About the House

Since childhood, I’ve dreamed of having a place where people could gather, to entertain ideas and each other

Michael Caplan’s House of ShAkE is that place: a production house, a publishing house, and a playhouse.  

Michael Caplan and playhouse 1966

And it’s a “place” that's at once physical, virtual, and conceptual

  • Physical: my apartment has been set up for intimate stagings and live gatherings (until we establish an independent venue) whose audience can be indefinitely extended through livestreaming 

  • Virtual: the website itself, and soon, a digital magazine

  • Conceptual: an approach to production and an environment for creation that are as welcoming and safe as they are surprising and challenging. 

House of ShAkE slogans
 
HISTORY / Growing a House

As far back as public school, I imagined opening a “History House” that would combine my love of educational dioramas and re-enactments, my interest in the past, and my budding passion for theatre. The idea’s evolution was gradual and organic, and it was fed by my whole range of experiences: in performance, dance, and special events, publication design and copyediting, theoretical writing and cultural commentary, teaching and group facilitation, and in helping others produce their own print, digital, and live performance projects.

​In practical terms, we laid the foundation of the House in 2017 with A Handbook for Ecstatic Survival by David Earle. The first draft of the website went online in 2021 with my Porch Songs “Month of Sundays” livestream and my dramatic reading, Schoenberg’s Return. Each of these functioned as a sort of soft launch.

 

There’s been much intervening work on the concept and the existing projects. Now – with the collaboration of Gilles Goyette in many areas from his own projects to creating our new intro video, with the addition of Donald Brackett’s Breathing Room series and Bill Coleman’s Prepare for the Truth, and with Daniel Garber and Maggie Rainwater helping out on the business end – the time has come to throw the doors open. Michael Caplan’s House of ShAkE welcomes the public!

But it has truly been the work of a lifetime.

 
BRANDING / The “House style”

 

My background has been varied and broad, but with a consistent thread. In every medium and form, I’ve always been drawn to work with vital content and crossover appeal. Now, that is the “House style” (like the way all great fashion houses' collections are unified by a consistent je ne sais quoi).

One of my inspirations is Jim Henson’s creation of the Muppets brand. He combined family-friendly entertainment with world-class artists, all while celebrating the joy of learning and even dealing with difficult subjects. Could House of ShAkE become a sort of cross-platform Muppet Show, but with the reverse proportion of art and gravity to fun and levity? (Maybe I’m a serious Kermit.)

I can relate to a description that Björk, the experimental pop singer, once gave of herself: “I think my role is to be sort of a communicator between all sorts of different worlds.” I sometimes imagine myself like the host of an unlimited variety show – an avant garde Tommy Hunter (rhinestone-suited Canadian singer and TV personality), or the MC of a trans-dimensional cabaret.

 
BUSINESS MODEL / Taking the House to market

 

Thanks to an approach that embraced both patronage and broad popularity, Shakespeare’s company created some of the world’s greatest theatre – and helped to forge the English language in the process! I see no reason we can’t be inspired by that example.

House of ShAkE takes its lead from organizational models that draw creatively on multiple income sources. Ours include book and product sales; online events; crowdfunding; government, foundation, and private sector funding; ticket sales and virtual “tip jar”; publishing and production services for clients, as well as commissioned special events; courses, activities, training sessions, and more.

This blend is well suited to the situation we now all face, with its social distances, scattered markets, and divided citizens. The House aims to celebrate and reconnect digital and print, art and ideas, intimacy and popularity, new and old, down-home and experimental, people all over the world and people from all different worlds.

 
NICHE / For anyone – if not everyone

There’s no single, existing market for what we offer, so the House has to reach out to very different markets, depending on each project. And within each market, the circle of people interested in “a safe space for danger” admittedly isn’t huge. But every project also directs people back to the House, which aims to become a hub for disseminating extraordinary discoveries.

 

We’re creating a new niche – “a large and miscellaneous audience,” as T.S. Eliot once described the goal for his poetry. And as Marin Karmitz, founder of the MK2 cinema empire, said: “I wanted a welcoming place … I want different audiences to meet, to mix and mingle, and to benefit from one another ... for each side to learn about the other ... I hate ghettos.” 

We’ll also take the House on the road. I look forward to singing Porch Songs from porches all over town and beyond, then at some point to singing from the back of a pick-up truck under a 3D replica of the House sketch, selling our wares in every sort of community. I’d love a flatbed, tri-axle truck, from which we could present performances. And a bricks-and-mortar House – a venue for events, a café, even a literal inn, a “public house” with guest rooms – remains the long-term dream. 

Experience has convinced me that there’s a hunger for work that crosses borders in good faith, that seeks to touch and move people no matter their backgrounds or differences. And there’s a need for a place like Michael Caplan’s House of ShAkE – where people can gather together, to entertain ideas and each other. 

Sketch of House of ShAkE models