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Work Samples

H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum (Grant Video)

Coming April 2017, Submersive Production's next big immersive project, "HT Darling's Incredible Musaeum," conceived by Lisi Stoessel and directed by Stoessel (Director of Aesthetics), Susan Stroupe (Director of Performance), and Glenn Ricci (Director of Audience Experience), along with a cast of 6 collaborating actors. To be performed at the Peale Museum. NOTE: This video was created for a successfully proposed Henson Foundation Grant.

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This is the production poster for Harry and the Thief, a contemporary play by Sigrid Gilmer, directed by Susan Stroupe, produced by Strand Theatre in the April 2016. Harry and the Thief is a genre-bending dark comedy about Harriet Tubman, slavery, time travel, and revolution. Rather than a story about slaves who find their power, it is about strong women in difficult circumstances who start out understanding their own power, and go on a journey to different kinds of freedom, with a backdrop of pop culture and a gender-fluid godlike narrator.

The Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe - Performance Trailer

Trailer created by producer and co-director Glenn Ricci. The Mesmeric Revelations of Edgar Allan Poe is an immersive theater experience performed in the spring and fall of 2015 at the Pratt House at the Maryland Historical Society.

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The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret, written by Mariah McCarthy, directed by Susan Stroupe, produced by Glass Mind Theatre in April 2014. A joyful, ensemble-driven comedy about living in and exploding stereotypes of gender in all the complex ways it manifests itself in our lives. Nominated for 3 Bad Oracle B.U.L.S.H.I.T awards, including Best Director, Best New Work, and Best Ensemble (won).

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About Susan

Baltimore City

Susan Stroupe is a theater maker, primarily working as a director, who specializes in interdisciplinary and devised works of theater often performed in non-traditional spaces.  Throughout her career, Stroupe has also worked as a performer, writer, puppeteer, teacher, and collaborator in professional and community-based projects, with actors and nonactors of many ages and many abilities and disabilities.  Focus and passion lies in theater in nontraditional spaces or arrangements,... more

HT Darling's Incredible Musaeum

Submersive Production's next big immersive theatrical experience, HT Darling's Incredible Musaeum is currently being devised collaboratively with 6 actors and 3 directors (Susan Stroupe, Lisi Stoessel, and Glenn Ricci), and will open in April 2017 at the historic Peale Museum.

Conceived by Stoessel, Musaeum will invite viewers to the Grand Opening of the Exhibit of New Galapagos, a far-off realm visited by intrepid explorer HT Darling. Dramaturgically, we have been exploring and deconstructing Enlightenment philosophy and the "natural order of the universe," working with ideas of owning narrative, seeking legacy and immortality, time and memory, undermining status quo structures, and seeking new ways to explore difficult histories of colonialism, misogyny, and appropriation. The show weaves in narrative, puppetry, museum studies and practices, dance, and interactive environments to create one immersive experience.

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    Devising for a major scene of Musaeum. Part of our devising work is finding the relationship between the performer and other physical elements of the space: architecture, light/shadow, sound, and topography.
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    Because we don't begin with a script, each actor becomes the primary creator of their narrative. Pictured here is our method of beginning to create a full show "script" by having the actors place moments and scenes on sticky notes in a relative chronology of their character's journey. This allows us to update, add, subtract, and move around plot points as needed.
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    One of the joys of group devising is that the whole cast gets to participate in each character's development. The fluid, nontraditional process of collaboratively devising in a non-theater space means discoveries about character, narrative, and dramaturgy often occur in random moments and in unorthodox places.
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    Our collaborative cast in an initial character devising workshop. From left: Sarah Olmstead Thomas, Francisco Benavides, Trustina Fafa Sabah, Lisi Stoessel, David Brasington, Alex Vernon.

Harry and the Thief

HARRY AND THE THIEF, a play by Sigrid Gilmer (USA Ford Fellow), was directed by Susan Stroupe and produced by Strand Theatre Company in April 2016. A comedy about Harriet Tubman, time travel, and revolution, it is a genre-bending dark comedy that reclaims, chews up, and turns the traditional slave narrative on its head.
Read an interview with Stroupe here: http://www.theatrebloom.com/2016/03/reflective-history-an-interview-with...

Mesmeric Revelations! of Edgar Allan Poe

Role: Co-Director, Original Deviser/Creator

The first of its kind in Baltimore: a full-length, full immersive and ensemble-devised theatrical experience co-directed by Susan Stroupe and Glenn Ricci (Ricci, who came up with the concept, received a Rubys grant for the project), performed at the Pratt House at the Maryland Historical Society in a sold-out run in the spring of 2015, revived in the fall of 2015 for a total of 62 shows. Mesmeric Revelations received numerous accolades, including Best Concept and Best New Work from the Bad Oracle's B.U.L.S.H.I.T. Awards, and was voted Best Theatrical Experience in City Paper's "Best of Baltimore."

Mesmeric Revelations, as a fully devised work, gave agency to the original cast of actors to create their characters and the narrative that shaped the show. Over the course of a nine-month rehearsal process, all ensemble members researched together, trained together, and devised together, creating a show with a tight-knit ensemble built on on trust, listening, and attention to intricate details in each others' performances. Mesmeric Revelations took a special look at the women in Poe's life, and much of the devising process revolved around deconstructing the male-gaze infused myths surrounding Poe's wife, mother, and later loves, allowing the actors to create full human beings out of women who have become mythologized and sidelined.

Read an interview with Stroupe and Ricci here: http://www.theatrebloom.com/2015/10/a-dream-within-a-dream-an-interview-...

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    Jenna Rossman as Eliza, David Brasington as Auguste, and Shannon Graham as Sarah, performing the seance with audience members. The seance was a moment that we asked ourselves: "we want audience members to fully participate in this, so how can we have them fully engaged without explicitly giving instructions?" The actors work on how to subtly engage audience members to do what we needed them to do through physical cues.
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    Susan at the "Dramaturgy Wall." In our first month of rehearsal, our goal was to accomplish two things: to build the ensemble with our actors, and to discover and develop the focus of the characters. Part of this was the research the whole team had been doing throughout the summer, which culminated in a giant wall of pictures, writing, articles, etc that we made in the first few weeks of rehearsal.
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    In December 2014 we moved into the Pratt House, which deeply informed the remainder of our devising process. While we had made many decisions about the characters, the space provided the final key to their narratives. The relationship between the actors and the architecture was essential to finishing the devising process.
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    This is "the Ball" scene, created as a meeting point for the end of "Act 1," in which the characters were, for the first time in the show, all in the same space at the same time. One challenged we worked with in devising was how to tell six (and then nine in the second run) different narratives without leaving the audience in the cold. Part of our solution was to create "touchstone" scenes like this one in which the audience could see everyone at the same time and put some narrative pieces together.
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    Natanya Sheva Washer in rehearsal as Virginia, in her "parlor." One of the greatest challenges for the actors was the physical challenge of performing in such close quarters with the audience. There were no breaks, no intermissions, and, essentially, no faking. Because every moment had the possibility of audience witnessing in close proximity, the performance choices had to be sculpted so they were both sincere and sustainable.
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    Lisi Stoessel as Barkeep (Fall 2015 cast). Throughout the devising process, we left room for each character to grow in its own way, and gave support to each actor to discover how the character wanted to live in the world we were creating. No character followed the same performance style, and the Barkeep was one of the most mysterious, both in devising and performance.
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    Matthew Payne as V. and Alexander Scally as Auguste. Since we did not start with a written script, the majority of our spoken dialogue came from Poe's text, which in their original form were not meant to be theatrical dialogue. Our actors were challenged to find the physical life of the often dense text, and how to show narrative clues to the audience through physical dialogue while allowing the text to inform the audience in different ways. The "Chess Match" as this came to be called, was created from Poe's opening passages in "Murders in the Rue Morgue."
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    In our remount of the show in the fall of 2015, we increased our cast from 6 to 16, creating 3 new characters and doubling the actors for the existing parts. A large challenge in the remount was having the original actors teach their parts to the new actors, because the characters were not created from a script, but from the minds of the original actors, and therefore their individual humanity was infused into them.

All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret

The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret, written by Mariah McCarthy, directed by Susan Stroupe, produced by Glass Mind Theatre in April 2014. A joyful, ensemble-driven comedy about living in and exploding stereotypes of gender in all the complex ways it manifests itself in our lives. Nominated for 3 Bad Oracle B.U.L.S.H.I.T awards, including Best Director, Best New Work, and Best Ensemble (won).
What Weekly's article about the production and process: https://www.whatweekly.com/2014/04/16/blurred-lines-the-ecstatic-gender-...

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    Jessica Ruth Baker as Kate, who starts out as a "man-hating feminist," and has a slogan of "pussy up," which she explains as a campaign-like speech early in the show.
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    Alexander Scally as DJ and Siobhan Beckett as Gwen. Part of our work in AAGC was not just to explore gender, but to explore what types of bodies are typically allowed to portray certain types of characters, and celebrating the complexity that comes when we intersect multiple cross-sections of stereotypes.
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    Jarrett Ervin as Dick. One of the most fun parts of the show was having fun discovering how the most outlandish gender stereotypes manifest in these characters, while figuring out how to have the audience connect with the characters in order to go with them on their transformative journey.
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    Sarah Weissman as Devon and Sarah Lloyd as Allegra. Despite having "realistic" storylines for the characters, the script often deviated in surrealism and dreamworlds. Part of our ensemble work was discovering how to weave these two worlds together so that even when the actors were enacting something outside their character's storyline, the character itself was still informed.
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    Siobhan Beckett as Gwen, Samy El-Noury as Benji. One challenging aspect of the show was how to mock the intentionally stereotypical and trendy set-ups of the scenes through a sense of love and integrity, rather than to just tear them down. We attempted to explode the setting McCarthy wrote into being as joyfully silly as possible, like in the "Ladies Brunch" scene that we combined with doing yoga, and the scene became affectionately known as "Yoga Brunch."
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    M. Hicks as emcee Taylor (inspired by performer Taylor Mac) provided the thread that wove the episodic show together, creating a lifeline between the audience and the characters, and often participating in the narrative themselves. The challenge we faced in working with the script was how to see Taylor as fully human, even as the other characters (and ourselves) wanted to see them as a magical unicorn, and as they had to act out the archtype of the emcee.
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    One of my favorite parts of this script was the amount of dancing (and we added a lot more in production). As a director, I find dancing and choreographed movement in "straight" plays to be one of the most joyous and unnerving ways to contribute to the story. It adds a different, less tangible layer of narrative that cannot necessarily be exactly interpreted--a little bit of sacred mystery that I find essential to any show.

Brainstorm 5: The Ties That Bind

Role: Festival Director

Brainstorm is Glass Mind Theatre's almost annual short play festival. In the spring of 2015, following the unrest that came after Freddie Gray's unjust death, we decided to use that year's Brainstorm as a way to quickly respond theatrically to what was going on in our Charm City. Theater is a slow process because it is so collaborative and has so many different kinds of artistic mediums in it, so responding to current events in a meaningful way is difficult in this work. We knew that the structure already built into Brainstorm as a short play festival in which commissioned playwrights are given a few weeks to write a play based on a prompt, and a company of actors to perform all the plays, would allow us get the initial thoughts and complexities of artists ready to speak into the open, knowing that what we could contribute would not be the complete conversation, and in some regards would be a failing endeavor. What resulted was an evening of plays that ranged from comedy to heavy drama, from realistic scenes to abstract surrealism to absurdism, and all coming from different angles of where we were at the time. Nominated and won 1 Bad Oracle B.U.L.S.H.I.T. award, the Justice For All Award, for staging work for social change.
The review from The Bad Oracle: https://thebadoracle.com/2015/06/13/brainstorm-5-fraughtimore-uprising/

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    "Deep Reverence" by Rich Espey, directed by Trustina Fafa Sabah. "Deep Reverence" linked the Orioles "closed" game after the uprising to an imagined childhood of Freddie Gray, using baseball metaphors and abstract movement.
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    "Theatre Games" by Julie Lewis. Lewis used the structure of a theater class playing traditional "theater games" to re-create scenes associated with the uprising incidences as well as with the arrest of Gray.
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    "Chalked" by Alexander Scally, directed by Joshua Thomas. Scally veered away from the unrest itself and literally into gentrified territory, in which a white couple and black real estate agent must confront the realities of buying a "fixer upper" in a "developing" neighborhood.

Peter Pan

Role: Director

In one of my out-of-state projects, I worked with All-of-Us-Express Children's Theatre, the resident theater company of East Lansing, MI, to direct their summer production of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. All-of-Us-Express is a long-standing company with a well-organized Guild program, teaching practical theatrical skills of all sorts to children of all ages, so that each department of the show, including all designed elements, are primary created on by young people. With a cast of 50 young actors ranging from 6-16, and a crew of almost as many, we created a production that highlighted the necessity of imagination and the grief that comes with growing up. Reported to be the third best-selling production in All-of-Us-Express' 28-year history.

From the director's notes: "One central idea we discovered in our early rehearsals is that, in Neverland, anything can happen and anyone can be anything if they simply imagine it to be so. Unlike the “real” world, where gravity, money, and society govern our everyday existence, the citizens of Neverland make their own rules. People can fly. Food is plentiful. Everyone is accepted for who they are, even the pirates. Even the violence of war comes from the imagination of what children think it should be like. It is a magical place.

To complicate matters, however, is the underlying conflict of Peter Pan: not the inevitable battle between Hook and Peter, but the unsettling question to the adults and young adults in the audience: what do we lose between childhood and adulthood? Why do we have to start seeing the world “as it is” and not how we wish it would be? Why do we have to start following the rules of the real world? Peter Pan irritatingly doesn’t answer those questions for us. Instead, for both children and adults, it forces us to confront, when we walk out of the theater, how we might recapture the use of imagination, and how we can use our imaginations to make real the kind of world we want for our children, and their children, and generations to come."

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    The full cast and crew of Peter Pan.
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    The Lost Boys await Peter's return. A fun and interesting part of the rehearsal process was allowing the young actors to choose how masculine or feminine each of their "Lost Boys" were. We decided that in Neverland, it didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl, but that the rule was that if you were one of them, you were called a Lost Boy.
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    I made the executive decision to change the "Indians" to Wildcats, because socially the racist depiction of the Neverland Indians has no place on stage anymore (nor did it ever), but also dramaturgically, if each group on Neverland is a type of character that children make believe themselves to be, then Indians no longer fit, as few children now continue to perpetuate this mythical version of Indians in their imaginative play. I decided to update the group to something that more children in our audience might relate to.

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