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Quills & Queues: A Muse Zoo takes its show on the road

A Muse Zoo, the Ashland-based traveling theater company, is raising funds to take their popular show “The Truth*” on the road to Washington, D.C., as part of the Capital Fringe Festival, a component of the Fringe Festival.

The core specialties of A Muse Zoo include modes of performance that some have considered to have fallen into obscurity — including clowning, mime, slapstick, vaudeville and the like — that the company is working towards bringing into a modern context and utilizing as a tool for thought and expression in tackling contemporary issues. Dedicated to “creating relevant and accessible theatre,” the artists state their intent as “(challenging) the complacency of the modern imagination through intellectual and interactive storytelling.” All four performers hold degrees in acting from various West Coast colleges, and each is a co-founder of the company.

“The Truth*” is a comedy about political power and the winners of war. It debuted in Ashland in October 2017 to good press and strong enthusiasm from audiences. As a result of that success, the A Muse Zoo troupe — made up of performing artists Kenzie Bizon, Sarah Brizek, Mike Dias, Alice Glass and Mikey Hays — have begun a GoFundMe campaign to take the show on the road as a part of their 2018 Summer Tour, beginning in June.

In “The Truth*” the group deconstructs the classic political narrative that is taught and learned in academic environments to explore the actual history of war and politics. According to the group’s web page, “hilarity and heartbreak ensue when four dictators fight to conquer new land.” Over the course of three months, A Muse Zoo will be visiting various national venues to perform the show, including the Shoebox Theatre in Portland, Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood, 3rd Coast Comedy Club in Nashville, and other venues as yet to be arranged in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis and other cities across the country.

“The Truth*” was incubated in the spring of 2017, and the A Muse Zoo group spent the following summer conceiving and rehearsing the show. Working five days a week, they wrote, researched and developed a production that was covered enthusiastically by the Sneak Preview in Ashland and has received significant positive response from patrons, so much so that Michael Dias — a graduate of the UC Santa Barbara actor training program and artist in the troupe — initiated the GoFundMe campaign. As of this writing, the campaign has generated $3,960 of its $8,000 goal, the amount needed to take the ensemble to its various locales.

The company will operate on a shoestring budget that will be used primarily to pay for gas for two cars in which the quintet will travel more than 10,000 miles, as well as to cover the fees associated with participating in the Fringe Festival event in the US capital. The five thespians will also teach workshops and give additional performances where possible in order to cover additional expenses during the course of the trip.

A Muse Zoo also offers local clowning and mime training at the Flying Actor Studio at 1326 Woodland Drive in Ashland, founded by luminary performance artist James Donlon, himself a champion of the mime and clowning traditions who has taught and worked in the field for 50 years.

The A Muse Zoo’s fundraiser can be found at www.gofundme.com/amusezootour, and the company can be reached via email at amusezootheatre@gmail.com, or through their website at www.amusezoo.com.

— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.