Ludwig & Lohengrin at OUTstages Festival 2016. An interview with Kyall Rakoz.

Ludwig & Lohengrin at OUTstages Festival 2016. An interview with Kyall Rakoz.

Kyall Rakoz first performed Ludwig and Lohengrin at the Calgary Fringe in 2013 and has since toured the show extensively.

What sparked the creation of this show? Is this your first one person show?

Yes this is the first show I have ever written. I was inspired to write the show after taking a tour of Ludwig’s famous castle Schloss Neuschwanstein while I was travelling in Europe. Not only was I totally awed by the incredibly magical castle and it’s setting in the Bavarian mountainside; but I had an amazing tour guide that gave us so much information. He gave us background history on the train ride out from Munich and then he was whispering information in our ear the entire time we took the “official tour” – The “official tour” info was pretty dry and architectural, but our tour guide gave us so much personal history – it really made the story come alive.

I was fascinated by the story, definitely one of those truth is stranger than fiction stories. The mystery, the unknowns drew me, while so much is known about his life, very little is known about his death and demise and the opportunity to play with this was so compelling to me. I was also appalled that this incredibly complex and interesting person had been written off by history as merely being “Mad” King Ludwig. I wanted to tell his story, I wanted everyone to know about him. And beyond that, some of the struggles that he faced in his life (especially his struggle to reconcile his sexuality with his religion) is a struggle that people in my life have had to deal with. It was incredible to me to think that for all that has changed, in this way we share a connection with someone who lived one hundred and fifty years ago.

It truly felt that I had been struck by inspiration; and I’ve never had a comparable experience since. That day I knew I wanted to create a play to tell his story and I started journaling on the train ride back to Munich. I knew I wanted to do more research, to really delve into his life; but already I had really strong theatrical images in my head and a number of the elements (especially the swan, the shadow, the fairy tale elements, and in fact the ending) were already percolating in my head.

Ludwig & Lohengrin photo June 2016Photo credit: Dave Gagne

Can you comment on the design idea of using one sheet and a paper swan to create 17 characters?  In terms of esthetic.

When I go to theatre, as an audience member, what gets me really excited is what I like to call “theatrical magic”. Things that theatre can do in a way that no other medium can. In the world of Netflix I really feel that theatre has to capitalize on what it does best – and for me that is when simple things are used to great effect – the more surprising the better. Storytelling that captures my child-like wonder and really sparks my imagination. A smart design to me is a design of economy – everything part of the set, every prop should add to the story and move it forward in a meaningful way. I wouldn’t describe myself as a trained designer or director – I am an actor/creator. I knew I needed a white sheet and a frame to create a shadow fairy tale (that was essential) so then I thought, I have this, what else can I do with it? How can I continue to use it and incorporate it into the rest of the play. What ended up happening came out of play and experimentation and was something that I could never have anticipated – but I am so happy with it.

What do you hope to inspire in your audience?

For me, I have a lot of love for Ludwig. However, he can be a somewhat controversial figure; I at least hope I inspire an interest in his story. I love hearing from audience members after the show saying they are going to go home and do more research about him and his life. I also hope to ignite a spark of wonder and imagination in my audience. I think there is something so powerful about live storytelling, about oral history, and in a way Ludwig’s story is part of our collective queer past. I think there is something incredible in paying homage to those who’ve come before and in looking at the past we have a better understanding of where we are today.

Who will be interested as a potential audience member?  What would you say to entice someone to come?

I would say my show is a must for those who love anything based in history. This was my base audience at Fringe and they loved it. That said, I take a lot of liberties and have a lot of fun with it; there is definitely comedy, a few outrageous characters, and the tale is ultimately genuine and heartfelt. This may be a niche audience, but I’ll throw it out there that one of my characters is a personal homage to another idol of mine, Maggie Smith.

You debuted Ludwig and Lohengrin at the Calgary Fringe in 2013 and have toured not only on the Fringe circuit (to critical acclaim) but also to theatres as part of regular and festival seasons.  You are quoted as saying “I’ve got more of a handle on the show (now), and what it is and what I want it to be”.  Can you expand on this and explain how the show has grown and changed?

Theatre really is meant to be performed. It’s so hard to really know what a show is until it is up in front of a live audience – the more I performed it the more I found the stride of the show. I knew the details but it took repetition to find the bigger movements, the overall shape and arc and pace of the show. When Third Street Theatre programmed my show that really allowed me further develop the show. It had been a while since I had performed the show and I was able to take all that experience into a new production. I was so fortunate to work with Jonathan Brower as a dramaturg and we made some changes to the script, some minor and some major – including fusing a couple characters into one. It was so helpful to have someone offer an outside perspective on the piece as a whole, and Jonathan had travelled to a few of the Fringe festivals as my Stage Manager so he was also intimately acquainted with the show. From a performance perspective the characters have always been a part of me, they all came out from some part of me; but now, I really feel them as fully formed entities. They have become old friends.

Ludwig and Lohengrin was presented by Third Street Theatre, Calgary’s Queer Theatre Company and is also appearing at OUTstages, Intrepid Theatre’s Queer Theatre Festival.  As an artist, what differences (if any) do you notice about appearing on the Fringe as opposed to appearing in a queer-identified theatre space?  Can you speak to the importance/significance of creating these spaces (why are they necessary in your opinion?).

For me, I truly think this show is designed for most audiences so I’ve had a really warm reception everywhere. I think what I loved the most about performing at Third Street as well as at Queer Acts (a Halifax Festival) was that my show reached a different audience. Ironically, my biggest fringe audience was older arts patrons. People who when I said “My show is based on history” perked up instead of glazed over. I found I didn’t attract a very queer audience at Fringe – but Fringe is so busy and there is just so so so much happening, your audience is always an eclectic grab bag. That’s why Third Street and Queer Acts was really fun for me because not only did I get to play to some younger audiences, but I also got to share this really fascinating part of queer history with others who I hoped would be as surprised, outraged, entertained, and heartbroken as I was when I first heard it.

What’s next for Ludwig and Lohengrin?

Currently I don’t have any future plans for the show. When I first wrote Ludwig & Lohengrin, I thought I would perform it at a couple fringe festivals and that would be it. Now, after many years and over 50 performances I am so amazed at the journey it has taken me on. At this point in my life and career, I am looking ahead to the next challenge; but this show has a special place only heart. I hope I will continue to have opportunities like this festival to share Ludwig’s story with the world.

Ludwig & Lohengrin – Kyall Rakoz (Calgary)
Thursday June 23, 7pm

Friday June 24, 7pm
Intrepid Theatre Club – 1609 Blanshard
Tickets $20 through Ticket Rocket online, by phone 250 590 6291, or in person Monday-Friday 10am-5pm at #2-1609 Blanshard

“4.5 stars…a deliciously entertaining show. Wunderbar!” — Edmonton Journal

Based on historical events, the one-man show offers an enigmatic look into the world of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, renowned for his patronage of the arts – in particular the operas of Wagner – his fascination with building fantastical castles, his obsession with fairytales, his fall from power, and his mysterious death. With little more than a white sheet and a paper swan, 17 characters weigh in on the “Mad King.”

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.

Speak Your Mind