Artist StatementArts & Culture

Artist Statement: Karina Caporino on Local Theater and True Lobster

Karina Caporino (right) and fellow True Lobster co-founder MB Schaffner. (Photo by Annabelle Prince)

Karina Caporino is not one to mince words. Last October, the 32-year-old actor and creator took to Twitter and said that Charlotte media’s coverage of the arts made her want to kill herself.

“That tweet came out of too many glasses of whiskey,” Caporino says laughing. But on this chilly November morning at Common Market in Oakwold, she stands by her assessment. She believes local media outlets should do much more arts and theater coverage, and that the coverage should be focused on art produced in Charlotte by Charlotteans. “I am over seeing highlights of the Broadway tours. We already know what those are. That’s why they’re touring all over the country.”

In 2004, the New Orleans native moved to Charlotte and has been a fixture on the theater scene since 2006. She’s worked with companies including Chickspeare, Appalachian Creative Theatre, Three Bone Theatre, OnQ, Actor’s Gym and more. On December 8, she completes a run performing in Actor’s Gym’s production of Noel Coward’s farce Fallen Angels at Spirit Square. After working with experimental troupe XOXO for five years, she resigned as the company’s managing director last February.

Unlike many who may complain about the state of theater and the arts in Charlotte, Caporino is doing something about it. Teaming with dramaturge MB Schaffner, she has launched True Lobster Charlotte, which she describes as a content generator. At the very least, the birth of True Lobster will be good news to XOXO fans, who might miss Caporino’s influence on that troupe’s future productions. The great thing about Caporino’s split from XOXO, she explains, is that now the city has twice as much contemporary theatre to look forward to.

“Charlotte is ready for it,” Caporino insists.

We talked further with Caporino about the local scene and what she hopes to accomplish with True Lobster.

Queen City Nerve: What’s your prognosis for the future of theater in Charlotte?

Karina Caporino

Karina Caporino: Charlotte is at a critical moment in becoming who and what it wants to be overall, but especially in the arts. There is a lot of talent here, and a lot of potential to become a city with a strong arts scene. We don’t have a strong foundation to build on, but there are lots of optimistic and stubborn people, like Actor’s Theatre and Three Bone, who are holding it down to make sure we get the opportunity to become a city with vibrant arts. We need to focus on celebrating what is made in Charlotte. We need more coverage, and we need more of an in-depth analysis.

That’s what we’re trying to do with our tiny letter (tinyletter.com) that we feature on True Lobster. It’s a monthly newsletter called Diving In. The first newsletter is about family drama as a traditional theater element. We did another one about gender. We had one recently about adaptation [for the stage.] The newsletter is more than just a summary and what to expect in a show. I want to read an article that is going to tell me how Charlotte [theater] is fitting in to a larger conversation, how we fit in globally as opposed to, “You’re going to experience this and it’s going to be one wild ride. Here’s how this cast compared to this other cast.” I want a broader scale.

So you launched the content generator True Lobster Charlotte. What kind of content are we talking about?

True Lobster Charlotte is a creative duo that is offering critique, collaboration and contemporary performance. We like the letter C a lot. We’re still fairly new as far as figuring out how we’re going to do this thing, so we don’t have a succinct vision/mission statement that’s a great elevator pitch. As it stands now it’s a lot of hand gestures, grunts and nonsensical words where [only] we know exactly what we mean.

How did the idea for True Lobster come together?

It came about intuitively, when MB Schaffner moved back to town from Chicago. She did some research on the companies in town and she found me with XOXO. When we met we knew right off the bat that we were on a similar wavelength. I think our neuroses are in alignment. We worked a little bit with XOXO as collaborators. We also worked together on The Sherlock Project with Paperhouse Theatre and a choose-your-own-adventure Romeo and Juliet with Chickspeare. We realized that there were foundational tenets to what we wanted to do. We want to be somewhere between an amplifier and a catapult for the creative community here. We amplify those voices and fling things forward whether we’re ready or not.

What else is on deck for True Lobster?

Karina Caporino (Photo by Pat Moran)

Contemporary performance is the aim. We have a couple of things that we do regularly. We have insta-narratives on our Instagram. It’s a series of photos with poems that can be read backwards or forwards to lend context to a story in an abstract setting. On our Instagram we also have the “etymology of words” poems. All that content is leading up to the full length production that we are working on. But before we do that, we’ve put in an application to do an installation at BOOM (the Plaza Midwood based arts and performance festival that takes place in April). The working title [of our installation] is The Hiding Place. It’s an excellent tool to develop and see how an audience engages with the world that we’re building for our full-length show, which has the working title Becoming Good. It’s a full-length piece that we’ve been working on since last March. It will probably be another six to nine months before it’s really fleshed-out.

Are you incubating the work like you used to with XOXO? Is The Hiding Place meant to be a work in progress, sort of like a trial balloon?

The Hiding Place will be connected in a way to Becoming Good. I think the big difference between what we’re trying to do with True Lobster and what we did when I was a part of XOXO is that XOXO is really interested in experimentation and with True Lobster we’re focused on intention. I think that XOXO embraced chaos. We want to be very specific about the chaos that we highlight. In the world it’s really easy to go along with things and not realize that you’re accidentally contributing to something like systemic racism for example.

It’s attractive allowing the accidents of the cosmos to come down, but there can be unintentional consequences.

Yes. [Specificity] is hard work. Becoming Good is somewhere between a fairy tale and a cultural critique on the way we raise Southern white women to uphold and propel white male patriarchy, specifically how we deal with perpetrating violence. We’re finding that the world building needs to be very clear and specific and not in a way that’s preachy. That’s why it’s in this fairy tale realm.

When you experience it, you think it’s a fun and weird Brothers Grimm/Rumpelstiltskin thing — and then it infects the audience. It’s understated, and hopefully it will remain nuanced as the text develops. [For instance], we have these little sand people in the show. They are grains of sand. There are some characters that are very intentional about the way they walk on the sand, and other characters who pay no mind. We use things like that to highlight the message.

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