All of us at On the Square Productions
are very proud of our Education Outreach Director,
Ms. Emily Tucker!
For the past few months, Emily has been touring all around the country in a new and exciting show by the amazing John Tartaglia.
From the company website, a bit about this magical show:
A one-of-a-kind live black-light puppet show, John Tartaglia’s ImaginOcean is a magical undersea adventure for kids of all ages. Tank, Bubbles and Dorsel and three best friends who just happen to be fish, and they’re about to set out on a remarkable journey of discovery. And it all starts with a treasure map. As they swim off in search of clues, they’ll sing, they’ll dance, and they’ll make new friends, including everyone in the audience. Ultimately they discover the greatest treasure of all: friendship.
Emily and the entire ImaginOcean team will be in in Philadelphia, PA
ANNENBERG CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS in early May!
Check in with the website or call the Box Office:(215) 898-3900
Logan Tracey, OtSp’s Marketing & Social MediaCoordinator, caught up with Emily Tucker for an interview about how the tour is going and how’s it’s been!
Can you talk a bit about the show? What is it about/how was it created?
I am currently on the first national/international tour of John Tartaglia’s ImaginOcean. It is a glow-in-the-dark black light puppet musical for kids of all ages, and adults love it too. It tells the story of 3 fish on an adventure under the sea to find treasure and friendship. The show uses all black light, so it is visually stunning and something people don’t see everyday. Not to mention, the music is fantastic and has people dancing in their seats. John Tartaglia created the show, and he is also one of the producers. He is one of the most fun and talented people I’ve ever met and worked with. John, Michael Shawn Lewis (co-producer), Donna Drake (director), and Emilie Schoenfeld (company and stage manager) make up what is truly one of the most tight knit and incredible production teams I could imagine. I love my job!
What role are you playing in this?
I am one of seven puppeteers on stage, dressed completely in black from head to toe, maneuvering the puppets and performing ninja-like choreography in the dark. With backlight, the audience can’t see anything that is black, so the puppets and set are made of fluorescent materials and glow under the black light. When all goes as planned, it appears all the puppets are floating under the sea! My main character is the Baby Jellyfish, who helps the fish along on their journey. I also puppeteer a myriad of other characters and props throughout the show. It is a very fast paced and physical show, so it’s a great workout!
How did you get this magical opportunity? How did you get into puppetry? (Tell us your audition story, cause those are always the most fun!)
I’ve known about ImaginOcean since it opened its run at New World Stages a couple years ago. I have always heard great things about the production team and loved the show. So, when I heard about tour auditions, I couldn’t miss out. I’ve been fascinated by puppets and the characters that come alive through them my whole life, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago when my boyfriend Zane bought me a puppet (her name is Deb) that I really got into puppetry on my own. I’ve done shows with puppetry elements and have worked on my own material with Deb, but this is my first professional gig as a puppeteer. I couldn’t be happier with the opportunity to dive further into this craft. It’s a magical world, for sure.
The audition and callback was the best I’ve ever been through, thanks to John, Michael, Donna, Emilie, and casting director Melanie Lockyer. They created a great atmosphere to come into. For the audition, we had to prepare a song of our choice to lip sync to with our puppets. I chose Talking Heads ‘Psycho Killer.’ Yes, I know it’s a children’s show, but hey, it worked! I choreographed a dance with my puppet Deb and had fun rocking out. The callback was about 3 hours long, and I made it through the cuts to the very end! Funny enough though, I didn’t get the job right away! Regardless, I was happy I had made it as far as I did. They were offering some roles to the original cast, so I knew the competition was steep. I sent an email thanking the production team for the experience and wishing them well. Then, one week before rehearsals were to start, I got a call from producer Michael Shawn Lewis. One of the people they had cast was unable to go on the tour, and I was next on their list. I accepted joyfully, resigned from my day job and joined the cast at their first rehearsal. Two weeks of rehearsal later, I left NYC for my first national tour. I feel incredibly lucky.
To my fellow actors out there, it just goes to show–we really never know what may come our way, so always stay positive and be ready.
What were rehearsals like?
Rehearsals were fun and challenging. Our director Donna Drake, is extremely talented and has a wonderful spirit. We had two weeks of rehearsals in NYC before embarking on our tour. Since we perform in the dark, we learned the show in stages of darkness. We worked through the show learning all the choreography with the lights on and then did it with our mesh hoods over our heads, eventually going to dark with the black lights. It was exciting and unlike any rehearsal process I’ve done. Getting acquainted with all the puppets was fun. There are several different types of puppets in the show, and they all have a great effect onstage. Our rehearsal process was all about learning our tracks and learning to work as a team onstage and off. This show is truly a group effort, and everyone gives their all to make it function like a well oiled machine.
How have the performances been going? Who loves it most the adults or the kids who come?
The performances have consistently been going great. I performed my 100th show last week. We have school shows on weekdays (kids get bussed to the theaters from surrounding area schools) and public shows on weeknights and weekends. When we are performing for an audience of sometimes 2,700 preschool- 2nd graders and the lights go off and black lights come on, well let’s just say I feel like a rock star. The kids go nuts, and it doesn’t matter if it’s 9am and I haven’t had an iced coffee yet–it completely makes my day to hear how much they enjoy the show. Likewise, the adults love it too. The show is visually stimulating and has a phenomenal musical score and a great message. And the magic of the black light leaves everyone asking, “How did they do that?”
How is being on tour? Are you missing NYC?
I absolutely love being on tour! I like traveling around the US and playing in some of the biggest and oldest theaters in the country. That is really a treat. We even got to perform in Singapore for nine days in December, which was amazing! I’ve always loved road trips and driving, and since we drive everywhere (well, we flew to Singapore, of course), the lifestyle works well for me. The best thing about tour is that I get to perform constantly, often 10 shows a week, and I don’t have to work a survival job. I was getting a little tired of that balancing act in NYC, so I’ve been one happy actor. Of course I miss my boyfriend Zane, my friends, and I miss out on all the incredible things On the Square is doing in NYC, but everyone has been incredibly supportive of me traveling around playing with puppets!
What are some things you have learned about being a actor – sans a puppet – while working on this?
The audience doesn’t see us (hopefully), and due to the nature of the show, the dialogue and music is tracked with John Tartaglia, Michael Shawn Lewis, and Donna Drake as most of the voices along with other vocal artists. Therefore, I don’t use my voice at all in this show. We sinc the puppets to the track, and it’s all movement based. Going into it, I wondered if I would miss being heard and seen since that’s so often what this business is about.
But interestingly enough, I get the exact same if not more of a rush from performing this show. It’s the thrill of live performance that I love so much. And to allow what’s inside me to come out through a puppet is really exciting and fulfilling. It’s a different craft, and I love that I get to do it. And the fact that I get to run around onstage in the dark, well, it’s surprisingly thrilling every time.
Has anything really surprised you about yourself as an actor during this process?
We travel with 9 people total (8 puppeteers, including one swing/ASM and our company/stage manager) therefore we are our own stage crew. I love this. I’ve always had utmost respect for those who are technically inclined and this show allows me to delve into that side of things. When we load in to a venue and put together our entire set, repair our own equipment and puppets, perform the shows and then load it all out, there is great sense of ownership of the show that comes along with all of that. It’s a lot of work, and it feels good at the end if the day. Since I’ve mostly been on the performing side of things, this surprised me about myself in the best way possible.
What has been the most inspiring/exciting part of the entire process?
The first is the reactions of the kids when they see this show, especially those who have never seen theater before let alone a black light puppet show. It makes our job very rewarding. And secondly, the people I work with everyday. They are brilliant. Many of them have been puppeteering and building their own puppets since they were little kids. Their creativity and senses of humor blow me away everyday, and I learn so much from them. We laugh a lot. Not to mention, they all build puppets on the road and we shoot fun videos with them. I am building my first puppet (that is, one from a pattern and not a sock or paper bag) right now with the help of my cast mates. I’m really working with a stellar group of individuals. We spend a lot of time together, and I love and trust these people immensely. And we honestly all get along, even after 6 months on tour…it is amazing to me.
How you will be able to use these amazing experiences to build on what you do for On the Square?
This show energizes me to continue to do great work. I have a huge place in my heart for children’s theater. Playing for audiences full of cheering kids, many who have not ever seen theater before, inspires me to continue to make a difference in kids’ and adults’ lives through theater. This experience has further inspired me to reach and affect a wide spectrum of people and also to think outside the box to do so. Jackie and Rachel and the rest of the On the Square team are incredibly resourceful, creative, and supportive, so I know the possibilities are endless.
I’ve been very inspired by so many of the children and family series programming that education departments in theaters around the country are doing. It’s true that outreach can be simple, fun, and affordable and still very effective.
Can you talk a bit about your personal goals for the education componenet of OtSP?
One of my main goals for On the Square’s education and outreach program is to reach as many under-served children and adults in NYC as possible with quality theater education and programming that uses theater as a means to teach about the world around us. With arts programming cuts happening all over, there is a need to fulfill. We can do so much for our communities as theater professionals, and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to do this with my friends at On the Square Productions.
Thanks for interviewing me!
So go check out Emily Tucker in this fun and amazing show in Philadelphia in early May!
Be There or Be SQUARE!