On June 20, the Kapow-i GoGo marathon will be back again at the Peoples Improv Theater. Tickets are on sale now for $30 and available for purchase at the door or online here. I had the chance to sit down with some of the cast and creative team to discuss this unique show and how it came together. Leading up to the marathon, I will be sharing those interviews here.
Madeleine Bundy plays Kapow-i GoGo, the show’s ambitious (and adorably awkward) title character. She dreams of becoming the world’s greatest fighter, but when she finally gets what she wants, she might not be ready for the responsibility that comes with it. In our conversation, Madeleine discusses the show’s complex relationships, embracing the feminine and the bad-ass, and why this is a part she would love to play for 1,000 performances.
Tell me about yourself and how you got interested in acting and theater. What was the first show you remember seeing on-stage, and were there any actors or shows that really influenced you creatively?
I’m not sure why it started, because I was actually a very shy, anxiety-driven kid, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to perform or be an artist in some capacity. My mother is a painter, so I think that heavily influenced me. I remember the first thing I wanted to be was a ballerina, but it’s hard and it hurts, so I said no more, please. I adored performers like Julie Andrews, so then I wanted to be a singer, which I suppose I still am. I loved musicals, and I loved old movies. My parents had Rodgers and Hammerstein, Masterpiece Theatre, and Cary Grant movies pumping through the house, so I guess it’s their fault I love it so much. I started singing in choirs and performing in the local high school musicals when I was about 10, and I was kind of hooked, so I left Alaska and went to NYU Tisch for college. So it looks like I’m just going to keep doing it until I’m told I really, really shouldn’t…which I’m expecting any day now….
How did you first get involved with Kapow-i GoGo?
At the Flea Theatre late night #Serials event, I started working with Matt Cox. He wrote a serial that was similar to Kapow-i, except it was a Game of Thrones-inspired world called King of Crowns. Most of the characters in that show were villains, but I was probably the most evil of the villains, a Daenerys/Viserys-inspired brat named Qloe Quardashian. She was the mother of Chickens. Mike Axelrod, who plays my brother Hiccup in Kapow-i, played my brother Yennifer (half-Daenerys, half-Mike Axelrod). I took Serials very seriously, and I wanted King of Crowns to be the best it could be, and I think Matt appreciated that. We also bonded over our love for the nerd material, so we became very good friends. So after King of Crowns was finished, he said he had this idea for a play that would be cartoon and video game-inspired. I’m the luckiest person in the world he wanted me to be Kapow-i and will be forever grateful to him. If anything, these two projects have solidified that Mike, and I need to forever play brother and sister. He is a joy to work with, and there’s not a day I’m with him that I don’t laugh.
For people who haven’t seen the show yet, how would you sum up Kapow-i GoGo?
Kapow-i GoGo is an epic video game play. Kapow-i starts her journey thinking she needs to be the World’s Greatest Fighter and by the end, discovers what it means to be a wife, mother, and sister. As Kapow-i’s world changes, she is forced to grow from Zelda into Cloud into Ripley. Like most of the superhero stories we know and love, she learns what ultimate sacrifice means. But ultimately, Kapow-i GoGo is a story about believing in the people who need to be believed in the most.
The Kapow-i GoGo marathons run over 4 hours long, most of which you spend on-stage, and the show is very action-heavy. First, how do you manage all of this, and what is the most challenging part of the show for you?
Since we started doing marathons, energy has not been an issue for me, and part of the fun is exhausting yourself (or maybe that’s just me). You need to eat a good meal beforehand and drink lots of water. It is certainly like performing a very long laundry-list of tasks, and I get to do a lot of new things that are challenging. Fight choreography, for example, is new for me, but with our choreographer Alex J. Gould’s help, I’ve gotten a loooooot better than when I started. The most important thing is to keep going, keep going, keep going, even if something trips up on stage. And to have fun with the cast, which is easy because they are all incredible. Really, my job is to lay track so they can be amazing around Kapow-I, and that makes me very proud. Kapow-i’s arc is important, but it exists for other arcs to hang off of i.e. Team Trouble (Matt Cox and Karsten Otto), SwiftFist (Keola Simpson), and Tuxedo Gary (Evan Maltby). Also, as someone who loves doing comedy, I love setting up jokes for people. A lot of what I have to do is run around and put up golf tees for people to swing off of, and that’s rewarding when you’re working with people who really know how to swing that club.
Aside from the running time, how has the experience of doing Kapow-i GoGo been different from other shows you’ve done?
It’s the first show I’ve been in that made me go, “OOOH, that’s why someone like Carol Channing would do Hello, Dolly! 1,000 times.” It’s slapstick and silly but also the relationships Kapow-i develops with everyone are actually quite sophisticated, so there’s always new things that I’m learning about her. Her relationship with her trainer for example, Master Masterwhiskies, played by the brilliant Hank Lin, is one of the more subtle relationships in the play, but the more we run the marathon, the more I realize how important he is to Kapow-i. This is a girl who has lost her parents in some form or another, and she desperately seeks guidance whether she knows it or not. Now, the joke set up between them is that he’s a perverted old man who is constantly hitting on her, and his advice is never helpful in the slightest, but this crude setup is to subvert you from the knowledge that his feelings towards her are actually coming from a very genuine, good-hearted place, and he does actually know what she needs to hear when the time is right.
And that’s something I really love about Matt’s characters, is that they are surprising in a way I haven’t really read in many plays. He wants you to think they are one thing, but really, they are another. It’s not just that Matt Cox’s writing is good, he’s really genuinely funny. And he’s not just funny, but he’s got a big heart, and it shows in Kapow-i. The main reason why I loved working on this show and on all Matt Cox projects I’ve been a part of is he’s incredibly generous about collaboration. If you have an idea and it’s good, it gets in that story. So there’s a lot of the cast in Kapow-i, too.
Out of all three parts, which is your personal favorite?
Oooph that’s hard. Part 1 will always be near and dear to me because it’s the origin story, and I get to be really silly. But Episode 9 in Part 3 is where pay-off happens, and that’s very satisfying to perform. Part 1 and 2 has a lot of set up that you don’t know is happening as you are watching it until you reach the end, and then your brain has to go back and go, “OH, that was a funny joke in Part 1, but it also means something else now that I’ve finished the story.”
Were there any particular anime, cartoon, comic book, or other fictional heroines, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that helped shape your performance of Kapow-i?
I didn’t want Kapow-i to be a stereotypical female in a cartoon. But I also didn’t not want her to be feminine. Also, when picking the voice for her, I wanted to leave room for Matt to write a “princess.” So I kinda made Kapow-i into an angsty, adolescent boy, not unlike Peter Parker or Luke Skywalker. Not unlike Goku. Not unlike John Conner. But she’s also definitely Sarah Conner, Zelda, Xena, and Ripley influenced in her bad-assery. I think you should be able to watch Kapow-i and imprint any protagonist that you adored from your childhood onto her. But then she has her own mythology too.
From the first Kapow-i GoGo serials at the Flea to now, how has the character of Kapow-i changed and evolved for you?
She went from being a character at Serials where the joke was she never changes, to being a real girl who does nothing but change. She wanted one thing: to be the best and she never wanted anything else. She didn’t really care about the weirdos running around her. Now, she is a real person on all emotional fronts, and she cares and loves and learns what priorities in life matter most. Because her world changes as she grows up (the video game gets more adult) and her challenges get harder and she’s forced to make more sacrifices, she gets more complicated as a person. Her point of view on the world gets further away from a simple black-and-white point of view and gets closer to real life dilemmas i.e. balancing work with family, dealing with the loss of loved ones, and coming to terms with how that is your fault or having to confront villains, even if they are family. These things really sculpt her into a person who changes. She questions life…I would say…existentially.
What do you like best about the character of Kapow-i GoGo, and is there a scene or moment in the show that you are really proud of?
As tough and as brave and as badass as she gets, she will always be an awkward little geek around women. She is not slick to say the least. It’s always how I felt around crushes, and it’s the most relatable thing about her, I think. It also brings up one of the most important elements of the show, which is that Kapow-i loves women, but Matt Cox so brilliantly never comments on it. It is a world in which you must save the princess (i.e. Eliza Simpson and Tara Pacheco), so why wouldn’t the female lead save the princess too? And it’s so easy to pretend to fall in love with Eliza and Tara. They are actors that show great emotional depth, and they understand how much Princess Cloudberry and Twig matter to Kapow-i in that she lives for them and fights for them. And she needs them.
If you could swap parts with any other cast member for just one performance, who would it be and why?
Oh, boy. Evan Maltby and Andy Miller do so much prop wise and are always changing characters. I’d want to do one of their tracks, if anything to understand how much work they are actually doing. Amy Jo Jackson plays my mother and Empress like figure in the world. I love her command of the stage, and who wouldn’t want to play the most powerful person in the world? Blade Gunblade is also one of best tracks, I think. Asia Kate Dillon is an incredibly awesome assassin, but she gets to be sharp and witty too.
Kapow-i GoGo is heavily based on anime, video games, and Saturday morning cartoons. What were some of your favorite video games and TV shows growing up, and as a kid, did you have a Saturday morning cartoon routine?
Oh yea! I loved everything Marvel! I used to watch Spiderman, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. Also Animaniacs. But really my true love was sci-fi. I loved movies set in space. I loved Star Wars and Star Trek. I definitely have a couple Kirk moments as Kapow-i, i.e. swagger, casualness, and yelling CLOOOOOOOOOWN!
Tell me why people should come see the Kapow-i GoGo marathon at the Peoples Improv Theater on June 20!
It’s moving, it’s nostalgic. You don’t need to know the references to fall in love with it. But if you do know the references, your heart will melt. And it’s really, really, really funny.
Fruit Loops or Cocoa Puffs?
Nerds or Sour Patch Kids?
Sour Patch Kids no. contest.
Airheads or Tootsie Rolls?
You’ve freed the magical Hydra! Do you wish for a robot army or telekinetic powers?
Which would you rather have for a pet, Whiskers the Fighting Cat or a small flock of Moo-bats?
Whiskers, all the way.
“F— Marry Kill”: Princess Cloudberry, Twig, Blade Gunblade
This is gonna be an awkward conversation with the Princess…Alright, if I have to answer, I will. I’m already married to Princess Cloudberry, I would make love honorably to Twig, and I would fight Blade Gunblade (honorably) to the death.