Unthinkable chaos yields furious innovation: DGDG premieres theatrical film THE SAVAGE SECONDS
Updated 6/4/2020 at 9:55 am to include clarification regarding the COVID-19 safety restrictions followed when filming group scenes.
By Cristee Cook
With the world in so much upheaval, I wasn’t sure how to approach this article. When I spoke with Danielle Georgiou and Justin Locklear about THE SAVAGE SECONDS – a new work of theatre on film, conceived by Georgiou and Locklear and presented by performance collective Danielle Georgiou Dance Group – it was hard not to talk about the project through the lens of forced paradigm shifts and global trauma. In times of strife, we cling to art for shelter and comfort, but I believe artful expressions should be able to exist under any circumstance, so I was cautious about drawing parallels that might not be there.
But it seems that THE SAVAGE SECONDS does aim to explore big emotions about sudden and irreparable upheavals. According to the press materials it “centers on the story of a young girl, sent home from boarding school during a great plague, whose coming of age is hijacked by her powerful but absent parents, malicious siblings, and the surreal confusion of sexuality.”
In live performance, cathartic emotions are expressed and received in an exchange between audience and performer, and that space becomes a container for massive feelings. So, when it became clear that live theater would be taking an extended intermission, Georgiou and Locklear created a different container for their story.
Locklear shared that they approached an online space as they would any physical space. He said, “…transferring it to video really just became a question of what are the parameters of this space? What are the things that we must take into consideration in terms of how to connect with our audience? And one of the first ones is how do we connect to the audience’s imagination?”
That’s when they had the idea to create something interactive. They envisioned a space where audience members could experience the world at their own pace, in their preferred order, and as many times as they wanted to. A virtual prologue of sorts, the film’s website takes you down a rabbit hole through each character, offering morsels of the story. In preparing for this interview, I spent a lot of time there. I was first met with lusty, blossoming flowers. Sections with titles like melt and dive are evocative of adolescence. One of the characters invites you to drug parties, while others are more authoritarian or administrative. There are several opportunities to offer your own thoughts and observations. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I don’t know how this all works into the action of the story, but I found the interactive map intriguing and surreal. It succeeds at feeling immersive.
The story has been ruminating for Georgiou and Locklear for a long time. Locklear shared that their work often confronts “the conflict between culture and the individual,” and how marginalized people become prey in our society. In THE SAVAGE SECONDS, they chose an archetypal experience from which to springboard: coming of age. The film examines what happens in the moments between innocence and maturity.
As daily life changed for all of us, the story began to change too. Georgiou said: “As the story started to develop, it was also an exploration of grief. How we deal with grief in different ways. And as we were developing the show for a live audience, everything with COVID-19 happened. And we were dealing with our own feelings of what it was like now to live in this completely new world, thrown into isolation and then individually dealing with that grief and trauma. And that started to push the story in a new direction. So, the underlying concept stayed the same narratively, but the driving force changed.”
The company followed strict guidelines for the safety of the team. For rehearsals and audio work, actors were scheduled one at a time. The scenes with multiple actors were done with very limited takes, and everyone intensified their social distancing leading up to the filming. Prior to the in-person work, they rehearsed online via zoom. While a baffling shift in a traditional theatrical process, it seems that by facing the challenges head on, they freed themselves to create something beyond what they had originally imagined. Georgiou’s eyes lit up as she told me, “When we got in front of the camera, it became a very collaborative process between Justin, who's looking through the camera lens, myself, and then the performers. I just opened up the space for them with: ‘This is the emotion that I would like for you to convey. Now here is some music. Just go.’ I gave them the freedom to express what they were feeling in that time. And I think some of that footage is really special."
THE SAVAGE SECONDS premiers online on Thursday, June 4, 2020. Streaming tickets can be purchased at: https://undermain.secure.force.com/ticket. Patrons will receive a link and password to view the film, and all tickets include unlimited access to the film through June 10, 2020.
Explore the world of THE SAVAGE SECONDS via an interactive map here: https://www.thesavageseconds.com
Directed and Choreographed by Danielle Georgiou. Book, Lyrics, and Musical Direction by Justin Locklear. The cast includes Elaina Alspach (BABY), Jovane Caamaño (FATHER), Colby Calhoun (MIDDLE CHILD), Nick Leos (ELDEST CHILD), and Monet Lerner (STEP-MOTHER). With the ensemble: William Acker, Kelli Howard, Christopher Lew, Sarah Mendez, Omar Padilla, and Alondra Puentes. Composer: Black Taffy (Donovan Jones), Technical Director: Lori Honeycutt.
The Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) is an ensemble-based, collaborative dance theatre group that works within the ideas of contemporary dance and physical theatre. DGDG explores the experimental and avant-garde nature of dance and theatre in their creations of original dance musicals and dance plays. The artists of DGDG constantly strive to transform themselves and work to create pieces that question what dance is and can be while pushing the boundaries of theatre.