Frank Garvey is a radical all-around artist who dipped his fingers in painting, sculpting, songwriting, and theater. He is best known as the creator and director of the OmniCircus in San Francisco, the world's first robotic theater ensemble. Marxist philosophy, surreal dreamlike imagery, and a sweet-and-sour taste for the unfit (junk metal, the physically impaired, the socially marginal) have been fueling his creations since the 1980s. Garvey writes musical dramas that call for robotic and human actors, dancers, and singers. He leads the ensemble DeusMachina, also attached to the OmniCircus. His drama House of the Deafman was released in 2001 by Innova.
Garvey didn't study music. He grew up in Urbana, IL. His mother was a classical pianist, his father John Garvey a close collaborator of Harry Partch (he directed the premiere of The Bewitched). Partch's music (and his love of homemade instruments) had a strong influence on Garvey who later said he would do for metal what Partch did for wood. His formal training is in video (at the Art Institute of Chicago), computer animation, and applied sciences. Relocating to San Francisco in the '80s he slowly developed his artistic ideas and ideals. After a painting phase, he began to build lo-fi robots and founded the OmniCircus in 1988, staging small-scale shows at first. He managed to build a small following and an exaggerated reputation as a mad scientist (he liked to take his creations for a walk). In 1995, he met engineers Aaron Edsinger, Jeff Weber, and Carl Pisaturo. They helped build what is known as the OmniCircus Robotic Red Light District, a collection of perverted, twisted robots, surreal personifications of Mankind's deepest sins and fears. Some media attention of a controversial nature brought his work to a wider audience. The production House of the Deafman, backed by a cocktail of post-industrial rock and world music, garnered excellent reviews. In 1999 Garvey moved to Pittsburgh where he founded the Center for Robotic and Synthetic Performance (CRSP) at the Carnegie Mellon University where he now teaches.