“Masked! A Superhero Love Story”: The Creative Process
Written by Meghan Spencer
One of the most important parts of the training our Training Company receives is the yearly spring mainstage production. Taking a little idea and turning it into a show of this magnitude takes a lot of time, effort, and people.
Let Us Tell You a Story
Kelsey Aicher, the Training Company Program Director, uses her background in professional screenwriting prior to becoming an aerialist to write original shows that seamlessly tie aerial and ground acts into the story.
Kelsey noted “I like developing shows that our company members will be invested in. The excitement I received from our performers when I started bouncing around the idea of doing a superhero show is what sold me on writing Masked! Our company members are my inspiration. This show doesn’t exist without them.“
She is also excited about this show because she has loved superheroes since she watched her first episode of Batman: The Animated Series as a kid. Her passion began with DC and Marvel cartoons and extended into comic books, movies, video games, any media showcasing these altruistic, larger-than-life beings. Kelsey said, “To be creating my own superhero story is a dream come true for me.”
The Aerial Work
It’s always amazing to see the ensemble works our KC Aerial Arts coaches create for these shows! Our coaches apply for these choreographer roles based on creative interests and goals. Once assigned, they are given artistic license to create something based on the director’s vision for the story. Together, they choose music.
We asked Lyra Coach, Elena, who has choreographed for Training Company shows many times by now, “Then what?”
“Well, once we select music, I map out the music changes so I know how much time I have to build movement phrases and I know where the BIG tricks need to go. When I set the sequences I want to use, I play the music and let it guide me – a lot of improv and self-recording inform the final choreography.”
Looking the Parts
For this show, one of our Apprentice members, Littany Supka, took on the role of Costumer!
Littany said, “The opportunity to costume superheroes and villains in ‘Masked!’ was the perfect marriage of my 5+ years of aerial training and my BFA in textile design. I could truly tailor to the individual performer because I understand their needs, which are based on their apparatus and performance style. I even know some of their color preferences, which means I could really help them feel confident on stage!”
Trust me on this: Having a costumer who understands the shape of an aerial body and its tasks in the air is a huge deal to overall stress level of a show!! I can say from personal experience that feeling like you look amazing on stage can make your performance even better and Littany did a great job of making us look amazing.
Student and Apprentice members of Training Company range from ages 11-50. To decide who will be performing in which roles, we hold auditions. These auditions don’t look like most auditions. Choreographers, over the course of a month, each bring a minute of choreography to rehearsal and everyone interested is invited to give it a try. Running auditions this way gives Company members the opportunity to try new things and surprise themselves. Sometimes performers end up cast in roles on a new apparatus this way!
Our director makes final casting decisions, then rehearsals start. Most acts rehearse for 1-1.5 hrs a week for the 3-4 months leading up to the show. Performers are expected to learn new skills, memorize choreography, and polish each movement as a unified group.
I asked Jessi Harvey, one of our newest Training Company members, about how she feels about the experience of creating this show:
“I am beyond grateful and super excited to be a part of my first show! Within learning all the techniques and skills, I get to see this power of imagination turn into a magical show everyone gets to experience.”
If You Build It…They Still Have to Know About It Before They Can Come
So much goes into show promotion that for “Masked!”, we held our show poster photoshoot 7 months out!
The photographer is me. I’m Meghan Spencer, Apprentice member and a professional photographer for a living. I passed finished photos along to Geoff Pratt, a graphic designer and husband of one of our Professional Company members, who (in layman’s terms) turned my photos into cartoons and gave everything its comic book feel.
Then everything went to Melissa Bratton, Apprentice member and designer of literally every single KC Aerial Arts web graphic, poster, and flier you ever see. She combined all the cool visuals we wanted with all the important details we needed, like showtimes and ticket prices.
Turned out pretty good, am I right?
Finally, Samantha Davis, our Marketing Director (and amazing silks coach), takes over to reach the masses and fill the house for opening night.
IT ALL COMES TOGETHER:
It goes from a black and white script to a full color, larger than life show!
One of the best things about being part of a production at KC Aerial Arts is watching it all come together. All the performers and coaches work collaboratively to create something truly magical together.
I think Director Kelsey says it best: “I think that what our Training Company is doing with our shows is unique to the Kansas City area. We have characters and stories that our audience members become invested in. We create a whole new environment they can escape to for a couple hours.”
“I am so touched by how much effort and dedication I see from the performers. I might shape the story, but they create it.”