‘Whammy!’ production heads to New York International Fringe Festival

Though theater and dance professor Chuck Harper has performed in Los Angeles and Europe, the recent offer to take a production he created to New York is a chance to live out one of his dreams.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Harper/Whammy! Seven Secrets to a Sane Self

Harper’s production, “Whammy! The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self,” is featured in the New York International Fringe Festival, which is the “largest arts festival in North America,” according to Harper.

And for Harper, there is nothing more exciting than to have original work selected for such festivals.

“It does involve a lot of extra work in terms of producing, doing more than one thing, but the payoffs are really big and as the creator/director/text adaptor, I think it means even more for me personally and professionally to have a show like [‘Whammy!’] accepted…,” Harper said. “On some fundamental level, it’s my own original, creative work versus interpretive, creative work.”

“Whammy!” debuted at SIUE in 2009 with the original idea of creating a dance-based piece centered around group therapy, while incorporating that concept into the 1960s comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” according to Harper. The production explores the “multi-billion dollar industry” of self-help, according to Harper, and looks at what “makes us decide as a culture that we’re not good enough or that we have problems that require actively seeking out books or tapes or videos or seminars.”

Additionally, the adaptation of “Whammy!” being performed in New York features more ties to SIUE than just Harper.

“The entire cast and production staff… are SIUE faculty, former faculty or alum[ni],” Harper said. “Every single person in the show has SIUE in their blood, so that’s also kind of fun.”

The cast includes current SIUE faculty members Jim Wulfsong (lighting design) and Harper; former SIUE faculty members Mikey Thomas (choreographer/performer) and Lex Van Blommestein (scenic designer); and alumni Maggie Conroy (performer), Greg Fenner (performer), Anna Skidis (performer) and Kristina Cirone (stage manager).

With the full cast and crew having ties to the university, Thomas said it “speaks really highly” of SIUE’s arts program “that not just Chuck Harper, but the administration, is willing to support [Harper] and support experimental work.”

“That this show could be made up of all actors from outside the faculty and outside the students, but it’s not… that’s pretty amazing,” Thomas said.

Reaching out to festivals so a production can be seen outside of the St. Louis area, according to Harper, is the equivalent of other faculty members attending a conference and presenting their research.

“That sort of peer acceptance is a very big deal in the professor community,” Harper said. “So, for me personally [and] professionally, this is my version of publishing a book or a paper. It’s great for me to have it produced by [Hot City Theatre], a professional company in St. Louis – that matters in terms of my professional world, but then being able to show it beyond the regional community – and obviously New York is kind of the Mecca for theater artists so having it shown there… is a pretty big deal.”

Similarly, Thomas said performing at the New York International Fringe Festival is exciting because it “legitimizes art coming out of St. Louis.”

“This show was accepted on a major international festival, and to me that’s definitely something that should be newsworthy…,” Thomas said. “This would be akin to when people make it into the Olympics or make it onto the sports team or have some major accomplishment and get recognized for it… That’s really exciting to me. Plus, it’s just exciting to perform in New York.”

For more information on the New York International Fringe Festival and the “Whammy!” performance schedule, visit www.fringenyc.org.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: Theater & Dance

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Switch to our mobile site