The Department of Theatre and Dance’s latest production, “Reimagining Mary,” will open in the University Theatre at 7:30 p.m. today. The show centers around the early life of a well-known English nanny throughout her childhood and into the discovery of her magic. Kip Shawger // Photo Provided
Department of Theatre and Dance to explore childhood classic in 'Reimagining Mary'
Explore the early life of the English nanny who can solve problems with just a “spoonful of sugar” in the Department of Theatre and Dance’s latest production, “Reimagining Mary.”
Susan Koper, a choreographer for the show, said she and Audra Sokol, artistic director of the Ball State Dance Company, read an article about a remake of Mary P.’s story, and brainstormed how they could dive deeper into her story as well.
Koper compared “Reimagining Mary” to the Broadway show “Wicked,” which tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West before the events in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“This show is a modern dance interpretation of who Mary P. was before she became the character we all know,” Koper said. “Who is she? What is her backstory? Who was she before we knew her?”
The story follows Mary throughout her childhood and into the discovery of her magic.
Ciara Borg, a sophomore dance major, plays Mary’s mother in the first half of the show. Borg said the audience will follow the mother’s journey as she progressively deteriorates due to her struggle with the father’s alcoholism.
“Her personal struggle develops throughout,” Borg said. “You can see the push and pull between them, their happiness and then these moments where you can see this isn’t the perfect family.”
The mother eventually dies, but she’s at peace because she’s been struggling for so long, Borg said. Borg has a solo that portrays the mother falling apart, and said this is her favorite part because of the personal influence she can bring.
“I can relate it to things in my past, and let those influences come out,” Borg said. “It’s special as an artist to be able to have that conversation with the audience.”
For Helen Sorensen, “Reimagining Mary” also has a personal connection. The sophomore dance major plays Bert in the show.
“The story of Mary P. was my favorite growing up,” Sorensen said. “It was the movie I made my mom watch a hundred times, and I wanted to be Bert. This is fate.”
Sorensen describes Bert as Mary P.’s right-hand man, savior and protector.
“Bert is always around when something bad happens, and is always there to aid Mary in finding her magic,” she said.
As Bert, Sorensen is part of the broom dance, one of several group dances. She said it’s one way the production lends itself to the original work.
“It’s where I show Mary my world,” Sorensen said. “It’s Bert’s way to show off. The dancing and the music is very percussive, and we have the brooms.”
Although the contemporary movement drives the story, Koper and Sokol added a narrator to add a speaking element.
The show isn’t spectacle-heavy, but Koper said the technical elements are recognizable, such as floating umbrellas and Mary P.’s magic bag.
Borg said the choreography process was different than the other main stage shows she’s been a part of due to the largely collaborative nature.
“There was nothing pre-choreographed, we really played off each other,” Borg said. “You get to start with movement that comes from your body, not the choreographer putting something on you.”
She said this show taught her about the dedication she had to have toward the movement and the show.
“You really have to think about why you’re doing this movement and what it means to you and the people around you,” Borg said.
Sorensen said seeing the story unravel before her eyes was her favorite part.
“It’s special because it’s derivative enough from the original work that people will recognize it, but it’s our own world at the same time,” Sorensen said. “Each day the directors would give us a new piece. We would use influences while still creating new art.”
Although the bulk of the show is a new interpretation, the end of the show is something everyone will recognize.
“The show ends where the story everyone knows starts, with Mary standing on the steps of the Banks house,” Koper said.
“Reimagining Mary” opens at 7:30 p.m. today in the University Theatre.