Kate Bobulinski ’22 and Zach Townsley ’23 are tangoing in synch in their first forays into choreographing with William & Mary Theatre’s “Company.”
Not quite; they don’t actually dance together in the upcoming production. But they are doing everything but that as Bobulinski choreographed the show with Townsley as fight choreographer, which involves more of a play fight tango.
“I was so excited when Kate asked me to come on and help her choregraph this number,” Townsley said.
“Company” will run April 21 through May 1 at the Kimball Theatre. Directed by W&M Professor of Theatre Laurie Wolf with musical direction by Musical Theatre Director Phaedra McNorton, “Company” comes from the book by George Furth with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
More students and alumni than usual are serving in creative positions for this show, with Peggie Zeng ’22 working as rehearsal pianist. Corey Strickland ’17 is costume designer.
Alumni from the university’s 1980 production of “Company” will visit with current cast members in a Zoom event Tuesday to talk about the show and careers that are available in theatre.
Bobulinski is a chemistry major and kinesiology minor who has danced for 20 years in both her visual and performing arts high school and studio training. She takes dance classes at W&M, but has studied science while immersing herself in theater outside of academics.
Starting off as a dancer and actor on stage in Shakespeare plays, Bobulinski’s dance-heavy role in “A Chorus Line” in 2019 was her first big mainstage performance. She moved on to become a costumer, designing and costuming a virtual musical during the height of the pandemic.
With a knee injury, Bobulinski is choreographing from a seated position and can’t demonstrate dance moves, which she said has been a learning experience.
“This is my first collegiate level choreography experience outside of classwork,” Bobulinski said. “So it’s been really fun to bring in what I learned in high school — because I did a lot of choreography then — into this and be able to work with people who do know how to dance and people who do not and put together this wonderful, amazing musical.”
Townsley is a double major in theatre and sound design, theory and production. He has 14 years of martial arts experience and approximately three years of stage combat background.
Townsley, who is also an actor in “Company,” started out in W&M Theatre as an ensemble cast member in “A Chorus Line.” He played the character Headband and danced for the first time in a performance. He went on to study lighting as his tech field throughout the pandemic and has done production electrical, stage management and sound design work throughout this academic year.
“This is my first semi-professional choreographing experience,” Townsley said. “I’ve done things with a couple of my other fellow martial artists, where we’ve put together little quick stage combat things for fun, but I’m very appreciative to Kate and our director Laurie Wolf for allowing me to professionally choreograph for the musical.”
The plot of “Company” follows New York City single man Robert as his many married friends try to influence his views on marriage while revealing lots about their own relationships. Music and dance in the show illustrate their connectedness as well as their eccentricities, according to Bobulinski.
The number she and Townsley collaborate on is called “The Little Things You Do Together” and features a couple tussling.
“The wife, Sarah, takes karate lessons,” Bobulinski said. “She’s very focused on trying to be physically fit and to look like what the women look like in her magazines, which is the stereotype that she fell into. The typical staging of this number has just karate, just stage combat.
“So, what the director wanted was for it to be more dancey and to be a tango. So, it is a tango-like dance to show the fighting and the intensity, but also the connectedness and the story of how Sarah and Harry, her husband, show throughout our little number.”
Because of musical counts, the dance can’t be a true tango.
“It is tango-influenced, but mostly ballroom dancing,” Bobulinski said.
Before rehearsals or choreography began, the pair started teaching actors how to do rolls and get in and out of positions safely, as well as how to communicate well for their comfort.
“What we really wanted to do was intersperse and mix Kate’s choreo with the martial arts that Sarah is supposed to be taking,” Townsley said. “So the fight choreo is influenced by karatedo and judo techniques that I have learned and I have made safe with stage combat elements.”
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