Fasten Them Seatbelts! Your E.T.A. in The Wonderful World of Dissocia is January 28!
Amy Frankel: At first we were going to call me the choreographer, but Scott asked me if I wanted to A.D. instead. He talked to me about how he was interested in using stylized movement throughout the entire play, to help tell the story. The choreography is less about creating a couple of big dance numbers, and it's more about creating this fantastical world of Dissocia where stylized movement is used throughout.
TR: You're entering your final weeks of rehearsal. Have there been any startling discoveries since rehearsals began?
Rehearsals are in full swing for the opening of Anthony Neilson's funny and phantasmagorical The Wonderful World of Dissocia. This is Third Rail operating on all its cylinders, with an all 3R cast - Philip Cuomo, Stephanie Gaslin, Damon Kupper, Isaac Lamb, Maureen Porter, John Steinkamp, Valerie Stevens, and Tim True. Headed by Artistic Director Slayden Scott Yarbrough, the production also features choreography by our own Amy Frankel (who is also serving as Assistant Director) and original compositions and sound design by guest artist Sam Kusnetz. It is without a doubt our most challenging production to date and, from all accounts, it will be one of our best.
We had a chance to talk to Amy and Sam during rehearsals. Here's what they had to say about their journey to The Wonderful World of Dissocia:
Third Rail: So you're Assistant Director on this show. What does that entail?
AF: This play leaves a lot of the expression of moments wide open for exploration. Scott and I knew that we'd be startled every day at rehearsal by the actors, as they have helped shape the story of Dissocia. I already knew there would be a ton of discoveries, so I'm not too startled - just inspired, impressed, and humbled by the work I've seen at rehearsals.
TR: Sam, you're not only designing the sound for Dissocia, but you are composing original music for the show. Anything you can say about what you've come up with?
Sam Kusnetz: One of the things that makes this show so much fun to work on is that the first act really encourages a sort of sky's-the-limit approach to the design. The world is fantastical, and so if I want one song to be big and orchestral but another to be played on a ukelele, I can do that without it seeming weird. It's really nice to be able to incorporate disparate elements like that without worrying about breaking the continuity of the design.
TR: Amy, what's it been like working with Sam on this play?AF: Collaborating with Sam has been fantastic. Normally I'm stuck choreographing to a song that's already been written. In this case, I got to build a lot of my dance music with Sam, which allowed both of us to create anything we imagined and take the dances wherever we wanted to go.
TR: As a composer, Sam, what has been the biggest challenge working on this script by Anthony Neilson?
SK: Well, of course, the most freeing thing is also always the hardest, right? The very same liberty which I enjoy means there's very little to reach for when you're trying to figure out what you should do. I rewrote the "Welcome to Dissocia" number several times completely from scratch before I found the sound that was right for the song and for our production, and since the script gives such latitude, you really just have to do it and see if it's right. Fortunately, the design conversation for this show began very early so I had enough time to experiment.
TR: Amy, your Third Rail cast is largely non-dancers. Has anyone in particular surprised you with their terpsichorean talents and turned out to be a hoofer in disguise? You can name names.
AF: I think it's pretty cute that the biggest guy in the cast is the dance captain. Isaac Lamb is a big dude, not to mention that he's 6Ɗ", but he executes the steps with ease. Also, someone does do some actual hoofin' on stage during one of our dances.
TR: Sam, you're a bit of a one-man band, we understand.
SK: Well, I'm badly out of practice lately, but I think at my peak in high school I was comfortable on about ten instruments. The score for Dissocia was composed using Logic Studio, which is a computer-based recording package that includes some very high quality sampled instruments, so even though you'll hear piccolo, tympani, and marimba, I really played those parts on a keyboard. It would be delightful to record with a real orchestra, but there are time, budget, and space considerations that make that impractical. This way, if I need to make an adjustment to a song, I can do it in the rehearsal room in a matter of minutes instead of going back to the studio to re-record.
TR: Here's one last question for both of you. What's pleased you the most working on The Wonderful World of Dissocia?
AF: I've really enjoyed building something from the ground up. The way this show is written, it allows you to invent and interpret things in your own way. Although this has been maddening at times, it's also very exciting, and I'm having a blast creating and making all the discoveries with Scott, the cast, and the designers.
SK: I'll have to say that working with Amy on "What's an Hour?" which is a song sung by the main character in the middle of the first act, was really great. I composed the framework of the song first; then Amy and I got together and worked on the movement and music together, so that both elements grew out of each other. That's quite uncommon, but very satisfying.
TR: Thanks, you two. We'll look forward to seeing the results of all your work on opening night on the 28th!
The Wonderful World of Dissocia is for mature audiences. Get your tickets here!
Too Late to be A Two-Show Subscriber? No Way!
It may be a new year, but it's not too late to get a Third Rail Two-Show Subscription. You'll not only get the best seats for the upcoming The Wonderful World of Dissocia, but you'll also reserve your spot for Steven Dietz's fierce, funny, and haunting Last of the Boys, coming to you in the spring. Two great evenings of theatre, both for only $62 for adults and $55 for seniors. That's 10% over single ticket prices!
The Wonderful World of Dissocia runs January 28 through February 20 at the World Trade Center Theater. Call 503-235-1101 to reserve tickets or purchase them online at www.thirdrailrep.org.