The journey of the post-its

By Gina Hoch-Stall, Choreographer

Several years ago, just as RLPiM was forming, we created our first evening-length work, “the evolution of this moment.” As a part of the piece we asked audience members to write down their own evolutions, how they came to be here, in this exact second, on a post-it. We then displayed the post-its, turned them into a collage…

…and finally started using them for our next piece, “Backstories.”

At that time all of the company members had at least a little bit of experience with improvisational structures in theater and dance. One day I walked into rehearsal with a Ziploc bag filled with colorful post-its and asked the dancers to pick one and make a short dance out of it. Then another. And another. Soon we were hooked.

We began to develop rules and suggestions depending on the content, length and tone of the post-it. We gradually got better at finding the best articulation of the post-it through movement, text, metaphor and often humor–plus we loved it! So when it came time to decide what was going to be included in “Backstories” it seemed impossible to leave our post-it work out.

It was decided that we would create at least five post-it dances throughout the show as a kind of break for ourselves and the audience from the ‘seriousness’ of modern dance. We even gathered the post-its afresh from the audience each night so they might even recognize their stories coming alive.

They were a hit!

Flash forward eight months to our application for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (commonly known as PIFA). We applied with our “Jobs Project” in mind, only to be told that it didn’t fit with the festival’s theme which was focused on specific dates in history.

We assumed that would be the end of it.

But the lovely staff at the Kimmel Center were eager to find a way to make it work (insert shout out to Jay Wahl here). After attending one of our rehearsals and hearing about our work with the post-its the name ‘Tongue and Groove Spontaneous Theater’ came up.

I had never heard of T&G but I went on their website and read this:

Tongue & Groove is a critically acclaimed theater ensemble that spontaneously performs unscripted scenes and monologues inspired by personal information anonymously submitted by the audience.

I was intrigued.

Fast forward again to my meeting with Bobbi Block, Artistic Director of T&G. She is interested but skeptical. How can we make this work? Share a bill? Collaborate? By this time I have seen one of her shows but she has yet to see any of our post-it work. We realize that nothing can be decided until she has seen our work–however at this point we are leaning toward an all post-it show.

In advance of Bobbi’s visit we schedule a few extra rehearsals to run through the post-it question we’d be using for the PIFA show, “If you could travel back in time to any point in your own life, where would you go and why?”

We flesh out some kinks, come up with some new rules and ideas and cross our fingers that we won’t blow it…

And we didn’t! After a somewhat rocky start we quickly hit our groove and began to bring the post-its to life as small dances, similar to Tongue and Groove’s work but different enough to be interesting.

Which brings us to the present: Tongue and Groove and RealLivePeople(in)Motion present ‘That Time’–co-produced by the Kimmel Center as part of PIFA. It was a long process but we’re excited to get into the studio and practice creating this production–because it will never be remotely the same twice.

You can learn more about the show, and Tongue and Groove, HERE.

And keep your eyes peeled for more posts about the post-it rehearsal process.

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