Articles about Philip Cuomo


November 2 – November 8, 2015

Our acclaimed production of The Realistic Joneses continues this week! But only two weekends remain to join the fun!

Eno’s lively writing and characters beg for a second viewing… This is a great play performed by four superb actors. I urge you to see it.Edge Media Network

We also have a Members only event this week! A clown performance from our class of Mentees – the result of a weekend intensive led by Company Member Philip Cuomo. The Mentees will be led through three three-hour workshops, discovering and exploring and crafting a clown world. Their work will include the creation of short scenarios in which they apply form and technique to create content. The weekend will be influenced by everyone from Rudolph Laban and Jacques Lecoq to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Bugs Bunny.

It will be reckless, colorful and wild – and available only to our Members. Can’t stand to miss out on the fun? Become a Member now and join the ranks for less than $30 a month!


Or, A Little Valentine to Love in the Theatre

Our next production is Or, by the extraordinary, contemporary American playwright Liz Duffy Adams. We have long been a fan of Adams’s work and are thrilled to be sharing it with you! Or, premiered in 2009 at the Women’s Project Theater in New York.

Set over the course of a single evening, Aphra Behn – poet, actress, spy, and one of the first professional female playwrights of the Restoration – has the opportunity to land her first commission for a professional company if she can deliver her play by dawn. Complicating this task are an array of lovers and rivals, from a rogue-spy to a blossoming ingénue to the king himself, vying for her time and affection. With echoes of Restoration comedy, quick-change farce, a dash or two of Tom Stoppard, and the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, Or, is a little valentine to love in the theatre.

Our production is being helmed by director Philip Cuomo with Maureen Porter playing the poet/actress/spy/playwright Aphra Behn. It also stars Damon Kupper and Amy Newman playing six roles between them! Cuomo, Porter, and Kupper are long-time Third Rail Company Members and Newman has been a favorite on our stage in Noises OffMiddletown, and her Drammy-winning performance in Gidion’s Knot.

Our design team includes Company Member Kristeen Willis Crosser (Set), Company Member Mark Valadez (Sound), Company Member Drew Dannhorn (Props), Jessica Bobillot (Costumes), and Owen Walz (Lighting). It is a brilliant team creating a world straddling the 1660’s and the 1960’s. It is going to be a treat to see how they transform the space at Imago!

“[Adam’s] language has a natural period flavor and a formidable wit; her characters possess the spark of fully animated spirits; and she weaves into her story both biographical detail and cultural context with grace. More remarkably, the play succeeds on its own terms as a potted pastiche of Restoration comedy as well as a lively showcase for the actors.” The New York Times

September 18, 2015 – October 10, 2015
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:00pm
17 SE 8th Ave, Portland, OR 97214

Tickets are available now! (Though, you can attend the show as much as you like by becoming a Member!)


Or, First Read

Scott Yarbrough

A great group of Third Rail Members joined the cast, designers, and production team at the first-read for Or, on Monday night. Historically, our first-reads have only been open to Third Rail Core Company and members of the board, but with our new Membership model, we’re cultivating a deeper relationship with our patrons by including Members in the process of page-to-stage… and we’re so frickin’ excited!

We all gathered to hear our director (Core Company Member Philip Cuomo) speak about his vision for the show, and to listen (and watch) design presentations by an impressive design team. After snacks and beers, we regrouped to hear the actors read the play, together, for the very first time.

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Or, is set in the 1660s (or is it the 1960s?), and is based on an imagined meeting between the (very real) Aphra Behn, England’s first professional playwright, the (also very real) Nell Gwyn, a famous Restoration actress, the (real) William Scot, an English spy in the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and the (yes, THE) Charles II, King of England. It’s funny, beautiful and it bends sexuality and gender and time with bawdy glee. We couldn’t be more excited to be opening our season with this show.

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Want a run-down of the team? Check out our post on the cast and creative team. Would you like to attend one of our production’s first-reads? We would love for you to join us! Read this to learn more about becoming a Member of Third Rail.

Brian Myers

Or, Cast and Creative Team

So, you’re excited about our fall production of Or, by Liz Duffy Adams. But, we hear you ask, who will be acting in the show? And who – who?!? – will complete our creative team? Well…why didn’t you say so?

Playing Aphra Behn, the poet, actress, spy, and one of the first professional female playwrights of the Restoration will be Maureen Porter! This past year alone, Maureen graced our stages in Static and Middletown. Complicating Aphra’s (Maureen’s) night will be an array of lovers and rivals vying for her time and affections including Nell, a blossoming ingénue, and King Charles himself. Nell will be played by Amy Newman! Amy is a resident artist at Artists Repertory Theatre and has previously joined Third Rail for Middletown, Noises Off, and her Drammy award-winning performance in Gidion’s Knot. The king himself will be Third Rail company member Damon Kupper! Damon was most recently on stage with us in The Night Alive (Drammy nomination for Best Actor) and Middletown.

Or, has an exceptional design team, as well. Our Set Designer and Production Manager is the extraordinary Kristeen Willis Crosser – company member, multiple Drammy award winner, and recent birthday celebrator! Costume Design is by Jessica Bobillot, who has done wonderful work all over town, including Profile, Artists Rep, Shaking the Tree,and Portland Actors Conservatory (where she is a Resident Designer). Our Lighting Designer is Owen Walz, a multi-talented artist who works not only in lighting, but scenic design, web design, graphics, illustrations, and more; and Sound Design is by our very own sound guru Mark Valadez, who was heard this past season as the designer for The Mystery of Irma Vep and Belleville.

And finally, this whole team will be led into glorious battle by director Philip Cuomo! For years, Philip has been an invaluable Third Rail company member as actor, administrator and director. Last season, he helmed The Mystery of Irma Vep and Belleville and next spring he will be directing The New Electric Ballroom. Philip will be aided by Assistant Directors Brian Guerrero and company member Karen Trumbo!

We can’t wait to see what this incredible team creates!


The Relevance of Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep

by Philip Cuomo

What is the value of understanding the context within which a play was written or conceived?

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful written by Charles Ludlam in 1984 is a creation of its time and place. The beauty of the ridiculous action is that it withstands the test of time for both its entertainment value and its relevancy.

“Irma Vep, relevant?” you ask. “Well, yes,” I say. “A social comment” in the ridiculous and melodramatic action celebrated for years for making people laugh. Understanding New York City and the audience of Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatre Company makes the comments and relevance clearer.

When I began this project I assumed camp, cross-dressing, and the trappings of the Ridiculous Theatre Company were one place in which Ludlam and his life partner, Everett Quinton, could freely be themselves. It is a tenant of camp and drag that one is given the opportunity to be more of one’s self away from the roles forced on people by social norms and mores. It is my experience that the ferocious energy necessary to sustain the style of any play leaves the participant raw and exposed. Camp requires heightened energy and extreme commitment. I naively thought Ludlam simply found a world in which he could be himself.

The truth is that in the 1970s when the Ridiculous Theatre Company was making a name for itself, it was illegal to cross-dress in public. Ellen Stewart, who ran La Mamma and championed Ludlam’s company, would stand on the sidewalk of East Fourth Street during productions to keep an eye out for the police. And so just the creation of the play itself was a subversive act and hence a social comment.

Ludlam wrote, “Take things very seriously, especially focusing on those things held in low esteem by society and revealing them, giving them new meaning, new worth, by changing their context.”

With Irma Vep he gives new meaning to the performance style of camp. He also does this for the literary form the Penny Dreadful, which was a 19th-century serial similar to the work that Charles Dickens was doing. A Dickens serial would cost a shilling, but a Penny Dreadful would cost simply a penny. The market for such works was working-class adolescent boys; a group who had very little money but enough to pay for some type of entertainment. Hence the Penny Dreadfuls were stories about vampires, werewolves, mummies, and rich and exotic places—entertainments held in low esteem by society and high culture.

By the time Luldlam wrote The Mystery of Irma Vep in 1984 the AIDS Epidemic had hit in full force. There existed in the gay community an unknown horror that was sucking the life out of its community members. People were dying gothic and horrific deaths. Ludlam chose a particular style (the Penny Dreadful that was held in low-esteem) in order to tell a story about unexplainable, sudden, and horrific deaths. And within this structure, he explored death and fear and hope and companionship and love—and he gave the form new meaning and relevance.

BY 1984, Ludlam had been working in his unique and entertaining style for years, cultivating an audience and delivering entertainment that was driven by his personal life. The Mystery of Irma Vep was written for him and his life partner Quinton to perform. Their intimate relationship in the face of the AIDS epidemic (where so many people lost friends, family, and loved ones) is one layer in the fantastic quick-changes of characters that makes up the story.

The sad truth is that Charles died in 1989 from complications related to AIDS. Decades before he and the love of his life, Everett, could be married and face the future and the unknown together in a public embrace. Today that basic human right is now given to many people and the fears and frightening moments that life may reveal are now shared intimately and openly regardless of sexual orientation.


Understanding the Mystery of Irma Vep

by Director Philip Cuomo

Third Rail Core Company member Philip Cuomo gives us some insights into directing the very funny and challenging The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlam. Be sure to bring the whole family to this hilarious, quick-change romp of a play, December 5, 2014 – January 10, 2015. 

Welcome to The Mystery of Irma Vep.  Playwright Charles Ludlam refers to his play as a Penny Dreadful, which (according to our crack dramaturgical team) is a 19th-century British publication that featured lurid serial stories, each part costing a penny—as opposed to Dickens’ work that cost a shilling. Charles (I feel like he wouldn’t mind me calling him by his first name) used a vast array of elements that would attract readers of Popular (with a capitol P) culture in the 19th century: monsters, mummies, vampires, werewolves, etc.  The play embraces the romantic, the gothic, the melodramatic and, most fully, the ridiculous. In fact, Charles named the theatre company that he founded and ran for 20 years The Ridiculous Theatre Company.  (For more insight into Charles and his company, check out the article on the next page.)

In Irma Vep, Charles writes one opulent detail on top of another all in service of celebrating the form of the Penny Dreadful; all to delight and entertain today’s audience.  His advice on how to do this?  “Take things very seriously, especially focusing on those things held in low esteem by society and revealing them, giving them new meaning, new worth…”

Wonderful!  To be given permission to take monsters, mummies, werewolves, and vampires so seriously and to revel in their magic. To work on moments requiring outlandish commitment, revealing how dangerous, scary, and dramatic living and loving truly are, and how we must pursue our need for love and so live boldly and shamelessly.  Amazing!

Producing Irma Vep is a magnificent opportunity for Third Rail to ply our craft to the fullest, to embrace high-wire derring-do, and stretch our imaginations in order to create Charles’ amazing, ridiculous world.  No matter how serious or ridiculous, Charles has written a sensational entertainment that we have the pleasure to share with you, sharing the same space and breathing the same air so that together we can manifest wonder and mystery. What a gift.