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Towards the beginning of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party, we meet Queenie, a young woman who seems to have the world on a string. But Lippa’s musical quickly takes a dark turn when Queenie wants to throw the party to end all parties. While the crowd roars and drinks are poured, Queenie becomes entangled in a web of lust, jealousy, and even violence. Lippa’s The Wild Party has established quite a cult musical theater following, but the play nevertheless tackles some very difficult subjects.
As dramaturg for the show, I sat down with Eagle Theatre's artistic director and show director Angela Longo and fight choreographer Hannah Deprey-Severance to speak about their approach to The Wild Party’s many moments of fight and intimacy choreography. The artists reinforce that while these moments are necessary to the action of the musical, they never approach a precarious boundary for the performers involved in moments of on-stage violence or intimacy. Likewise, they discuss why this play still matters today and what audiences can both enjoy and learn from it.
Whether encountering a new theatrical work or meeting someone in person, first impressions can say a lot. When asked about her first impression of Lippa’s musical, Longo replied: “It feels darker than a lot of musical theater. It includes things I feel afraid of approaching because of how real they can be. But the production has a lot of relevance for this time, despite being set in the 1920s.” Both Longo and Deprey-Severance are especially thrilled to incorporate a “vaudeville” aesthetic into this work, which Deprey-Severance notes as being part of the way to theatricalize fight choreography, rather than depict it as realistically as possible.
Safety and communication are of the utmost priority to the production team. Longo tells us: “For The Wild Party we are going to be working with all levels of experience and exposure. So there is going to be a certain level of care that we bring to rehearsal. It’s required and expected in this room.” Deprey-Severance echoes this sentiment: “Fight choreography is a device for physical and visual storytelling. Since it is a device, it is flexible. It can be customized to the level of experience amongst the group. It’s never cut and dry. We always get to say: what story are we trying to tell? And what is the safest way to do this?”
Post-pandemic theater-going is a risk unto itself, but Longo offers that the play speaks to a moment in which many people strive for intimate, but effective communication. In reference to her first impressions of this play and the story that will be told on stage, Longo imagines, “I hope if someone saw this production, they would want to see it as I did. They would want it to be done with care. I’ve grown to love this play and am always finding new ways of loving it despite its challenges. Plus, creating ways to make those same feelings accessible to others.”
What, When, Where
The Wild Party. By Andrew Lippa, directed by Angela Longo. $17-$200. February 9-26, 2023, at Eagle Theatre, 208 Vine Street, Hammonton. (609) 704-5012 or eagletheatre.org.
Eagle Theatre does not require vaccine checks or negative Covid-19 tests to attend the theater. Masking is encouraged, but optional.
Guests requiring early seating or other special accommodations may call the box office at (609) 704-5012 in advance of the performance. The venue is fully wheelchair-accessible, but not all seating options are; it is encouraged to call ahead to ensure appropriate arrangements.
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