The artists of Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble will take their final collective bow at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival this summer. The six co-artistic directors (slash co-writers, -directors, -designers, -composers, -choreographers, -fight coaches, performers) will reprise their Wild West-themed, mask- and puppet-heavy production of “As You Like It,” which originally ran at the Rudyard Kipling in 2009, for the festival’s community partner repertory August 5-9 in Central Park’s C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheatre. The performances, like all Kentucky Shakespeare productions, are free and open to the public.
Founded by Gregory Maupin and Abigail Bailey Maupin in 2004, Le Petomane grew to include Heather Burns, Tony Dingman, Kristie Rolape and Kyle Ware by 2005. Together, they collaborated on more than 20 original shows (read more on their process), including the recent Thomas Edison-and-Nicola-Tesla-do-Vaudeville two-hander “On the Circuit,” created and performed by Maupin and Dingman. They’ve also re-imagined classics, including Moliere’s ”Don Juan” and several Shakespeare productions, with their signature off-kilter sensibility. On top of that, the company maintained a sliding scale for ticket sales throughout their existence, with general admission tickets sold for as low as $8, encouraging accessibility in both artistic and economic terms.
Lately, it’s been more and more difficult to get all six partners in the room for their intense, collaborative creative process to play out into a full production. Their last full-company show was “A Derby Carol,” which played at The Bard’s Town in 2102. Two- and three-person creative sub-teams, like for their wildly popular “5 Things” (Bailey Maupin, Maupin, Ware) and last season’s opener “Test Subjects” (Rolape, Ware) have been more common as the artists have all ramped up their careers and found themselves with more work and projects than time.
In a release, the company says “the members of the group all lead full and kind of crazy lives, and plan to pursue and be pursued by other endeavors” now that Le Petomane is closing up shop. But that likely doesn’t mean they’re disappearing from the public eye. Maupin and Bailey Maupin (who are married to each other) collaborated on a recent commissioned play for Stage One about Robin Hood. Dingman has spearheaded the Frazier History Museum’s popular Halloween season Edgar Allan Poe performances for the last four years. This summer, Bailey Maupin, Maupin and Ware can all be seen in Kentucky Shakespeare’s mainstage festival productions, too.
Still, the end of Le Petomane as a whole is a loss for Louisville’s arts community. Together, the Le Petomane creators brought a thorough understanding of performance history and impeccable training to their productions, which melded an odd-ball sense of humor (think Looney Tunes by way of the New Yorker) with real passion and heart. Nobody else in town creates shows quite like Le Petomane’s, and their absence will be felt.