Even Laura Boyer, co-creator and choreographer of “Chaotic Silence,” has had trouble defining the show.
“Is it devised theater? No, it’s not really devised theater,” Boyer said. “Is it a musical? It’s not a musical, but there is music, and some of it is original. But then there are singers and dancers, but they’re not the same people. We settled on, ‘Original dance-hyphen-musical, slash collaborative art piece, slash show.’”
Produced by Temple’s co-ed theater fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega, “Chaotic Silence” features performers from many realms within the Center for the Arts, including dance, music composition, vocal performance, acting, technical theater and film.
Boyer, a senior theater major and dance minor, cites the recent realignment of Temple’s schools as inspiration for the show’s collaborative nature.
“I sat down with [co-director] Will [Pazdziora] and we talked about how it’s really crazy that we all go to school together, and most of us [theater majors] have never met dance majors, etc. When Temple consolidated the arts programs under the Center for the Arts, we all got excited – and then nothing changed. So the idea behind the project was to bring together as many different aspects of the Center for the Arts as possible,” she said.
The production team reached out to students from Tyler School of Art and Boyer College of Music and Dance as well as film and theater students of the former School of Communications and Theater. The result is what the producers call “a multidisciplinary collaborative piece of group theater.”
“We wanted to do something totally different,” Boyer said. “We wanted to explore the world of musical theater without the use of a script. So we started trying to tell stories without speaking.”
“That means dance, it means pedestrian gesture, and then vocal, singing, instrumental music and visual art,” Boyer added. The only words that you will hear in this show will be lyrics that were specifically tailored to be as if they were the script. Every song that was picked or composed was done so very, very carefully so that every single word has meaning behind it.”
The show’s music includes original composition paired with pop songs like Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” and Maroon 5’s “One More Night” to be sung by student performers. Such choices reflect the overall themes of the show, including violence against women and unhealthy relationships.
The name “Chaotic Silence” comes from the cycle of psychological distress in victims of domestic violence.
“It’s such a juxtaposition because while these women are being silenced and they don’t have a voice, at the same time, their minds are all over the place,” Boyer said. “They are in these situations where they’re suffering, and they have little to no control over it.”
Further illustrating these themes will be visual representations of domestic violence statistics displayed during the show.
Sophomore dance major Sarah McWilliams plays Jules, the show’s protagonist. The differences between theater and dance have presented a challenge for the acting novice.
“In the dance world, most stories are told in a more abstract, roundabout way, but with acting, everything is told in a much more literal and direct way,” McWilliams said. “Having to tap into a more vulnerable form of artistic expression is so much harder than I ever realized. Every acting lesson I have gotten has pushed my comfort level, but I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to see another side of the arts and challenge myself.”
Taking on a role with such heavy undertones was another trial, she said.
“Jules is in an abusive relationship and getting myself in that mindset has not been easy,” McWilliams said. “I want my portrayal to seem as real as possible because abuse is a serious issue and I believe our show is exposing the issue in a very real way. Learning the statistics about abuse has been so eye-opening and I hope we can show our audience that abusive relationships are a serious and relevant issue, especially on a college campus.”
Those behind “Chaotic Silence” said they hope to exceed audiences’ expectations.
“We want people to walk in and not see what they expect to see,” said Candace Shirk, a junior theater major, and the show’s producer and treasurer. “We want people to come in and expect a musical or a dance show and be completely surprised.”
“Chaotic Silence” will run from Saturday, March 2, to Sunday, March 3, in the rehearsal hall of Tomlinson Theater. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated.
Julie Zeglen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.