‘Dancing with Demons’ Combines Live and Filmed Presentations to Tell Mythic Tale

April 27, 2021
By: Andrea Binnick


The Visual and Performing Arts Department will open “Dancing with Demons,” a devised, interdisciplinary production by students, faculty, and staff, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 29 on its YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIsqfptFJ6Zx1uPodlFm0Nw. The topical and uplifting production draws on material from Worcester State’s archive of COVID19-related materials to tell the tale of heroism, danger, and resurrection. The opening night presentation will feature live and filmed scenes, with replays available through Friday, May 7.

Through use of real-life interviews and oral histories gathered by the university’s Urban Studies Department, students and faculty will deliver theater, music, and visual art presentations that take viewers on a journey to the mythic, kaleidoscopic world of COVID demons to find an elixir that will heal the fractured world. “Dancing with Demons” is a CitySpeak production, an initiative that aims to provide others with a channel for expression through collaboration with the Urban Studies Department.

“After reading the incredible interviews in the Worcester State COVID archive, I was struck with what a mythic time we are in,” says VPA Chair Adam Zahler, theater professor and director of “Dancing with Demons.” “In the words collected by students and faculty of the Urban Studies Department, we can see the fears and losses we all have experienced, but also the grace, determination, and courage that make this a time of everyday heroes. We’re moved and inspired to take our virtual audience on this trip that seeks to capture all that wonderful panoply of humanness, to honor the voices of those who contributed to the archive, and to inject some humor into the world, because right now, we all need to laugh.”

While viewers will have the opportunity to watch the online production for free, optional donations to support the theater program’s Focus on the Arts Fund are welcome and appreciated to help offset the absence of a typical year’s ticket admissions. The fund is critical for supporting conference attendance, guest artists, and other academic endeavors for students. In lieu of admissions, suggested donations include $7 for students, $10 for seniors, or $15. Donations can be made via http://alumni.worcester.edu/VPArts.

The production comes on the heels of Worcester State’s announcement of plans to offer a new Bachelor of Arts in Theater, beginning in fall 2021. The degree program will immerse students in a 39-credit program of study that includes an extensive variety of theater courses, performances, and other hands-on, real-world production experience.

As part of the new major’s track, 25 of the 39 credits will come from required courses in acting, design, technology, and dramaturgy. Those studies will be in addition to required work on productions and a senior thesis project. The additional 15 credits will be in the form of electives, course options that include Theatre for Young Audiences, Stage Combat, Directing and advanced courses in acting and design.

In a typical year, the theater program offers one student-directed production and two faculty-led productions. New features and creative adaptations for “Dancing with Demons” include the use of green-screen technology to make visual effects. In addition, each student in the nine-member cast will deliver a monologue and play the roles of an “Everyday Hero” and a specific COVID-era “Demon” or a mentor.

“Dancing with Demons” cast members and roles include:

  • VPA, political science and geography major Vincent Pellegrino ‘22 as Everyday Hero and Mentor
  • English and theater major Bellalorraine Carey-Hicks ’21 (December) as Everyday Hero and Respirator Demon
  • VPA major Brighid Campbell ’22 as Everyday Hero and Social Distancing Demon
  • VPA and early childhood education major Julia Duggan ’22 as Everyday Hero and Social (In)Justice Demon
  • Psychology and VPA major Jamie Bergmann ‘21 as Everyday Hero and Toilet Paper Imp
  • Psychology and sociology major Ziray DeJesus ’24 as Everyday Hero and Respirator Demon
  • Communication and elementary education major Ryann Jerome ’22 as Everyday Hero and Face Mask Demon
  • Communication major Liam Carmody ’22 as Everyday Hero and Quarantine Lockdown Demon

For more information about the production or the Visual and Performing Arts Department, visit worcester.edu/visual-and-performing-arts or contact VPA@worcester.edu.

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