Choreographer Laura Lloyd
~Dalton Creasey, Staff Writer~
In the Fall Season of 2020, TheaterCNU produced the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Due to the circumstances regarding COVID, the show had to be produced in such a way that was not only creatively fulfilling and enjoyable, but also safe and socially distanced. I met with Professor Laura Lloyd of the Theater & Dance Department at CNU to ask her about her role as choreographer on the show.
DC: “What is entailed in being the choreographer for a musical theater show?”
LL: “To choreograph specifically for a musical theater piece, you have to read the script, research the material, understand the music, and communicate with the director. Is it a period piece? If so, do you want to do stylistic dancing or contemporize it? So you play around with those things and you try to create the dances based on all of those factors. And then again, not all of the musical numbers will be dance numbers.”
DC: “How difficult was it to create socially distanced dances?”
LL: “It was difficult, I didn’t even know where to start because times are changing every day so we had to think about the restrictions and what we had to follow. The cast had to be in 10 foot boxes, facing front, which prevented me from being able to do any turns in which the air would travel in a different path. Because they were not going to be wearing masks, all of the exhalations had to be forward facing.”
DC: “Were there any other musicals that you took inspiration from for this show?”
LL: “I definitely looked towards child-centered shows, such as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot, those types of musicals. I wanted to keep their movements sharp, clean, and super energetic. I also took into consideration our current times and how kids would truly behave at a spelling bee during this pandemic. It’s almost spastic or flailing at times.”
DC: “Even though ‘Spelling Bee’ isn’t a show that is time-specific, would you say that, taking into consideration how you all staged the show with plexiglass and social distancing, it became a modern day period piece?”
LL: “It definitely became a very current piece. How do you do a spelling bee in 2020? What problems and solutions are being presented at real spelling bees today? So yeah, it became very current. For a while, we thought the cast might still have to wear masks. And in this show, the movement is very much based on the character and not the time, although most of it is very modern.”
DC: “What was the hardest number to choreograph?”
LL: “I don’t know if there was one that was particularly more difficult, but if I had to choose it would be ‘Pandemonium.’ The director had already developed some movement and ideas for that number, so I had to stick with his vision while still adding on to it.”
DC: “How was the use of a dance captain, in this case Bryson Olivo who also played the role of Leaf Coneybear, different during the pandemic than how you have utilized them in previous shows?”
LL: “He was great in that, because of our truncated rehearsal time, he had to pick up a lot of the slack and make sure everything was going as planned. I was only there for about three rehearsals, and once I had taught it I backed out and let Bryson handle it. Due to COVID being a factor, we wanted to minimize the bodies present at rehearsals as much as possible. Actually, there was even a time towards the end where the director said he needed a little something at one point and asked if I trusted Bryson to create it, to which I said absolutely! He actually created a small piece of choreography for ‘I Speak Six Languages.’”
DC: “Since we’re dealing with a spelling bee, what word pops into your head to describe your experience with the show?”
LL: “I would say, more than anything just because of the circumstances we had to create the show with, my word would be ‘unique.’”
Laura Lloyd, born into a family of theater lovers, was raised in Texas. She has been involved with theater and dance for most of her life. She graduated with a BA in Theatre from Angelo State University and an MFA in Musical Theatre from Western Illinois University. She started her CNU career as an adjunct dance instructor, but she is now proud to be a full time lecturer with the Theater & Dance Department.
“Conversations with Creativity” is a series of articles containing interviews with creative people, particularly those in the entertainment and pop culture fields. The interviews are conducted and the articles are written by CNUTV’s “POPtalk” host Dalton Creasey.