Interview with Barron Scott Levkoff

You’ve been an entertainer for over 20 years. How did you get started?
I must thank Helen Oretski, my Santa Cruz High School Drama teacher for encouraging me to pursue theater in 9th grade. As a very shy, role-playing gamer geek- i was interested in the stage but terrified of being in the limelight. I went on to direct Childrens’ plays into my college years, but quickly found the traditional UCSCTheater Dept not to my liking. It wasn’t until hitting the Blackpoint Renaissance Fair did i discover my real love of puppetry and costume character work. Directly after my first Faire in 1990, after working a Punch and Judy show with Brian Patterson and playing a Jester in the streets of Blackpoint. I went on to build my own puppet theater, puppet cast and costumes.

and worked Union Square as a busker, I was immediately discovered by a few entertainment agencies and have performed as a costumed entertainer and puppeteer for corporate events ever since. In my early years I also traveled to Europe quite frequently and immersed myself in Festivals, street fairs and as much European performance that I could.

What are some highlights in your career that spring to mind?
Hmmm…so many wonderful memories spring to mind! There was a young girl around 4-5 years old that came to my first day of puppet shows when I was working down at the Southern California Ren Faire. She and Mr. Punch (the star of the Punch & Judy puppet show i was performing) really hit off that first day and she insisted that her parents bring her to the following 3 shows that same day. She also returned the next day, her parents saying that she couldn’t sleep that night she was so excited and obsessed with the show. They actually brought her back for the entire run of the Faire and she became a real part of the show- having memorized every line, variation and nuance of the show.

The next year I returned to do my show again and was excited to run into her Father and asked after her. The Mother saw me and hurried off in the other direction, visibly upset. I knew something was up and the Dad asked if we could sit down somewhere. He went on to tell me that she was born with a chronic condition and had passed on some months back. He went on to tell me that she had them perform puppet shows for her everyday and that the time she spent with me and Punch was the happiest of her life. I sat in shocked silence, choking back tears, just nodding and sharing that moment with her Father, before he stood up and walked off. After that day I realized the responsibility and power entertainers held to touch other peoples lives.

I also had the honor of performing for Robin Williams kids about 20 years ago and not only got to spend a half hour talking about street performing and such with him but was able to thank him for his influence on my improv character acting career- to which his response was, ‘ooops, sorry about that!’

Oh! There was one gig where i got hired to play a panhandling ‘Haight St Hippie’ for a high-end corporate event. A homeless guy saw me panhandling the rich tech folks waiting inline to enter the event and decided to join me. It then took some real effort to convince the venue’s security that I was a ‘paid hippy’ but the other guy was the real thing. Awkwardly hilarious and surreal.

You’ve been producing shows for a long time as well. Your work has a unique feel to it. What makes your shows stand out?
Since my days as an avid role-playing gamer back in the 80’s (Call of Cthulhu!) , I’ve been obsessed with creating worlds where EVERYONE is a ‘player in the play,’ so to speak. I love creating worlds for people to experience, explore and perhaps inhabit a persona that’s been waiting to come out and play. My latest project, MYSTIC MIDWAY, is dedicated to exploring their ‘Mythic, Whimsical and Heroic aspects’ through simple role play.

When producing and directing shows, I also love working with folks in a way that brings out their talents and unique qualities through an ‘improvisational’ style of directing.

Working and performing for over 20 years as a professional Jester and Fool have given me a unique perspective on life as well, so I now do my best to celebrate life as a THEATER OF THE MARVELOUS, doing my best to make sure everyone knows they are invited to THE PLAY.

Why San Francisco instead of somewhere like NYC or LA? What is unique about being an artist in this city?
Beyond loving the uniquely European and artistic aspects of the town, I cannot truly explain my weird affinity with this place! San Francisco is and has been home to Pioneers, Seekers, Social Innovators, Freedom-fighters, Poet Artists, Dandys, Visionaries, Magical Weirdos and Culture Builders- in short, my people. As an event producer and experience designer with a taste for ‘magical, obscure, bizarre, shamanic, mystical and fantastic’ themes, I’m also not sure what other city in the U.S. other than NOLA I would be welcome in.

How did the idea for Spookeasy come about?
I guess I’ve loved spooky things my whole life. When the chance to produce something at THE GREAT STAR appeared a few weeks ago, my immediate thought was- ‘what about bringing Mr.Nobody to a larger stage?’

I had produced ‘Mr.NOBODY’s VOODOO SWAMP SHACK’ as a renegade show in the back of a box truck last year with a small group of folks. The show consisted of bringing in around 10 folks at a time to sit in the middle of a truck converted into a spooky swamp environment. Blacklight skeleton puppets and a live swamp-noir soundtrack supported an experience where guests ‘fed their fears’ to Mr.Nobody- a ‘larger-than-death’ singing and dancing skeleton Voodoo Man.

The Great Star Theater, an old vaudeville house, has provided a rich source of inspiration for the collaborative efforts of my colleagues Sean Owens and Jasper Patterson. Its been wonderful to build our show’s story around so many rich elements that we all love-Vaudeville, Burlesque, ‘Toontown’ & old cartoons,haunted houses, scary Saturday morning cartoons, early Jazz, spooky noir aesthetics, haunted theaters, prohibition-era themes and so on.

Word is there will be a secret speakeasy inside the theatre. Can you give us any hints about that?
I’m not at the liberty to confirm or deny such a place. (But I have heard rumours that intrepid Ghost Hunters in years past were able to extract secrets from the poor souls haunting The Great Star Theater…)

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