Movement Design

Movement Design

Hard Times. Photo: Gregory Costanzo

After training The Pearl Theater Company Off-Broadway in physical theater methods in 2008, Kali continued to work with The Pearl as an Assistant Director to J.R. Sullivan on Dicken’s Hard Times. As Assistant Director, Kali was charged with working with the actors on physical character transformation along with staging the scenes that had “impossible stage directions” (ie. pulling a man out of a coal mine), but she quickly noticed that when the actors worked from a script, they seemed to leave the amazing play they had discovered throughout their preseason physical theater workshops behind. This experience at the Pearl Theatre led Kali to realizing the importance of their being someone in the rehearsal room that was solely focused on creating a specific vocabulary around physicality within every production so she invented her own specialization as a “Movement Designer.”

Hard Times is an ensemble triumph…” – New York Times

To date, whether it be Shakespeare, Chekhov, Dracula,

Puppetry during the University of Rochester Todd Theatre production The Winter’s Tale. Photo: J. Adam Fenster

or devised work, Kali has played the role of Movement Designer for numerous companies and individual artists throughout the United States:  Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Manbites Dog Theater, MOTH Poetic Circus, University of Rochester Theatre Program’s, Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA & Undergraduate Theatre Programs, New England Center for Circus Arts, MIT, and Individual Artists.

Movement Design is not to be confused with the more dance-oriented responsibilities of a choreographer. Often Kali is brought in as a Movement Designer when actors need to play several different characters within the same production and/or when a production calls for mask or scenes without language, such as the world premiere of Morality Play at The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre in RI (depicted at top by Peter Goldburg):

“Each of the actors creates distinctive idiosyncrasies for their characters so that it’s easy to see why they are assigned particular roles. The way in which the players combine a “dumb show,” elaborate movement and gestures, masks and simple rhymed verses to put the facts of the murder case together is both entertaining and illuminating.” – Boston Globe

While working on movement through the lens of Clown on a production of Uncle Vanya at Duke University, Kali developed “Tablework on It’s Feet” with director Jeff Storer and Dramaturg Jules Odendahl-James. A chapter about this movement-based process, written by Kali and Jules, will be featured in an upcoming book on “Physical Dramaturgy” published by Routledge.

“Kali supplies actors with a solid vocabulary… Her energy, focus, individual attention, and integration of the text into her work has made this process unique. After working with Kali actors approach the world three-dimensionally which enhances the orchestration of the work, independent initiative, and a more fruitful collaboration.” – Jeff Storer, Theater Studies, Duke University

As a Movement Designer – whether training actors before their formal rehearsal period, being present at a few rehearsals or all – Kali focuses on the following elements:

  • Physical Conditioning

    Uncle Vanya at Duke.
    • To create a group warm-up that everyone can participate in, strengthening themselves throughout the process.
  • Building Ensemble

    • To encourage trust, risk, honesty, and play among the actors and the entire company: director, designers, stage managers, etc.
  • Constructing a Movement Vocabulary

    • Taking the actors and director through several physical techniques and methods that give a larger range of movement to choose from, use, and refer to within the rehearsal process. This includes: Laban, Viewpoints, Object Work, and Abstract Movement (Logical, Emotional, Spiritual, Physical). This can be tailored to any period or genre (i.e. restoration, Victorian, melodrama, 16mm, etc.), and could include Kali’s specialized training in Clown, Puppetry, or Mask/Commedia dell’Arte.
  • Character Physicality

    The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls at Manbites Dog. Photo: Alan Dehmer
    • To take actors through a process that helps them to create a physical vocabulary for their characters including: gestures, animal, minimum to maximum emotional range, body leads, etc. Directly relating each character’s physical world to the text. Body shape constantly informs the voice and vice versa.
  • Discovering Habitual Tendencies

    • To point out actors’ physical tendencies in their characters or in relation to the group and allow for a space where actors are eventually able to indicate this for one another. Remembering that these comments are not “about” or criticizing that individual, but rather “for” that individual to stretch their range of possibility.
  • Sustainability

    • To ensure that the actors are creating characters that they can sustain physically without tension. Focusing on breath. Using exercises from Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method.
  • Staging

    • To have an eye for the special relationship between characters on stage, making sure that space creates a tension/suspension within the arc of the play.
  •  Movement Sequences

    Uncle Vanya at Duke.
    • To organically build stage action as needed taking into consideration the overall look and feel of the entire piece. At times, this includes “impossible” stage directions, transition moments, or object transformation work.9. Overall: Consistently using language that encourages company members that physical work is not a separate component of the process, but rather a necessary part of the whole that leads to a more dynamic/visceral piece for the audience.
  • Overall

    • Consistently using language that encourages company members that physical work is not a separate component of the process, but rather a necessary part of the whole that leads to a more dynamic/visceral piece for the audience.

If you would like to hire Kali as a Movement Designer to work on a production with you or your company, please drop Kali an email to discuss the possibilities:

kali@kaliquinn.com

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