PSY's Multiple Personality Interview

photo by David Poulin
by karen Krolak

PSY's performers embody mental maladies through circus arts and it is a rollicking ride inside the minds of others. When I emailed out my questions about the process of creating the show, I was very amused that Le 7 doigts de la main sent back answers from two people, Olaf Triebel and William Underwood. How appropriate for PSY to create a multiple personality interview!

karen Krolak: There are a number of lush moments of individual virtuosity in PSY, but I was even more impressed by the ensemble work. Obviously, you must all cross train in several different circus techniques regularly. Can you describe your training process?

Olaf Triebel:We train for the group numbers as part of our warm up for the show. It helps to get everybody together and do some little adjustments for each show. In between cities we do have some rehearsal depending on the time we have off between the shows. That time is used to work on new technical elements or to clean up the existing acts.

kK: So what is the most challenging circus art for you personally?

Olaf: Uff, tough one! For me, the challenge is as much about truly connecting with the audience as it is about the actual technical skills. Of course, you have to reach a certain technical level first but then your job is far from being over. Trying to grab the audience and pull them into the performance is the goal of a show like PSY...trying to let them be part of the group for the duration of the show and giving them the impression (in about 2h you can't really give them more then an impression) to know you.
If an act or a show somehow manages to touch me personally, make me laugh or think, that's where I feel that the most important/challenging part of the work has been accomplished.

kK: How long did it take to create PSY?

William Underwood: The creation process for PSY took place over approximately six months.

kK: Wow, that seems fast for such a complicated production. Knowing that the company's name refers to the seven founding directors, I am curious about the rehearsal process. Do seven fingers generate work quicker than one artistic director or do all those influences slow the process down?

WU: The rehearsal and creation process in the seven fingers differs depending on the project or show. The creation process for PSY started with the influence of all the fingers. We worked with different fingers, for different parts of the show. For example, we worked on our pole number with Shana Carrol. Samuel Tetrault was in charge of the Handstand number. Sebastien Soldevilla was the acrobatic coach. Patrick LĂ©onard handled the development of acrobatic apparatus and worked with us on research with the stairs. Sometimes we would have multiple people working with us at the same time as a team, and sometimes they would work with one at a time. This can be very stimulating and efficient, but it can also become messy. When you have seven different people with 7 different sets of ideas, styles and ways of working, it takes patience and good communication to stay on the same page and advance in the same direction. If this communication is lost, the influence of so many people can slow down and hinder the creation process. However, when it works it is magic. The show takes on layers and colors that it could not achieve under the direction of one person.

As the creation advanced, we worked primarily with Shana Carrol, who was the mastermind and director of the the show as a whole. It was good to have one person working to smooth the show out, creating a final product with continuity.

kK: While some of the pairings of psychological disorder and movement vocabulary were intuitive, I was thrilled by the more unusual combinations such as narcolepsy and the Chinese pole. How did those pairings evolve? Did you try multiple ways of illustrating disorders and select the most satisfying?

photo by David Poulin
WU: Our psychological disorders were chosen based on our personalities in real life, as well as for our qualities of movement and our disciplines.
The Chinese Pole number is based around the insomniac and husband. Insomnia and Pole climbing may seem like an unusual choice, but it allows for a research and development that breaks away from the conventional approach to Pole climbing.

Heloise (the insomniac) naturally has a very fluid, graceful quality of movement. She is able to keep this quality, and bring it onto the pole, breaking away from the convention of dynamic moves and brute force that is usually associated with Chinese Pole. The theme of Insomnia also opens the door for a relationship and complicity with her partner William. He can climb with her, supporting his drowsy wife, catching her as she teeters off balance in a sleep deprived state.

In the rehearsal process, we went through stages of development with our characters. We had to find that part of ourselves, understand it, exaggerate it, and make it physical. We did a lot of improvisations and trial and error as individuals and as a group to get where we are now. The best part is that the research is not over. There is always a new way to approach our inner 'folie", interpret it and share it with the audience!

We as artists and PSY are in constant development.

kK: Thanks to both of you for finding time to answer all my questions. I truly loved the show.


2 weeks only!

July 12 to July 24
Cutler Majestic Theatre

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