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Contributed by Susan Monagan on 11/01/2012
Mounting any theatrical production takes collaboration. Directors, producers, designers, technicians, and many other artists need to get on the same page in order to create a cohesive product. When a musical is in rehearsal, the choreographer’s job is among the most critical: he or she has to figure out how the group of performers can move in exciting, efficient and attractive ways.
For IC Theatre’s second main stage production of the 2012-13 season, Legally Blonde: The Musical, guest choreographer Roy Lightner had the cast whipped into shape in time for opening, and was kind enough to take the time to share some of his experiences with us.
GN: Where is your home base and what do you do there?
RL: My home base is Manhattan; I live on the Upper West Side. What I do there is exactly what I do here: I choreograph everything from contemporary companies to musicals. I also work for the Astoria School of Fine Arts, which is now called Astoria Fine Arts Dance. I set up the jazz curriculum there, so I’m basically the head of the jazz department. I’m also one of the six national directors for a company called Dancers, Inc., which is a convention and competition that tours the country and promotes dance education. I stay really, really busy. It’s been a crazy year. I’ve spent three weekends at home this year.
GN: So, how did you get involved with our production of Legally Blonde?
RL: The process was very interesting. I was actually contacted by Lee Byron, the department chair at the time, and he asked if I was interested. And then Greg Bostwick took over things, and I applied and sent my resumé in with clips of my work. They got my name from Jen Waldman, who has a huge studio in NYC, so I believe they asked her and she recommended me. From there I had some phone conversations for the interview process.
GN: Jen Waldman is an alumna of IC, isn’t she? What a great connection.
RL: I’ve actually worked on shows with her before. I assisted her on a production of No Way to Treat a Lady for the Cape Playhouse. Before she knew that I was a choreographer, I took her class in the City.
GN: What project were you working on right before you came here?
RL: It was really intense. I did a national dance convention in Key West, then I went to Oklahoma City University and taught, then I went to another national dance convention. Then I went on what I like to call a “mini choreography tour.” I choreographed for companies in Kansas City and Oklahoma City, one in New Hampshire, two in New Jersey. I got back and I taught a summer intensive in Kansas City for an institution there, and then I ended up getting here. It’s like cleaning up the cobwebs; it’s been a crazy ride. I’ve also been working on a show that’s possibly going off-Broadway in March, but you know how all of that goes.
GN: Up to this point, what has been the most gratifying part of choreographing this particular production?
RL: That’s really hard to answer because there have been a lot of things that I’ve really enjoyed. I think the students, for sure; they’re hungry, they want to learn, they work really, really hard. Ask any of them: I’m not easy. I don’t sugar-coat things, I push them really hard, so watching them succeed and finally being able to do it is something I take a lot of pride in. I’m so proud of them when they accomplish those things because I’ve given them something when their reaction was initially, “I’m sorry, what?” Then watching them accomplish what I’ve given them or something they didn’t think they were able to do. I would also say that the faculty here is phenomenal. That’s been a very awesome part of my experience, just talking with the faculty members and the people that are working on the creative team. I take dance classes every day from the dance teachers: Mary Corsaro, who’s a genius. Her knowledge of musical theatre and dance is mind-blowing. I wish I had her as a teacher. Amy O’Brien is an incredible ballet teacher, and Lindsay Gilmour is a fantastic modern dance teacher. Basically, the eagerness of the students along with their passion and dedication has been so gratifying. In this business you have to have that, and you constantly have to work to be better, and you have to keep working on things that you can’t do.
GN: Where did you go to school?
RL: I’m from Kansas originally. I went to college at Oklahoma City University, and majored in musical theatre there.
Interviewed by Gabriella Napoli '13, Theatre Arts Management