the roots of bigotry, hate, and ignorance by reveling in all of it. He is for taking away the rights of others until it affects him. He is for anti-LGBTQ policies until he is “tricked” into marrying another man. He is against Obamacare while taking advantage of its benefits. He is against abortion until the religious niece he hates gets pregnant. He is against Trump’s Wall until his Brazilian brother-in-law leaves Dorito crumbs on the couch. Toots’ heart is big and he plays like a child, but his little world is crumbling around him, so he redirects his unfelt fear into anger against “the other.”
HOW DOES YOUR SUPPORT HELP?
Your support will allow us to:
•Purchase the supplies needed to make the pasta meals happen
•Purchase additional used kitchen/dining room chairs
•Purchase props, set, and additional lights
•Purchase promotional postcards
•Rent a U-Haul to move the installation's furniture from our rehearsal space to the performance space
•Offer modest compensation to all the artists involved in making Uncle Toots' Pasta Dish happen
WHO'S ON THE ARTISTIC TEAM?
created & written by Ray Caspio with Ryan Lucas, Cassie Neumann Lucas, Kevenn T. Smith & Lauren B. Smith
creator-performers Ray Caspio, Ryan Lucas, Cassie Neumann Lucas & Lauren B. Smith
clothing consultant Kevenn T. Smith
homemade sauce prepared by Marilu Mercadante
HOW HAVE AUDIENCES RESPONDED?
“Had a fantastic time...a show unlike any other. If you have never seen Ray [Caspio] act, you haven’t really seen the best of Cleveland theatre.” - Nick E.
“Great fun...Touching, funny, cruel...Marvelous.” - Robert H.
“I wanted to let you know how much fun I had during that lovely, eccentric dinner with Toots...Such joy and frankness, and sometimes absurdity, but always truth." - Lauren F.
“I fell in love...cast, setting, costumes, material — all of it working together to serve up a really memorable evening. Lauren [B. Smith] has never been more lovable.” - Anne M.
“Thank you for one of the nicest evenings that I’ve had in a very long time.” - Alice R.
REWARDS (those requiring mailing will be mailed after July 27th)
Your name will be listed with gratitude on Uncle Toots' Pasta Dish's page on Ray Caspio's site.
An Uncle Toots' Pasta Dish postcard signed by the cast.
A personalized autographed 8"x10" of Toots, plus the $25 reward.
A personalized 'thank you' video from Toots and family e-mailed to you and posted on social media, plus the $25 and $50 rewards.
Uncle Toots will come to your house and make a pasta meal on an agreed upon date between August and October. (Cleveland-area residents only. Please inquire about your location prior to donating.) Plus the $25, $50, and $100 rewards.