If Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas seem peripatetic, it’s because they are.
The husband-and-wife team appeared together recently at Imagination Stage. They perform regularly with Happenstance, a theater using movement, silence, theatrical clowning, physical comedy and more that was founded by co-artistic directors Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell in 2006.
So far, Vernon and Olmsted Thomas have done nine shows with the Rockville-based Happenstance, since joining as official company members in 2012. They’re also resident artists at Baltimore Theatre Project.
Now the couple is bringing their talents to Unexpected Stage Company in mime and puppeteering, that is. The show they’ll be presenting, entitled “Milo the Magnificent,” is wordless.
The lack of spoken dialogue comes in handy when Vernon and Olmsted Thomas, who perform under the name “Alex and Olmsted,” take the show around the world. They have presented puppet shows in South Korea and in 2019, they will bring “Milo” to Denmark.
Locally, “Milo the Magnificent” has woven his magic in Baltimore; the performances at Unexpected Stage mark the Montgomery County premiere.
The show’s protagonist is a would-be magician who tries lot of magic tricks that “don’t always go as planned,” said Olmsted Thomas. He also happens to be a puppet.
Milo’s nervousness probably doesn’t help, since according to the script Alex and Olmsted wrote, he’s performing the tricks before a live audience for the first time.
Puppetry is an art Alex and Olmsted have been “especially drawn to”; they have been making puppets since 2010. The teacher in one of the puppetry master classes they attended predicted they soon would be doing their own show, and touring with it.
That’s what’s happened with “Milo.”
“I saw Alex and Sarah work on puppetry when this show was in its initial development,” said Rachel Stroud-Goodrich, co-artistic director of Unexpected Stage Company” And I’ve attended a performance of one of their shows. Everything they do is excellent.”
“Milo’ is a family-oriented show that’s also a lot of fun for adults,” said Olmsted Thomas. “We do bill it as being for all ages. The narrative will make parents chuckle and kids laugh, so it’s a broad spectrum.”
The two actors received a 2017 Jim Hensen Foundation Workshop Grant – named for the master artist-puppeteer who invented The Muppets – and a 2017 Greenbelt Community Foundation Grant in support of “Milo.”
“It’s a little show that has really taken off,” said Olmsted Thomas.
The husband-and-wife team are performing in the global 21st century, but object manipulation and puppets have been around “since the beginning of time,” she pointed out.
The two performers divide the labor for the show.
“Alex is Milo the whole time, and his marionette, at one point,””Olmsted Thomas said. “I’m his world – the environment and other characters. It’s like a dance – highly choreographed.”
They also have created another full-length puppetry show and a few shorter ones; these shows get the most bookings among their theatrical offerings, she pointed out.
“Milo the Magnificent” is 45 minutes long, with no intermission.
“We find that even little ones enjoy the show and are quite attentive to it,” said Olmsted Thomas. “Of course, there’s a learning curve.”
Beyond their innate talents, juggling multiple roles and tasks is a skill Alex and Olmsted honed wherever they performed, but maybe especially at Happenstance.
“It’s a little like repertory,” she said.”
There will be two shows of “Milo the Magnificent,” on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 10:30 a.m., and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m., They take place in the Fireside Room of River Road Unitarian Building, in Bethesda.