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Justine Joli as Caesonia and Ryan Knowles as Caligula with the cast of CALIGULA MAXIMUS at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 E. 4th St.  in New York.  Photo Credit:  © 2010 Lia Chang

Justine Joli as Caesonia and Ryan Knowles as Caligula with the cast of CALIGULA MAXIMUS at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 E. 4th St. in New York. Photo Credit: © 2010 Lia Chang


Stephen Pevner joins producers Hammerstein Weiner LLC, Christopher McElroen, Alfred Preisser, and Kingsize USA, as lead producer of CALIGULA MAXIMUS, currently playing at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre through April 17th. The outrageous theatrical extravaganza, combining elements of a circus, a play with music, and a nightclub installation, co-written by Alfred Preisser (ARCHBISHOP SUPREME TARTUFFE) and Randy Weiner (THE DONKEY SHOW) and directed by Preisser, is set on the last night of the notorious emperor’s life.

As both a literary agent and a theater and film producer, Pevner has helped launch the careers of some of the strongest voices and indie hits of the past 20 years including Richard Linklater’s SLACKER and DAZED AND CONFUSED, Gregg Araki’s THE LIVING END, Todd Solondz’ WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, Even Ensler’s THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, Neil LaBute’s IN THE COMPANY OF MEN and BASH, Mindy Kaling and Brenda Wither’s MATT & BEN and Beau Willimon’s FARRAGUT NORTH. Pevner is also the impresario behind, THE SAINT AT LARGE, New York’s longest running and most celebrated underground dance events including the world renowned THE BLACK PARTY. Celebrating its 30th season, the traveling nightclub has worked with and broken some of the biggest DJ’s and dance music artists from Grace Jones and Slylvester to Jennifer Hudson. The company is now on tour with SCHWARZWALD – the movie you can dance to, a groundbreaking film combining multi-screen projection, live performance and a continuous dance track that has screened in nightclubs and film festivals in over a dozen countries.

Co-producer and co-writer Randy Weiner says, “We are very excited to have one of the entertainment industry’s most forward thinking producers join us on this project. We are planning our next production of CALIGULA MAXIMUS with Stephen Pevner at the helm this Fall at a venue to be announced.”

“It’s been my passion to find out-of-the-box projects like CALIGULA MAXIMUS that combine clever storytelling devices and immersive environments with the potential for a transcendent theatrical experience,” states Pevner. As a huge fan of Randy’s unique talent and sensibility for over 20 years, I’m so grateful to be working with such a strong creative team developing this thrilling new theater/ nightclub event.

Ryan Knowles stars as Caligula, adult film star and Penthouse Pet Justine Joli as his wife Caesonia, Lady Circus troupe aerialist Anya Sapozhnikova as his sister Drusilla, Luqman Brown as Sulla, the peanut vendor and JerZ Short as circus master Helicon. The show features award-winning competitive bodybuilders Myra Adams and Roxanne Edwards, Coney Island Sideshow tattooed muscleman Tim DAX and an outrageous collection of over two-dozen circus performers, wrestlers, showgirls and freaks.

Check out what the critics are saying about CALIGULA MAXIMUS.

…a rock musical to make “Hair” pale by comparison, replete with nudity, sex, every form of perversion and violence …a probing, provocative and profound piece of theater.

This cast is the hardest-working ensemble of diverse talents with vastly varied backgrounds that could be assembled. Each plays many parts and the energy level could light up Manhattan. In addition to well-trained experienced actors, singers and dancers, there are actual circus performers, strippers, muscle men and body builders. Heading it all is the utterly astonishing Ryan Knowles, as beautiful a young man as the historical Caligula, an actor of range, sensitivity, colossal endurance, and a solid singer.

If you’re serious about the theater (world, street, experimental, theater in all its forms), politics, history, philosophy and/or theology, you’ll go to the Ellen Stewart Theatre (La MaMa) and witness “Caligula Maximus.” It’s run has been extended to April 17.
Beatrice Williams-Rude, BROADWAYAFTERDARK.COM

“Equal parts circus, rock musical, burlesque show and alt-theater extravaganza, ‘Caligula Maximus’ packs a lot into 70 memorable minutes that are heavy on energy and light on clothing. Porn star Justine Joli is topless for the duration, while toned Hula Hoop ace Tricia Storie does her thing completely in the buff. You just may find yourself fantasizing what they look like with their clothes on.” –Jeremy Gerard, BLOOMBERG.COM

Before it even began performances, Alfred Preisser and Randy Weiner’s Caligula Maximus at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre was extended by one week due to the buzz generated by the parties involved—the former a co-founder of the Classical Theater of Harlem, the latter the owner of infamous LES club The Box… people who wouldn’t normally go to see experimental theater—especially not experimental theater based on an ancient Roman political tragedy—will go see experimental theater that features pornstar Justine Joli, a scantily clad aerialist, a showgirl-like ensemble of dancers and singers, and a giant, golden, penis-shaped canon that shoots confetti all over the stage. Benjamin Sutton, THE L MAGAZINE

Exuberantly aberrant… 30 actors, dancers, circus performers, professional bodybuilders, and porn stars proceed to sing, dance, wrestle, murder, and float gracefully through the air in “Caligula Maximus,” the circus/musical/extravaganza at La MaMa.

If you like your theater to argue like a grad-school paper, have a pathological dread of being pulled on stage, or look at naked actors and wonder if they ever eat, you will not appreciate this production. But if you like your theater gamy and a bit rough around the edges, “Caligula Maximus” will thoroughly satisfy your desires.
Clifford Lee Johnson III, BACKSTAGE.COM

Caligula Maximus is blessed with some terrific performances, perfectly capable of working within a place where spectacle meets message…after spending time with their wonderfully crafted, outlandish characters, chances are you’ll agree that it truly is better to “laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”…

As the title character, Ryan Knowles is perfect…a Jagger-Hedwig hybrid. At times we’re enthralled and at other times disgusted, but always interested. Never before have I seen such a mix of people at one performance (an audience that actually looks like our city), all engaging one another with the sense of excitement and anticipation normally reserved for live concerts. It is, for me, more than a refreshing change from the “oh so serious” world of New York theatre…
Matt Roberson, NYTHEATRE.COM

“Caligula Maximus” is one big, punk rock smackdown answer to sissy hippie “Hair.” Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Coney Island Sideshow is how best to describe writer/director Alfred Preisser and writer Randy Weiner’s “Caligula Maximus,” a loveably scruffy and ragged extravaganza set on the last night of the debauched dictator’s life…
Lauren Wissot, THEATERONLINE.COM

Playing the titular, self-created deity Caligula with a cheeky, pervy, party-boy hauteur not unlike Cabaret’s furtive emcee, the brave, highly attention-catching Ryan Knowles lords over a most unruly evening…This is down-and-dirty downtown theater of the crudest kind, which is highly commendable in this era of prefab junk-food theater.
Jason Clark, SLANTMAGAZINE.COM

Caligula Maximus, Alfred Preisser and Randy Weiner’s raunchy circus extravaganza about the infamous Roman emperor…Caligula (Ryan Knowles), enters riding a giant golden phallus and takes control of the stage.
Dan Bacalzo, THEATERMANIA

Peppy and perverse celebration…The flippant fun of the clever text is matched with energetic efforts from the winning and exceedingly attractive cast. Caligula Maximus boils its message down to the lustful, self-serving basics: “You can’t fight a war while you’re having an orgasm!”
Michael Dale, BROADWAYWORLD.COM

A dirty-minded extravaganza
VILLAGE VOICE

Rounding out the cast in multiple roles are Alexandra Bernard, Greg Bornstein, Angela Buccinni, Claire Buckingham, Alicia Giangrisostomi, Jeff Goldfisher, Raheem Green, Sarah Hassan, Naima Yetunde Ince, Bill Johnson, David King, Jessica Krueger, Andrews Landsman, Elinor Lerner, Channing McKindra, Alexandra Petrova, Charletta Rozell, Alicia St. Louis, Tricia Storie, Aaron Strand, Miriam Tabb, Jenny Weinbloom and Elian Zach.

CALIGULA MAXIMUS has sets and rigging by Evan Collier, costumes by Laura Clarke, lighting by Christopher McElroen, musical direction and lead guitar by Joe Shavel, musicians Kareem Clarke (bass), Jeremy O’Brien (drum/mayhem), Brendan Scharen (rhythm guitar), Joel Siegel (drums/conga), whip consulting by Chris McDaniel, stage management by Mike Yrigoyen, and press by Lia Chang.

Presented by La MaMa, e.t.c., CALIGULA MAXIMUS is a project with Hammerstein & Weiner, LLC, Christopher McElroen, Alfred Preisser and Kingsize, USA.

Performances for CALIGULA MAXIMUS, at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 E. 4th St., are on Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 8pm and 10pm, through April 17th. Tickets are $30, $25 for students and seniors and can be purchased online at http://www.lamama.org or by calling the box office at 212.475.7710. Tickets must be picked up at the box office which is located at 74A E. 4th St. For more information, visit www.caligulamaximus.com.

Click here for the CALIGULA MAXIMUS Articles Archive.

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