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September, 2011

Spirus, by Kayla Freeman

[Here’s a behind-the-scenes look by cast member Kayla Freeman at Spirited, our current Mainstage show based on the works of Lewis Carroll, Miyazaki, and Sendak… a young girl is propelled into a dreamlike, surreal realm, where she encounters friends, monsters, and learns about herself. All show photos by Roy Moore]

The title of the latest main stage show, Spirited, is a word that comes from the Latin root “spirus”, meaning “to breathe”.

Breathing is simply the relationship between taking something in, (whether its concrete like oxygen or abstract like ideas) and the accompanying release. Throughout the rehearsal process of Spirited and as we begin our run of shows, there’s a trace of “spirus” in everything, revealing itself through perspiration, respiration, and inspiration.

Unconditional support is especially crucial in a show like Spirited. Many scene initiations need manpower to physically convey the characters and atmospheres. It always feels great when I’m yes-and-ed by my fellow improvisers when I offer a line of dialogue, but it’s even more gratifying when a physical offer is instantly mirrored and embodied by the entire ensemble. This camaraderie is typified when we use our bodies to transform into an ethereal, sentient creature or fantastic setting that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The best moment of a creature’s creation is when everyone taps in to group mind and instinctively inhales in unison. When the creature takes its first solitary breath, reality is suspended. A willing audience no longer sees performers dressed in black; there’s a marvelous multi-limbed beast with a penchant for crumpets and card games instead. This common respiration symbolizes the strength of our ensemble and literally breathes life into our characters.

The Spirited cast is a cozy, sweaty, touchy feely, your-head-is-in-my-armpit kind of ensemble. Early in the rehearsal process, we abolished the notion of personal space through a series of body-bending group physicality exercises. Together we set a precedent of absolute comfort, and for good reason: I can’t possibly expect you to not touch my body, for my body is really your body, because both our bodies are a creature, whose body belongs to neither of us, both of us, and all of us at the same time. If the quote holds true that “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”, then the proof of a successful ensemble is being covered in post-rehearsal perspiration that may or may not even be your own.

The world of Spirited allows for completely uninhibited expression, for there’s no standard reality that must be adhered to. The world is inherently anachronistic, so anything goes. Despite this lack of formal structure, by the end of each show, we manage to create a distinct dreamscape world with its own history and set of rules and customs. What might appear to be trite fantasy, is often exquisite allegory.

Some recent storylines have included the transfer of a shadow lord’s power hinging on the results of a child’s tea party game and blockheads (literally beings with blocks for heads) waging a war of which there seemed to be no just purpose.

By throwing our impulsive subconscious at the wall and seeing what sticks, social commentary and larger questions about human nature organically emerge. The worlds that manifest are dark, playful, surreal, absurd, whimsical, or enchanting — often all at once. Because everything is fair fodder for thought, there is an endless source of inspiration.

This is my first mainstage show, and I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful experience. I’ve embodied this pervading idea of “spirus” without even meaning to. Like a deep breath with the most refreshing exhalation, I’ve taken in so many new lessons, perspectives, and inspiration and released new, braver choices onstage than I thought I was capable of. The perfect storm of support, courage, creativity, and whimsy have combined to make the truly unique experience that is Spirited.

Spirited plays on Saturdays through the end of October. >>Get your tickets here.<<

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