Columbus Makes Art Presents Shadowbox Live Metaperformer David Whitehouse
David Whitehouse has been part of Shadowbox Live since 1994, taking part in shows like Killer Party, Thunder and Lightning, and Holiday Hoopla. He shared a bit about what it is like to be one of 70-plus metaperformers, a unique Shadowbox Live term for employees who work in all aspects of the business, from performing and technical services to marketing and hospitality.
Michele: How did you get involved in performing?
David: Growing up, I was a huge fan of comedy from Abbot & Costello to Monty Python to Saturday Night Live. When I was eight years old, I told my family I wanted to be a stand-up comedian and copied every joke I heard or told into a notebook. When I got older, my friends and I would perform comedy skits in my basement. My high school was limited in performing arts, so my first exposure to theater classes was in college, where I was told my junior year, that I should not pursue acting. Armed with this disappointing professional advice, I sought a degree in journalism and theater studies, so I could review theater and movies for a living.
I moved to Columbus after college and called every theater in the yellow pages (remember those?) to offer my writing skills for free to write/edit press releases, or anything else they wanted. I just wanted to be around theater. Only Shadowbox Theater took my call and talked to me. After discovering I had some experience performing in college, they invited me to audition and promised that if things worked out, they would allow me to intern in their PR department. And that started my 25-year career at Shadowbox Live.
Michele: What role do you serve at Shadowbox Live?
David: Along with all metaperformers, I wear many hats. My roles include director of media design, where I run the department that is responsible for all video elements associated with our live productions. I’m also Lunchbox producer: along with a team of instructors and technicians, I produce a 45-minute sketch comedy show every week, with the goal of training newer metaperformers on the artistry of Shadowbox Live performance, while also making an entertaining show for the audience during the lunch hour.
I’m also a comedic acting instructor. Comedy is hard to teach, so instead my approach is to teach actors to be honest with their characters, and allow the comedy to come from the absurdity of life, instead of funny voices or funny faces. We strive for the sincere within the absurd.
Finally, I’m head of service staff. We are the whole entertainment package at Shadowbox and that includes food and drinks. I oversee this effort as we strive for world-class quality service to match our world-class quality productions.
I am also a member of the company’s executive team, and you can find me as a contributing member of the Shadowbox Live writing team, actor, singer and sometimes-violin player.
Michele: What do you love about being a metaperformer?
David: No two days are ever the same, which means I am NEVER bored at work. I love days when I’m editing a video, rehearsing a comedy sketch, meeting with the executive team to finalize next year’s show schedule, before waiting tables and then getting on stage. Being so embedded in what Shadowbox Live does help play to my strength of never being able to sit still! I love the controlled chaos of my days here!
Michele: Holiday Hoopla is coming up. What can you tell us about it?
David: Shadowbox Live has been doing Holiday Hoopla annually for 29 years. The show promises to lampoon cultural tropes in fun, unexpected ways, while bringing holiday rock songs to life through meta-media performances.
I’ll be reviving my role as Santa Claus, who in this production, gets lambasted for using coal to punish bad kids in an eco-conscious world, and in another sketch, reignites a past flame with another magical gift-giver, The Tooth Fairy.
Michele: What is your favorite thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
David: The willingness of this community to support such an expansive and increasingly diverse arts scene is a testament to the vibrancy of this city. On any given week, there are so many interesting offerings that are created from Columbus artists, I don’t accept the notion that there’s “nothing to do” in this town. The Columbus arts scene continues to produce a wide diversity of artistic genres, and this community has come out to support those efforts, which gives us more license to continually push the boundaries of what we offer. I am grateful for the opportunity to create art for Columbus. I don’t think Shadowbox Live would be what we are today in any other community.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.