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Musical co-written by North Fork native to open in NYC next month

03/26/2017 6:00 AM |

A day in the life of North Fork native Christopher Scheer sometimes entails playing with puppets. Other days, he dresses up like a clown.

As silly as that might sound, Mr. Scheer, 32, has come a long way since his days performing in productions at North Fork Community Theatre and Mattituck High School. He now lives in Brooklyn, where he manages his own theater company and is preparing for opening day of “Gruff!,” a musical he co-wrote that debuts next month at the Peoples Improv Theater in Manhattan.

“Gruff!” uses puppets to help explain climate change. Mr. Scheer said the interactive and family-friendly musical is part of a trilogy modeled from the classic Norwegian fairy tale “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

“I think [audiences] can expect to laugh, expect to be surprised,” he said. “I think they can also expect to be moved.”

Mr. Scheer founded his theater company, Doppelskope, in 2010. Besides “Gruff!,” he and creative partners Ora Fruchter and Toby Singer have produced “Grim!” and “Growl!” Each tackles different societal issues in comedic and colorful ways, Mr. Scheer said. He describes them as “the ‘Sesame Street’ sweet spot,” meaning they’re appropriate for all ages.

After teaming up with Ms. Fruchter seven years ago, Mr. Scheer toured the country doing underground adult comedy shows until he was approached by Charles Richter, who mentored him during his days at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. At that point, Mr. Richter asked if Mr. Scheer and his team would write a musical suitable for all audiences.

“Gruff!,” “Grim!” and “Growl!” debuted in Pennsylvania in 2014 Now, the group is taking on New York City.

“We have high hopes,” Mr. Scheer said. “It’s got a genuinely thrilling, dramatic story and it also has very absurd comedy.”

After graduating from Mattituck High School in 2003, Mr. Sheer studied theater at Muhlenberg College, concentrating in performance. He later secured internships and apprenticeships at theaters around the country, including Peterborough Players in New Hampshire and Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky. He initially planned to move to Chicago to further pursue his career, but was drawn to the Manhattan acting scene after participating in various circus projects.

“I never pursued becoming a clown, but was always drawn to comedy and comedic material and specifically physical comedy,” he said. “It all happened by accident.”

In addition to running Doppelskope, Mr. Scheer is the resident clown at three New York City hospitals, where he entertains pediatric patients. He has also acted and performed as a children’s magician and aerialist.

Mr. Sheer’s mother, Marilee, said he has always enjoyed entertaining despite being shy as a child. She said her son came out of his shell when he was given opportunities to perform, such as show-and-tell in school and North Fork Community Theatre productions.

“He enjoyed being around it a lot,” Ms. Scheer said, adding that she has fond memories of watching her son and other local children hone their talent and confidence on stage. “Doing what he’s doing now is really brave because you really have to put yourself out there. I’m very proud and very excited for him because it’s taken a lot of dedication.”

Retired Mattituck High School teacher Tom Brennan, who once organized musicals at the school, is also proud of Mr. Scheer’s accomplishments.

“He was willing to try anything,” Mr. Brennan recalled. “He had a lot of courage. He was talented. You could tell his love for it was deep.”

Mr. Scheer is hopeful “Gruff!” receives a similarly positive reaction in April and that performance dates can be extended. It’s been gratifying to watch the musical’s concept come to fruition, he said.

“It’s amazing seeing that something that I thought was only in my mind can actually live on a stage and be understood and taken in by others,” he said. “Comedy is more that just a distraction. It can be a powerful tool that lets you process things and lets you go into dark territory that you couldn’t go into otherwise if you were taking it seriously.”

Photo caption: Chris Scheer with one of the puppets used in the musical ‘Gruff!,’ a production he co-wrote and performs in. The show will debut in New York in April. (Credit: courtesy photo)

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