By Laura Cergoll
The series, now in its 11th season, highlights up-and-coming artists and performers from the College under the direction of Todd McNerney, associate professor of theatre and former department chair.
“Under the Lights” opens May 31, 2016, at 8 p.m. in the Chapel Theatre at 172 Calhoun St., with additional performances on June 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $14 for students.
“With These Words” opens May 29, 2016, at 4 p.m. in Chapel Theatre, with additional performances on June 5 at 8 p.m. and June 8 at 12 p.m. Tickets are $17 for general admission and $14 for students.
Tickets for both shows are available through the Piccolo Spoleto website.
“With These Words”
“With These Words,” directed by Kristin Alexander and Gretchen McLaine, puts students and recent graduates on stage with professional dancers. Alexander is an adjunct professor of dance and the founder and artistic director of Annex Dance Company, a Charleston-based modern dance company focused on outreach and education.
Alexander worked with McLaine, director of the College’s dance program, to make sure every student collaborated with Annex in some way. Students and company members have choreographed for each other, learned pieces from each other’s repertoires and co-choreographed new pieces.
The 50-minute show (or concert in dance lingo) is the third collaboration between Annex and the College’s dance program for Piccolo Spoleto. Each of the five pieces performed in the concert explores themes of literature, writing and “what it means to leave your mark,” Alexander said, with poetry recitations and physical sheets of paper incorporated in the choreography.
The concert’s theme and new pieces were conceived as a result of an interest in restaging Annex’s Yeats-inspired “Out of the Rose” and “Le Pagine,” a piece co-choreographed by McLaine and Carly Harward ’16.
Excerpts from “Out of the Rose,” originally an evening-long piece, will be performed by dance majors, Annex members and Evan Parry, associate professor of theatre and co-director of The Shakespeare Project. Alexander choreographed it based on an American Sign Language translation of Yeats’ poetry, which the dancers recite throughout the piece.
“Le Pagine,” inspired by Harward and McLaine’s SURF grant research in Italy on nonverbal communication and mental illness, was originally performed in Emmett Robinson Theatre last fall. In this concert two Annex dancers will perform the piece with students, marking Harward’s first time choreographing for professional dancers.
The sounds of paper moving under the dancers’ feet replace music in the piece, an aspect that Harward believes will be enhanced by the move to Chapel Theatre’s smaller stage.
“We’ve really had to think about how we’re going to craft it so that it doesn’t look cluttered even though we have 10,000 sheets of paper on the floor,” Harward said.
The use of paper in Harward and McLaine’s piece inspired Annex member Julie DeLizza ‘10 to create a new piece titled “To Become Permanent.” But DeLizza wanted the paper to serve more than an aesthetic purpose, so she developed a theme based on her practice of writing letters to preserve significant conversations for later memory and reflection.
DeLizza graduated with a minor in dance and a double major in secondary education and history before the College began offering a dance major. She joined Annex after graduation while she was working as a dance instructor. Instead of applying for teaching jobs for the 2011-2012 school year, she made dance her career.
“I think this concert carries the overlying message of Piccolo Spoleto in that it’s local, professional artists working with future local artists,” DeLizza said.
DeLizza and the other Annex dancers have been able to advise the students throughout the rehearsal process. Emily Morris ’16, who will perform in “To Become Permanent” and “Out of the Rose,” said the advice the Annex dancers have given her over the past three years kept her going through her College career.
“Under the Lights”
“Under the Lights,” co-directed by Tyler Brockington ‘16 and senior Caitlin Barth, is a collection of 10-minute short plays written by College of Charleston students. This annual production gives student playwrights the chance to show their work on a professional stage at Piccolo Spoleto.
An ensemble cast of eight student actors and alumni will perform 10 shorts, including the winners of the theatre department’s playwriting awards. Brockington’s play “Friends on the Other Side” won the Todd McNerney Playwriting Award.
The eclectic genres, themes and content of the scenes pushed Barth and Brockington to be more creative. Using props and costumes from their own kitchens and closets, they transformed the Chapel Theatre stage into everything from a gymnasium to a leaky Waffle House during Hurricane Joaquin.
“In a black box theatre, everything comes out. There’s not a lot of set to work with, so the actors have to be bold, be loud, and it really allows them to shine,” Barth said.
According to both directors, McNerney has given ambitious, creative students a unique opportunity to share their work through Stelle di Domani and Piccolo Spoleto. For Barth, “Under the Lights” was the show that sparked her interest in the theatre department.
“The first College of Charleston production I saw was ‘Under the Lights,’ in 10th grade,” she said. “Now I’m directing it and everything’s come full circle.”
Brockington and Barth are frequent collaborators, having directed and acted together in previous College of Charleston productions, but this will be the first time either of them has directed on a professional stage.
“There’s more pressure because you’re representing the College not as students, but as an extension of the College,” Brockington said.
Watch Evan Parry discuss the College’s theatre program:
This article was written by Laura Cergol, a senior from Frederick, Md. studying communication and linguistics in the Honors College at the College of Charleston. She is also a William Aiken Fellow and a member of the Global Scholars program.