It’s summer time and I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts on my first assisting assignment with the Drama League program. My first assignment is working with Diane Paulus on a new production of the musical PIPPIN. Talk about a dream come true! Diane is Drama League alum. I have had the chance to be in the room with her twice before. Once as an observing director on a production of The Capeman for The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park, and as a Production Assistant on the Porgy & Bess revival. With this assignment I have the opportunity to be more directly supportive of her process. In this first week I have seen so much inventiveness and inspiration in the dancers, acrobats and the creative team. Everyone is passionately crafting the vocabulary of this production. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity on a project I’m also passionate about.
Diane has gathered a crackerjack creative team. Gypsy Snider has been brought on as the circus/acrobat choreographer. She has been a circus performer perhaps since she could start walking. She is a choreographer for a Montreal based circus performance company called Les Sept Doigts de la Main (the seven fingers of the hand). She is also the choreographer for the off-Broadway show Traces. Her creativity is amazingly high. Also on the creative team is Chet Walker. Chet has been a Broadway performer since he was sixteen years old. He was the original conceptor for the Broadway show Fosse and currently he is working on The Jack Cole Project, a dance musical featuring some of Jack Cole’s famous Hollywood choreography. For Pippin, Chet is helping to craft the Fosse style choreography. (A little known fact: Chet was my first dance teacher when I moved to New York. I had been hearing about Chet and his musical theatre dance class before I moved to New York City. I moved to the city in September on a Monday evening. I got settled in to the city on Tuesday. Wednesday I went to Chet’s class. Thursday I went back to Chet’s class, and by Friday I was invited to the Fosse Project workshop classes. It was a by-invitation-only class held by Chet. The class was free of charge but it was a weekly commitment, and in each class we learned some of Bob Fosse’s most notable choreography and style. I clung to him as a teacher from my first days in New York and soaked up everything he had to say about dance and artistry. To have this full circle moment with Chet at this point in my career, on a project I’m very passionate about and to be in the room with Diane, a director I respect so much,….It’s a mind-blowing assignment and I have Drama League to thank for it.
What have I learned: This week I learned the importance of FOCUS, DISCIPLINE and TRUST. These seem to be the common threads between Diane, Gyspy and Chet and their new collaboration.