Welcome to Simpatico Theatre Project’s blog-roll, What’s in the Wings, your window into “one of the best indie theatres in town!” You’ll find a variety of posts on this page from directors, designers, actors and special guests, giving you a sneak peek into our company, our current production, and our electrifying 11th Season in Philadelphia. Thanks so much for tuning in and for staying Simpatico!
ALI – How would you describe the movement style of the piece?
PETER – Collaborative. 100 % collaborative. Brenna was thoughtful in bringing together a movement coach (myself) and fight combatant (Arlen Shane Hancock) from Theatrical Trainer and K.O. DelMarcelle as a choreographer as well; between us we were able to draw on classical dance, French Apache dance movement, Graham contraction work and inspiration from Amanda herself. The style is unique in its combination of movement sources and Amanda herself, she’s really a powerhouse. She brought so much to the table, we only had to craft already finely crafted clay. She’s able to take on movement with such ease it was fun for us to engage with her body. The movement is essentially our own, a hybrid, if you will of many minds.
ALI – What inspiration did you draw from silent films? Had you seen many (or any) before?
PETER – I actually watched a couple of silent films right before the “talkies” had emerged. I always find them fascinating in which the gestures are so large and direct, it translates well for inspirational work on-stage. However, I only kept them in the periphery of my mind because the piece was so unique in the ways in which Theatrical Trainer was brought on to help that I didn’t want them to color my process too much. Our portion of the process was for Arlen (Theatrical Trainer Fight Combat Instructor) and myself to come in and collaborate on movement for the final moments of the piece, which was actually more or less inspired by the French dance known as La Danse Apache, or “the tough dance”. It combines street gang movement of the early 1900’s with dance and fight choreography.
ALI – This is an immensely physical piece, how did you help Mandy prepare for the physical demands of performing THE IT GIRL?
PETER – Yes, at the heart of Theatrical Trainer, our goal is always to remember the ‘actor as athlete’ and an athlete Amanda was! We first met with the actors and gave them a specific regimen that would break down the kinesiology and conditioning needed for the specifics of what we were creating. I looked largely at what muscle groups and tendons Amanda would be using for the dance and from there began to craft specific exercises and stretches that she could easily incorporate into her daily life over the course of the run. Every role and dance is different, so it’s important for actors to condition specifically those muscle groups which will be stressed or compromised over time in the creative process. In addition, we talked about injury prevention and ways in which actors are always safe and that their longevity of their careers comes first, meaning that we always take the actor’s body into consideration first and foremost above anything else.
ALI – How does movement tell a story differently than dialogue?
PETER – I’m not so sure that they do, I think movement is a dialogue in and of itself, it speaks when words no longer do the world of the play (musical) justice. I equivocate movement very much to when characters suddenly sing in a musical, in that world, in that moment, nothing else will do. I think we need a combination of these things, verbiage, movement, song to express the full range of the human condition. Movement is our body’s way of telling its story, through shape, gesture, contraction and breathe. I think it gives voice to the world in which we are emerged in just a different way then verbal dialogue does.
ALI – Why is it important to tell Clara Bow’s story?
PETER – Women are not dispensable; actors are not dispensable; people are not dispensable. That is why this story is so important. Society has always found a way to objectify and utilize its “stars” until there is nothing left and then we move on. The large question is why? The larger question for me is what happens after we have consumed their talents? What is life of the “It Girl” like after? I think Amanda’s brave for telling this story, and answering those questions. They are burning coals in our hands and need to be answered.
ALI – What excites you and/or what challenges did you encounter when working on this piece?
PETER – The unknown. Brenna is very giving in her process and we went into this piece with inspiration but not concrete choreography, which is different than my normal process. That was so exciting and thrilling and at the same time, scary because we would think in the moment and create on the spot largely informed by our research and combining that with what Amanda was giving us physically; it truly was one of the most collaborative experiences I’ve yet to have in my career. No one person was responsible for the movement, it part of a hive-mind. The challenge is always in letting go and trusting the work for me, and trusting that the audience will go on this journey with you.
ALI – What do you hope the audience will take away from watching the movement in THE IT GIRL?
PETER – I think they will come away with the burning question we all have- why do we consume people’s creativity and then leave the well dry? Why do we move on and why don’t we take into consideration their humanity; art is for public consumption, yes, but at what price? I hope the audience walks away asking those burning questions of themselves. I hope we all walk away valuing the hard work of so many talented and strong women on stage and that our hunger for more work from them comes out of a really considerate place, a safe place, a place where an “It Girl” can show her humanity and creativity without compromise.