As the Artistic Director of the Flying Carpet Theatre Company, I am often asked at the close of our one-of-a-kind shows “how did you DO that?” While some wizards might urge you to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” I’d like to give you a glimpse of the magic behind the Flying Carpet Theatre Company. So for this inaugural Flying Carpet newsletter, we’ll let the genie out of the bottle and explore our unique approach to choosing material and what defines the Flying Carpet experience.
In the theatre, there is often a clear distinction between a play, designed mainly for intellectual edification, and a variety or vaudeville show, which is created mainly for entertainment. Both are performed in a theater, but the emotional experience of a production of Death of a Salesman, for example, would be very different from performances by some of my heroes—Bill Irwin’s hilarious clown act, the fabulous tap dancing of Savion Glover, and Ricky Jay’s mind boggling sleight of hand.
Flying Carpet’s mission has been to blur these two categories of theatrical experience. We want to combine the narrative sweep of an emotionally gripping play with the good ole’ fashioned “gee whiz” of vaudeville entertainments often associated with a bygone era. We want you to feel as though Tennessee Williams and Ed Sullivan mated artistically and gave birth to a Flying Carpet show!
For this blend to feel organic, we often tell stories about entertainers. With stage illusions and Peking Opera style movement, we explored the life and mysterious death of Chung Ling Soo, a real-life magician who masqueraded onstage and off as a Chinese man. We also told a story of the impact of the influenza epidemic on 1918 on a small town in 1918 which was forced to decide whether to ban a traveling Medicine Show led by a charismatic snake oil salesman. This unfolding drama was performed with snippets from a historically accurate and highly entertaining Medicine Show, complete with tap dancing.
The shows we currently have in development are all based on different forms of popular entertainment. Each one, however, is made of that unique, creative Flying Carpet blend of imagination, mystery, and emotional connection:
• A revival-tent church service will be the structure to present a musical about a real-life televangelist.
• The life story of author Philip K. Dick will serve as inspiration to a stage play that incorporates sci-fi movie conventions.
• We will explore the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of the modern hospital using the quick-costume-change conventions of a Charles Ludlam farce or, more recently, Greater Tuna.
So, as you can see, we’re quite busy with a full slate of ideas. In my next letter, I’ll explain how a Flying Carpet production goes from “idea” to ready-for-the-stage. And if we meet at the next FCT show, please ask me how we did it…I’d love to tell you!
Thanks so much and I’ll see you at the theatre!