When did you attend the Accademia?
Fall 2009-Fall 2011
What did you study there?
I was a student in the inaugural cohort of the Physical Theatre MFA.
What University were you coming from?
I did my undergraduate studies in musical theatre, dance, and music at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC.
What was your favorite thing about the program?
Here are a few general favorites: Studying in Italy for 2 years with working professionals in the various disciplines we studied who know their craft inside and out. Meeting amazing people and forming lifelong friendships and professional relationships with my classmates.
Can you share a favorite memory or story from your time in Italy outside the classroom?
There a so many to choose from, it’s difficult to say which is my favorite. The one that sticks out right now was spending the evening with Dory in the emergency room in Torino during our circus module. She had hurt her ankle while warming up to work out over the weekend and I went with her to the hospital. We sat in the waiting room for a really long time, which we passed by chatting and singing our made up song of “Making Memories.” After they finally took her back to get checked out, we journeyed from room to room through the unlit hospital corridors completely unescorted by the hospital staff. As it turned out, Dory fractured her ankle, and once they released her, they sent her out of the hospital without crutches or any other kind of walking assistance.
Do you have any “must sees” while in Arezzo?
I love the park on the top of the hill next to the Duomo. I love the gelateria just past the Guido Monaco statue on the way to Piazza San Francesco, Sunflower (I think); they had this amazing mandorle (almond) flavor! Saturday market – the cheese and produce stands, the porchetta panino. The Aurora. The Amphitheatre.
What were some of the biggest “take aways” from your time at the Accademia?
A) In a feedback session with Andy Crook after our initial workshopping process of The Judgment of Don Quixote, Andy said to me, “Don’t do others’ jobs and make them work up to your level.” He basically encouraged me challenge others to work up to my level of discipline instead of dumbing myself down or overworking to compensate for others’ laziness. I keep his advice close to my heart and use it to fuel not only the level of my work, but the work of my students and peers.
B) The energy, discipline, and joy that Bryan Burroughs brings to his craft, and how he always challenged us to work our imaginations as strongly as our bodies. Also, you will never know exactly what all you are capable of doing until you push yourself past your limits, which are MUCH further than you think.
C) Burkhart Seidemann’s cultivation of creativity and discipline during our development process of the Faust piece. He was able to direct and shape such a clean piece while pulling so much out of each of us with a calm and cheery demeanor.
D) Simply, the challenge of “Get curious” by Torbjörn Alström in our Voice and Mask workshop.
Do you stay in touch with anyone from your class?
I think most of us drop each other a line here and there via text or on Facebook, but I probably stay in touch the most with Dory, Bob, and Katie.
What have you been up to since the Accademia?
After finishing the MFA program, I came back to the States and started teaching ballroom dance and competing professionally for a Fred Astaire studio in Greensboro, NC. With about 2 years of teaching and competing under my belt, I had an opportunity to fill an open position of one of my mentors at Catawba teaching musical theatre and dance, which has been my main gig since Fall 2013. Some performance projects I’ve been involved with include choreographing musicals and directing/choreographing dance concerts at Catawba and going on tour to Germany in a physical theatre adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V with a company called Creatively Independent. I’ve also taught a few physical theatre/Commedia workshops at Catawba, Berry College (Rome, GA), and San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (San Diego, CA). This coming summer I will be teaching a musical dance class at the Ballet Pensacola Summer Intensive in Pensacola, FL.
Can you tell us about your production of Comedy of Errors? What is your role? What was the inspiration to use Commedia dell’Arte?
Our production took a lot of inspiration from the historical evolution of Commedia dell’Arte. The audience sees the story of an itinerant Commedia troupe who is running “late” for their show. Upon arrival, the troupe scrambles to set up, performs The Comedy of Errors, and then packs up their cart to head out for the next engagement. In true Commedia fashion, there is a great deal of audience participation. We have a troupe of 13 playing our adaptation’s 16 Shakespearian characters so each cast member is playing 2-3 roles between their troupe and Shakespeare characters.
My role on the production is the Commedia movement/lazzi director. I focus mainly on mask technique and authenticity of the Commedia masks. I devised the major lazzi in the pre-show and the finale and choreographed 2 minor dance pieces, working a little tarantella influence into the mix. I also served as the guide in ensuring the masks we made were as true to Commedia as possible.
Last year during the season selection process, the faculty knew it was time to include a Shakespeare piece in our 2014-15 season and we also wanted to make use of my physical theatre background if at all possible. Our inspiration for a Commedia dell’Arte approach to The Comedy of Errors stemmed from addressing 2 main pedagogical points: Historically, The Comedy of Errors was written around the same time as the form of Commedia was growing in popularity and spreading throughout Europe. Stylistically, there are many similarities between The Comedy of Errors and Commedia in the character types, structure, and opportunity for lazzi. So we decided to “kill 2 birds with one stone” in creating a hybrid of the 2 in our production, which has worked out really nicely.
What difficulties and triumphs have you encountered in your work? When and where can people see it?
Difficulties – I am fortunate enough to have so many passions and interests that I find it challenging to do everything I want simultaneously. I love teaching, choreographing, directing, and performing, yet I can only focus on a few of those at a time. This focus helps me prioritize which creative projects I take on at any given time as I am constantly keeping my skills in rotation.
Triumphs – I love helping my students discover their passions, stretch their skill sets, and reach their full potential. I feel I consistently cultivate a supportive ensemble environment within the classroom/rehearsal process while celebrating the diverse strengths of each individual. I triumph in only taking on performance projects that scare the living daylights out of me because I will never know what all I’m capable of until I investigate unchartered territory.
People can see my work most typically at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC during the academic year. This changes during the summer months as opportunities present themselves which take me to various parts of the US and the world.
Article for COE:
To the Breach FB Photos:
How has the Accademia helped shape your process as a dancer/artist/creator/director?
The Accademia broadened my skill set and expanded the number of lenses through which I approach my work, whether it be mask work, pantomime, movement, dance, or voice or in my role as performer or director/choreographer/teacher. I feel the most important ways in which the Accademia shaped my process are finding my physical and creative breath, discovering something new in my body or imagination everyday, and keeping open to whatever cards are dealt in the creative process or in life.
What would your advice be for people considering attending the Accademia?
A) Just GO!!! It is life-changing in the most positive of ways.
B) Be prepared for the physical and imaginative demands of the program as well as walking up and down the Tuscan hills.
C) The more time, energy, and discipline you invest in the program, the more benefits you will reap from it.
In your opinion who is a good candidate to get a lot out of the program?
Anyone who is open to the European approach to physical theatre disciplines, prepared to balance the development of their individual artistic skills with a strong commitment to the ensemble, and enthusiastic to embrace the international culture.