If you truss up Ray Caspio with the "golden lasso of truth," he'll tell you his heroes are Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman and other female TV superheroes. "It's about being fully who you are, even if your identity is hidden at times. That concept is very compelling to me."
Caspio is apparently well on his way to being who he is. As the associate artistic director of the travelling theater company Theater Ninjas, Caspio helps create and implement all the company's programming with artistic director Jeremy Paul. Caspio also uses his graphics and illustration skills to create promotional material for the TN shows.
But his first love may be performing. As he explains, "I really enjoy developing a relationship with an audience, taking the temperature of the room and adapting my performance so I can connect with them."
He started his acting career in 2008 in perhaps the most conventional play, The Mousetrap at the Huntington Playhouse. But he quickly moved on to more edgy productions, such as Open Mind Firmament at Cleveland Public Theatre and then his first show at Theater Ninjas, the challenging and at times hallucinatory Inoculations.
"After my first rehearsal with the Ninjas, I knew this was what I wanted. It was an open atmosphere where you could try things. This made every night fulfilling."
Many of his roles are unusual. He played Errato in The Excavation, an amusing and stunning exploration of the last days of Pompeii, and the eagle in the Big Box production of The Importance of Waiting for the Eagle at Cleveland Public Theatre. He's taken on many roles in Theater Ninja productions, including recently as mathematician and war hero Alan Turing in Code: Preludes.
A native greater-Clevelander (he was born in Parma), Caspio is currently working on a "cabaret-inspired interactive installation piece." It's titled Tingle-Tangle and will open in the fall with Caspio as the lead artist. "I'm interested in queer issues and queer characters, so this play will explore gender, sexuality and hate speech with people who live off the beaten path, and investigate what it means to be human."
In the future Caspio would like to do more solo shows, an interest once again inspired by a female performer. "I saw Liza Minnelli in her one-person show and it was a huge inspiration. She was like a tornado on stage and she was entirely present in the moment. She was also electrifying when I attended the taping of her appearance on The Actor's Studio with James Lipton. One of my dreams is to tour my own solo show, like Liza."
On the graphic-artist side of his life, Caspio recently had a gallery exhibit of his illustrations of iconic TV heroines (Elizabeth Montgomery, Marion Lorne, Lynda Carter, etc.) called "Oh, My Stars!" And he has a one-person web series on YouTube where he plays a somewhat aggressive and addled fellow called Uncle Toots.
As Wonder Woman once said, "Be creative, be adventurous, be original." Don't worry, Diana: Ray is listening.