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Public Relations Liaison Michael D. Reid interviews movement director Laura Krewski about physical storytelling in The Penelopiad.
While it’s no secret that Laura Krewski is mad about musicals, Canadian College of Performing Arts lovers who see The Penelopiad will soon discover she’s equally at home in the narrative sphere.
The Edmonton-based choreographer has amassed an impressive list of musical theatre credits, including productions of Mamma Mia, West Side Story and Spamalot for Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for Belfry Theatre in Victoria.
Her talent for creating dynamic stage movement was also evident in two Company C Studio Ensemble musical productions – Spring Awakening (2014-15) and Cabaret (2017-18).
She says getting the opportunity to reunite with Cabaret’s director Ron Jenkins has been one of the joys of returning to the College to choreograph The Penelopiad, which opens Nov. 28.
Cast members have joked that The Penelopiad could qualify as a musical since Margaret Atwood’s playful retelling of the Odysseus story from the perspective of the Greek hero’s wife Penelope in Hades features some music composed by Studio Ensemble student Joscelyne Tamburri.
Krewski laughingly agrees but makes it clear this show won’t be mistaken for Mamma Mia.
“We’re also using a sound score and there’s some a capella but what I’m creating is a more story-driven kind of movement rather than a musically-inclined version of a song,” says Krewski, who worked mostly on the play’s choral pieces with the ill-fated maids in Penelope’s orbit.
“Some are sung, and some are just spoken,” Krewski said. “Ron said he felt that whenever they speak in a collective voice they were performance pieces.”
Krewski said she enjoys working with narrative because it’s a unique opportunity. In this case, she says she’s providing movement that empowers the performers and the show itself.
“It frees you up. All you have is what she’s saying. It’s the text. When you see it, you realize the music is the last layer rather than the first,” says Krewski, who spent a lot of time watching Jenkins and the students work together to come with a vocabulary that complements the text.
“My objective is to be a physical storyteller,” she said. “I usually find a concept that I want to do to physically enhance their worlds. I’m interested in creating a vocabulary that tells a story but in an abstract language. I like to meet somewhere in the middle. I call it descriptive movement.”
Krewski said it makes sense having a female sensibility on a show with a predominantly female cast.
Her involvement is in keeping with the College’s increased commitment to ensuring that, as an educational institution with a large proportion of female students, their voices are being served with an increased proportion of female playwrights and creative teams as outlined in its strategic plan.
“Because it’s predominantly the maids I’m working with, I’d say, ‘OK, I need you to show me your femininity,’” she said. “I guess I’d have a better understanding of how to communicate things like that, especially with young women.”
Having worked with Jenkins before helped during the creative process, said Krewski, who has collaborated with him on productions of Next to Normal and Edmonton’s Mayfield Theate production of Chicago, starring another of the College’s favourite guest directors, Sara-Jeanne Hosie.
“Oh, we would love to do Chicago at the College! It would be a natural,” she exclaims.
“We do have a shorthand, and I know what his sensibility is. I have a good sense of the kinds of choices he’d want me to make. Ron blurs the line. He is quite collaborative.”
The Penelopiad runs Nov. 28, 29, 30 and Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 at the College’s Performance Hall, 1701 Elgin Rd.
The Dec. 1 matinee is a Relaxed Performance, which is open to everyone but provides a welcoming environment for individuals who find the traditional theatre environment challenging.
Tickets, priced from $18.50 to $27.50, are available online, or by calling 250-595-9970.