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Monday August 14 at 7:30 pm
Blackfriars Playhouse | $16-$22

Program Notes

Happenstance Theater Presents

Devised and written by the Ensemble

Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Gwen Grastorf,
Sarah Olmsted Thomas, Alex Vernon & Caleb Jaster

Design and wigs by Sabrina Mandell
Costume construction by Nancy Mendez


The “Baroque” period was a dramatic, highly ornate and elaborate European style which flourished from the early 17th to mid-18th century. It then evolved into the even more extravagant “Rococo.” Our title is a portmanteau of these words. The end of this period saw the privilege enjoyed by the French Aristocracy, the 1% of their time, implode with Revolution. In BAROCOCO we portray oblivious entitlement, elegance and excess on the brink of extinction. We embraced tackling the complex and ornate style of the late Baroque within the restrictions of a show that would be easy to tour: quick load-in and load-out, simple set and tech. These limitations allowed us to focus on essentialized gesture, period pastimes, manners and style, and the comic potential of all that structure as it crumbles. We hope you will find it resonant. Voting is a democratic alternative to the guillotine.

Mark Jaster & Sabrina Mandell


L’Aly Rupalich
by CPE Bach (1714-1788)

Sarabande from Suite in D Minor
by G.F. Handel (1650-1785)

Menuet 2me from Suite in G Minor
by JP. Rameau (1683-1764)

The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon
by G.F. Handel

Largo from Winter in The Four Seasons
by A. Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Sonata in D minor by D. Scarlatti (1685-1757)
And other musical selections of the period.

The Dancing Master (1725) by Pierre Rameau
Art of Dancing (1782) by Soame Jenyns

Last Letters: Prisons and Prisoners of the French Revolution (1987) by Olivier Blanc
Paintings of Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Music for the original production chosen, composed and arranged by Karen Hansen.


Gwen Grastorf (Baroness Constance Blandford Plainview) has collaborated with Happenstance Theater since 2007, and has been a company member since 2012. She is also the Social Media Maven for Happenstance, and is an actor and performer in the DC metro area.

Caleb Jaster (Luccio Patatino Von Dusselkopf) is a Brooklyn-based pianist and harpsichordist. A recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, this is his first Happenstance Production. Frequent collaborations include: Heartbeat Opera, Cantata Profana, The Staunton Music Festival, and The New Hampshire Independent School of Music.

Mark Jaster (Astorio Cavalieri) Artistic Co-Director of Happenstance Theater, trained with 20th-century masters of mime Etienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau. He has appeared in all Happenstance productions receiving a Helen Hayes Award for his performance in IMPOSSIBLE! A Happenstance Circus. He’s also performed at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, Round House Theatre and Olney Theatre.

Sabrina Mandell (Countess Olympia Stroganovskaya) is the Artistic Co-Director and Visionary Tornado of Happenstance Theater. She is a visual and performing artist, peddler of whimsy, clown and poet who loves Art History, collecting images and stirring up sediment. She has won two Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Costume Design.

Sarah Olmsted Thomas (Dauphine Marionette) a Happenstance company member since 2012, has trained with the Pig Iron Theatre Company in Philadelphia and Le Samovar, École de Clowns, in Paris. She is one half of the puppetry duo Alex & Olmsted which was awarded a 2017 Jim Henson Foundation Workshop Grant.

Alex Vernon (Duc Leslie Pamplemousse de Citron-Pressé) is an actor and puppeteer who has been a Happenstance company member since 2012. He is the other half of the puppetry duo Alex & Olmsted. When not performing, he enjoys repairing automata and studying mechanical movement.

HAPPENSTANCE THEATER is a professional company committed to devising, producing and touring original, performer-created visual, poetic Theatre. Our ensemble is made up of multi-talented performers who craft all aspects of our work from concept to realization. Under the Artistic Co-Direction of Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell we harvest imagery from the past and re-contextualize it in works that address eternal themes of life and death. With the simplest means - humor, music, silence, text and beauty - we seek to elevate the moment when the performers and audience meet, to lift the encounter beyond the daily and pedestrian into the realms of dreams, poetry, and art. Meaning is often discovered by happenstance.
Twitter: @hstancetheater
Facebook: HappenstanceTheater
Instagram: HappenstanceTheater

SPECIAL THANK YOU to the SHARE FUND, the MORGAN FUND, the NORA ROBERTS FOUNDATION, the Maryland State Arts Council, to all those who have donated to Happenstance Theater through Fractured Atlas, Staunton Music Festival, Nancy Rodriguez, Nancy Mendez, Mike Platt, April & Jerry Blum, Sharon Crissinger, Leslie Swan Photography, Amy Taylor, Alex Colwell, Karen Hansen, Marianne Ross.

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