Cultural Arts Event PUSHes into New Realms

Sue Lee ’18    , Staff Writer


Peddie hosted award-winning PUSH Physical Theatre to perform in the William Mount-Burke Theater for the spring term Cultural Arts Event on April 1. The crew consisted of Darren Stevenson, his wife Heather Stevenson, Avi Pryntz-Nadworny, Johnathan Lowery and Katherine Marino.

According to the PUSH Physical Theatre crew, PUSH Physical Theatre strives to “bring the narratives of our lives to the stage with hope and optimism: The strength of the human soul expressed by the power of the human body.”

The crew’s first performance of the evening, “Red Ball”, was created through the collaboration with the faculty and students of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology. It incorporated the use of iPads and other electronic devices and attempted to combine the virtual and physical reality.

They continued to perform four more acts: “Job,” “The Natural World,” “Galileo” and “The Soldier.”

“The Soldier” reflects the stages of emotions a young man goes through from leaving his house to experiencing the battlefield. This piece has a personal connection with the directors, Darren and Heather Stevenson, who have a son that is currently serving in the U.S. Army. “Job” not only discusses the harsh realities of employment, but also explores the story behind The Book of Job. The story that brought the inspiration of this performance has a moral of how we need to rid ourselves of our instinct to criticize and judge when it comes to our loved ones.

“The nametags we were wearing during the performance are actually names of the characters in the story,” Darren Stevenson said. “When someone we know that’s going through something difficult, the best thing we can do is simply being with them through it.”

Darren Stevenson met his wife during his studies, and their common interest for dance and acrobatics allowed them to form their relationship. They were inspired to combine the features of acrobatics, dance, mime and theatre while forming PUSH Physical Theatre.

The choreography of their performances is mostly done through improvisation.

“For ‘The Soldier’, I mostly came up with the choreography. But for “The Natural World”, [we improvised together]. We would literally just start playing,” Darren Stevenson said. “Work always begins as a democracy and ends in a dictatorship, usually whoever claims the responsibility for that segment of choreography.”

The crew led a physical theater workshop with 14 Peddie students, challenging them to extend out of their comfort zones.

“The PUSH workshop was so amazing because we don’t really do any physical theater at Peddie, so it was very different and challenging to take complete control of how we moved our bodies to tell a story and support our partner,” said Micah Patt ’17. “I have so much respect for what PUSH does, it’s so impressive that they can pull off a performance like that and engage such a wide variety of people.”

Students were captivated by the gravity-defying, powerful performance.

“It was great artistry – at first I felt unfamiliar with the rather jarred movements, but I couldn’t look away. Adding the story makes them more interesting and inspirational,” Stephanie Wu ’18 said.