Hotel Cassiopeia

May 5-21, 2011

By Charles Mee
Inspired by the life and work of Joseph Cornell

Production Design/Concept by Sylvie Agudelo
Stage Direction by Marc S. Miller
Assistant Director, Christie Lee Gibson
Stage Manager, Tanya Kutasz

Click here for photos by Daniel J. van Ackere

Hotel Cassiopeia, Charles Mee's fantasy inspired by the life and work of the master of assemblage art, Joseph Cornell, was itself be an assemblage. Accompanying the production were Constellations, a series of artistic exhibitions curated and created by Sylvie Agudelo, the Hotel Cassiopeia design team, and guest artists at various locations in Fort Point and other parts of Boston.

In an environment created by Fort Point artists, a talented ensemble of seven performers played two dozen characters, ranging from the people in Cornell’s life, such as Lauren Bacall and Hedy Lamarr; the artists Arshile Gorky, Marcel Duchamp, and Roberto Matta; a trio of ballerinas led by Allegra Kent; and the poet Marianne Moore, to an overbearing mother and a brother with cerebral palsy, to the people inhabiting his mind: a pharmacist, an astronomer, a birdwatcher and a corkmaker. In this theatrically charged collage of ideas and people, the company explored, in the words of Charles Mee, what we'd hear if Joseph Cornell’s boxes could speak “about art, about America, about compassion and longing and loneliness and heartbreak.”

The ensemble

Robert Murphy (appearing courtesy of Actors Equity Association): Joseph Cornell
Jake Berger: The Astronomer, Robert Cornell
Mary Driscoll: Joseph's Mother
Silvia Graziano: Allegra Kent, Lauren Bacall
Meredith Stypinski: Waitress, Marcel Duchamp, Ballerina, Corkmaker, Singer
Allison Vanouse: Herbalist, Roberto Matta, Marianne Moore, Ballerina, Leila Hadley
Rick Winterson: Pharmacist, Arshil Gorky, Robert Cornell

The production team

John Crowley: Set construction
Kippy Goldfarb: PR photography
Jennifer Hardy: choreographerRobyn Linden: marketing consultant
Tanya Kutasz, stage manager
Andrew Neumann: composer
Robin Reilly: costume consultant, set construction
Todd Sargent: lighting design
Nick Thorkelson: set design collaborator, graphic design
Douglas Urbank: film design
Daniel J. van Ackere: set construction, photography
Mark Warhol: sound design
Daniel J. van Ackere: set construction, photography
Mark Warhol: sound design

Robert D. Murphy on playing Joseph Cornell

“Joseph Cornell could rhapsodize about a cinnamon doughnut and discover constellations in a shot glass. How do you portray this alchemy to an audience? How do you find the drama in a painfully shy homebody who made world-class art at his kitchen table? And then project that drama onto the floor of a sprawling warehouse space? That’s our ensemble’s challenge in Hotel Cassiopeia and playwright Charles Mee provides the map. Mee assembles drama, beauty, and a few laughs into this dream-catching play. We are scrambling to keep up.”

Sylvie Agudelo on Hotel Cassiopeia

“Our challenge is to present a theatrically functional work of art that honors both Joseph Cornell and the individual artists contributing to the design of the production. We are trying to weave together Mee’s abstract fantasy--a delightful pastiche of imagery and writing--with assemblies of language, art, and sound in a way that engage and provide a foundation. Here is a story about how far you can go on a daydream. Our wish is that the audience leaves inspired and reminded of the power of the imagination.”