Luca lives in Naples, Italy, and has been performing Quick Change for quite a few years now. He has written a book on the topic which I am listing here for your consideration. Translated from Italian with all the wonderful nuances found in that process.
I met Luca online as he was perusing the internet for historical information on the art of Quick Change. I had begun writing a book in 1989 title “Quick Change in American Vaudeville” which I researched for over 3 years and had accumulated many volumes of xerox copies (Pre-Internet days).
Having posted a few items on this blog Luca was interested in finding out more about the American history of Quick Change. He is from Naples and only knew the artist from his country and Europe. I emailed him and we set up a time/date for an interview. I thought using Zoom would be great. He agreed but then we realized his English wasn’t up to par (and my Italian was terrible!) to do a thorough interview. I then emailed him the questions I wanted to ask him and he answered them in text. Here is the interview and a video clip of our attempt at a Zoom interview. Along with some videos of his performances.
Interview with Luca Lombardo
Q: You are a magician, quick-change artist, magician, and clown. Can you give us a little history about these skills and where you acquired them? What schools you attended or what teachers you studied with?
Luca: When I discovered the art of magic I was 15 years old and it really moved me. I studied every kind of magic for many years attending workshops and conferences of worldwide fame magicians. I decided it was my path when I watched Arturo Brachetti’s theatrical show. So I studied clownery both in Italy and abroad while I was practicing my magic tricks. I came up with the idea of a quick-change act with magic tricks. At first, I started only as a magician I then evolved in time as a clown developing a much deeper understanding of the audience.
Q: Can you tell us about your thoughts regarding the mixing of all these wonderful disciplines?
Luca: You can use as many tools and disciplines as you acknowledge to tell a story. The message is important. I love being and playing the clown because it is the closest to the truth, you can’t lie to your audience. However, my character is not a pure clown and I like to use my character to create my story.
Q: In a few articles I have read they refer to you as “The Crazy Performer”. Can you tell me why you got that title from the press?
Luca: I got this nickname because I always tried to overthrow all theatrical rules still existing in the conservative Italian theatre scene.
Q: I read a quote that mentioned ‘Fregolian Transformation”. Can you tell us what that is?
Luca: The Fregolian Transformation is a transformation not only in the clothes but also in the character, the moves, the attitude. In my act, there is a story and I have to change character not only a costume. In the Russian quick-change instead, the artist changes the only costume and the effort is more in the choreography of it, the story is less important.
Q: While you were in Rome a few years ago you met with Augusto Fornari who helped you write your current show: “Poubelle – Magic Beyond Imagination”. He also directed you in this new show. Can you tell us about the work you did with him?
Luca: Augusto Fornari is also a film director and he is a very much acclaimed artist in Italy. I owe him everything as he believed in my talent and my creativity since the beginning. We are friends and I am very happy to be his friend.
Q: One of the things I heard about your show was the importance of empathy. Can you tell us how important this emotion is for you in your work?
Luca: Empathy is what makes an artist happy. I think an artist needs emotions and if you are able to pass these emotions on to your audience, those will come back to you and it probably means you did a good job! I like to gift my audience an emotional and maybe surreal performance. I feel more grateful when someone says you really moved me instead of appreciating how quickly I was with the changes.
Q: Why do you think “Poubelle” has been so successful?
Luca: The nice thing about ‘Poubelle’ is that despite the fact that the character never speaks, he still manages to reach everyone. Empathy with the public is certainly the key to the success of this character. It is not a traditional show but a story of my childhood, the story of my life. With my dress changes – from Peter Pan to Mary Poppins to Super Mario Bros – I am able to tell my world. And this world then becomes that of the spectator who identifies with Poubelle. The great success of this character makes it clear that we all need magic and to play again.
Q: What does magic represent for you?
Luca: Magic is the ability to bring others into your dream, into your world. Changing the world is becoming increasingly difficult, but each of us can create one of our own in which to transport people. The magician does this by profession
Q: What are you working on now? Any new shows? Luca: It is very hard to think about future projects right now with the ongoing virus outbreak. I am supposed to be on stage in France at the ‘Avignon Off Festival’ next July. If everything goes further I will preview a new interactive quick-change act where a member of the audience chooses the character I change into.
Poubelle is a multitalented show ( Without words) : magic, poetry, comedy, and solo quick change. In this video the quick change it’s in real-time NO EDITING
Photographs of Characters from Luca Lombardo’s show
On May 15th of 2017, the Martin Segal Theatre Center presented an evening celebrating 50 Years of Theatre of the Ridiculous. Here is the video of that presentation and the text from the event. Films were presented which will not be posted here.
50 years ago in New York City, the Theatre of the Ridiculous movement as a theatrical genre started in in 1965 with The Play-House of the Ridiculous, the spin-off group The Ridiculous Theatrical Company formed in 1967.
The Theatre of the Ridiculous made a break with the dominant trends in the theatre of naturalistic acting and realistic settings and brought elements of queer/camp performance to the avant-garde theatre. The cross-gender casting was common, scenarios improvised, and players often recruited from non-professional sources, such as drag queens or other “street stars.” In a reference to Martin Esslin’s concept of a theatre of the absurd, in 1965, Ronald Tavel promoted the first “Ridiculous” performances with the one-line manifesto: “We have passed beyond the absurd: our position is absolutely preposterous.”
With Theatre of the Ridiculous company members Everett Quinton, Brian Belovitch, Beth Dodye Bass, Julia Campanelli, Geraldine Dulex, Eureka, Jim Freeman, Chris Johnson, Lenys Sama, Kevin Scullin, and Jenne Vath.
Everett Quinton made his stage debut in the 1976 RIDICULOUS THEATRICAL COMPANY’S production of Charles Ludlam’s CAPRICE. After that Everett became a member of the company and over 21 years appeared in about 100 productions including BLUEBEARD, CAMILLE, TURDS IN HELL, SALAMMBO, and LOVE’S TANGLED WEB among others. Everett became Artistic Director of the company in 1987 after Charles Ludlam’s untimely passing. Everett is now a freelance actor and director. He has appeared with The Penguin Rep, RedBull Theater, Yorick Theater, The Arizona Theater Co., The San Jose Rep, to name a few.
I began working on this book project in the early 1970’s..probably around 1973. I have a letter from famed magician/historian Jay Marshall dated 1978. I had inquired to see if he had any ‘quick change’ material I could use for my research.
I had basically given up on the project in late 1981 and put all my research in a box. Dishearted by the lack of awareness people had about this act. It seemed like I was one of maybe 50 people that knew what the ‘Quick Change‘ act was.
I just found this box of research in my storage unit! Almost 35 year later! It is massive! I worked on the book for quite a few years. Contacting libraries and archives all over the world to obtain photographs/letters/articles/reviews about these artists during their ‘heyday’ in the vaudeville times.
Here is the program from The Palace Theater in May of 1913. The 6th act (F) on the program is quick change artist Owen McGiveney.
Notice the 4th act on the bill is W.C Fields. Quick change artist shared the bill with some outstanding performers in their time.
As you can see from this photograph my research didn’t only include quick change. Here is a photograph of the ‘future site of the Palace Theater‘.
“Whatever happens, the information and the images in this book provide us with food forreflectionand many pleasant recollections of the way things have been in the past.” Forward by August Heckscher
One of my favorite books when I want to go down memory lane and experience the plentiful theatres that marked New York City’s landscape throughout it’s colorful history.
Written by Mary C. Henderson and published in 1973.
(Mary C. Henderson was Curator of Museum of The City of New York)
Here is the forward by August Heckscher.
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Book description by Amazon:
Remarkably well researched and immensely entertaining, this definitive history of theater in New York City spans more than three centuries and relates the development of theater to the social, political, economic, and cultural climate of the time. Readers learn that it was in 1699 that a petition was first made for a license to perform plays in Manhattan and that 30 years later the first theater opened in Manhattan. From colonial New York, the story continues through the 20th century to the birth, and rebirth, of the theater district in Times Square and the revitalization of 42nd Street in the mid-1990s. An A to Z listing of every Broadway theater ever to exist is also included. Each listing features a photograph or illustration of the theater, its address, the architect, the opening production, historical information, and, if applicable when the theater was demolished.
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I met Mary when I was doing research for my book on ‘Quick Change’ in American Vaudeville. (which I never completed)
She was generous with her time and her patience was plentiful in dealing with my request about this very obscure topic.
Now that Bill Irwin has joined forces with David Shiner again to present OLD HATS I thought it right to ‘look back’ at Bill’s earlier success. “The Regard of Flight“. The show was performed in many venues before going to Lincoln Center. An earlier version of the show was performed at the Baltimore Theater Festival titled “Murdoch” which I saw.
Bill Irwin was brilliant in choosing Doug Skinner and Michael O’Connor to share the stage with him in this show. They were great! Doug Skinner provided ‘original music’ and Michael O’Connor was hysterical as ‘the critic’ lurching to the stage with comments and questions throughout the show. Wonderful comic timing together made this show a treat for any audience! For those of you that did not see Bill Irwin, Doug Skinner and Michael O’Connor in “The Regard of Flight”…A wonderfully brilliant show!
“It should be said that Mr. Irwin is a contemporary American performance artist whose name belongs alongside those of Buster Keaton and Marcel Marceau.” Mel Gussow NY Times The New York Times Review
Bill Irwin and David Shiner are currently performing their new show “OLD HATS” at the Signature Theater. “one of the funniest shows of the past few years” the New York Post,