"Let me tell you
About the House
A home-base for my own work, and for creative collaborations
A home-away-from-home for others with projects in the House style: vital content & an appeal that crosses conventional forms, audiences, target markets, genres, viewpoints
An inn at the crossroads – virtual, conceptual, physical – where we can gather to entertain ideas & each other
A hub & resource for the dissemination of extraordinary discoveries
I’m Michael R. Caplan, the “architect” & Renaissance Man of the House – and your host.
House of ShAkE ...
produces & co-produces projects in print, performance, music & other media, working with both individuals & organizations (contact us to propose a project)
initiates its own projects in-House
provides a platform for online events & a venue for small-scale live events, and eventually a dedicated bricks-and-mortar venue for shows, exhibitions, gatherings & product sales (help us build the house!)
The History of the House
Having a venue of some kind where people could gather for events, exhibitions, is a dream that goes back to my childhood (although not necessarily to this picture).
There was an abandoned Tudor-style building in our neighbourhood. My dream was to open “History House” – combining my interests in theatre (a public school teacher was letting me direct little plays for the class) and history (I loved visiting sites and attending re-enactments).
Later, my path took me in many different directions: performance, publishing, writing, singing. I realized that, although I was happy enough with the results, I function best as a "plate spinner" when I have things on the go in each area! So they can all now live under one roof.
Add in my love of collaborating on projects and of producing beautiful work for others, my joy at sharing things I find important and exciting (“vital content & crossover appeal” as the House mandate says), and my pleasure at hosting & MC'ing: Michael Caplan’s House of ShAkE.
The archetypal idea of a "house" has always meant a lot to me: structure, security, warmth, communal spaces, private spaces …
And as a type of business, a publishing/production house captures my ideal: producing works in different media, but firmly grounded in the book and the word.
I also find inspiration in fashion houses, where a unique sensibility carries across different lines & seasonal collections. (Gilles Goyette is affectionately known as The First Supermodel of House of ShAkE, thanks to his profound influence on the company.)
At some point, I came across the word “shake” in the I Ching, an ancient Chinese book of divination, where it refers to a time of thunderous change. And I like its suggestion of dancing – “Shake a tail feather!” I also get a kick out of the distant echo of Shakespeare’s name (the title of one of my own projects).
To me, a "house of shake" suggests the theatre, a building where you’re entertainingly “shaken up”; it evokes the arts in general, which provide a sort of “safe space” for danger; and it even characterizes language itself – our home in perpetual motion.
Something solid made of openings, a structure made of doors – some words that came to me many years ago, and that capture what my “house” aims to be: a stable base encouraging ventures far & wide, a fixed form capable of opening in infinite directions.
The company is dedicated both to individual vision and to what we hold in common/what holds us together. And every project, whatever the medium, finds its own balance. A book on boxing by a dancer, works in different media by a single artist, an educational resource that draws on the techniques of experimental theatre: each marks out a zone where commonly separate worlds can come together, share, communicate, influence each other.
My own work has always been outside the usual contexts: on the edges of the theatre, dance and arts communities; stepping into and out of the music scene to do things in my own way; honing my theoretical writing on culture through an organization including both professionals & laypeople. And I’ve always “mixed it up” – setting a 1960s avant-garde dance on Grade Six students, directing a "surrealistic participatory murder-mystery dinner theatre", debuting my singing for dancers & cowboys during a community arts event I was helping stage manage ...
In this spirit, and to help ensure that every visitor wants to come back when new doors appear & new wings open up, every project must be vital – important ... or just full of life! – and must naturally reach across unnecessary boundaries between potential audiences.
The Audience – our House visitors
In 1934, the German author Hermann Broch wrote about how each person “knows that the other speaks a different language, inhabits a different value-system”. He said that never before “has the world so candidly and openly admitted that … any attempt at mutual understanding and agreement is not even worth the effort“.
House of ShAkE is dedicated to … well, to the opposite of that!
I myself am happiest being “a communicator between all sorts of different worlds”, as Björk once described herself, or in the words of philosopher Mikhail Epstein, “Only existence on a crossroad of different cultures made me happy”.
And I’ve long been inspired by the words of producer Marin Karmitz, founder of the MK2 cinemas: “I wanted a welcoming place, somewhere that showed respect to the cinema goers, where I could share my tastes with them … 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” [Upstreet UK #7].
So our marketing combines a tight focus on those we know will be interested in a particular project (dance readers in the writings of choreographer David Earle, for example) with related target markets (those interested in their own Ecstatic Survival, as David calls it), while a more random, scattershot approach simply gets the word out for anyone to hear (aiming to attract non-theatregoers to our unique theatre productions, for example).
Given the concept of the House, we can never really know where our visitors will come from! And we like that.
The “Architecture” of the House
House of ShAkE can be entered first through this online home, where you'll find House happenings, products, ways to support us & get involved, and most importantly portals to the "Suites" (for creators working on multiple or long-term projects) and "Rooms" (for those with single or short-term projects). This is also where potential clients can access our services: writing, editing, organization, design, layout & production, and eventually HouseParties, our bespoke special events.
Streaming events & podcasts will appear here, in particular through the Porch of ShAkE. House on the Road will eventually tour our shows to various off-site locations, once the option again becomes available.
Eventually, House of ShAkE aims to establish a permanent bricks-and-mortar venue for performances, gatherings, discussions, activities, exhibitions, and book & product sales. A café & even guest rooms figure into the longest-term vision of the company's possible future (for which The Stratford Project may prove decisive). For the time being, my Toronto apartment serves as an occasional, intimate venue.
Now "under construction", the Library of ShAkE is still at the "heart of the House" in a spiritual sense. A curated selection from my own library includes information on & access to material about innovative theatre, dance & performance, other arts, and cultural theory, with a special focus on language in all its dimensions: aesthetic, religious, historical, philosophical... The Library will also feature treasures on loan from others. It is at once a resource for projects, a source of inspiration & ideas, and an homage to the book itself as an essential, evolving cultural form.
For its approach to generating income, House of ShAkE takes its lead from models like the blend of patronage & popularity that sustained Shakespeare's company, or Jim Henson's use of commercial success to support his further creative explorations, or any of the examples of creative independence, pragmatic savvy & unpredictable synthesis that .
That branding is all important: every project must embody quality production, singular vision, crossover appeal, & a shared – if perhaps undefinable – "something" that identifies it as coming from the House.
Each project is created with the idea in mind of directing people back to the House to discover what else is on offer – from books & products to online happenings, and even the chance to become involved.
To avoid reliance on any one source, House of ShAkE draws on multiple streams of income: book & product sales; online events; government, foundation & private sector funding; crowdfunding; ticket sales for live events, and a percentage of venue takings for musical gigs; commissioned publishing & production work for clients; commissioned bespoke special events; courses, workshops, activities, training sessions, and anything else that might develop.
There's more about me here. I am honoured to count the following as members of the Advisory Committee: