We hear a lot about body awarenessÂ these days. The fitness and health industries remind us that we have only one body and should take good care of it. Women have been taking to the street to retain their reproductive rights. Dancers use their bodies to reach people that otherwise might not understand other perspectives. A hot topic we increasingly hear about isÂ body shaming.Â Even our own Lenka Seresova has written a piece about body confidence.
Annie Baker’s play “Body Awareness” takes a closer look at how we react to the bodies in our space.
Nicola Chapman chose it for herÂ English Theatre Leipzig’sÂ directorial debut because she liked the naturalness of the dialog. She also liked the character development. These are real people in real situations. It’s a think piece that gives us room to laugh at ourselves.
“Set in a small college town in Vermont during Body Awareness Week, the play depicts the tensions that simmer and eventually boil over among its four characters as they gingerly step around one anotherâ€™s tender spots â€” or, in some cases, cluelessly stomp all over them.”
New York Times
Phyllis (Cynthia Dyre-Moellenhoff) and her partner Joyce (Nicola Chapman) live together with Joyce’s son from a previous marriage, Jared (John Moser).
Phyllis is a professor of psychology and is one of the organisers of a campus Body Awareness Week, with topics ranging from a dance troupe of Palestinian refugee children to an eating disorder seminar. Meanwhile, Jared (a self-described autodidact) is demonstrating symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, yet refuses to get professional help.
The complicated dynamics between the three is exasperated by their houseguest.
Frank Bonitatibus (Erik Eek) is a photographer specializing in photos of nude women. His presence brings a bunch of tensions to the surface and all three of them struggle to find their equilibrium.
I, for one am looking forward to seeing what Nicola does with the piece.Â She truly inhabited the character ofÂ Adelaide Pinchin inÂ The Mysterious Mr. Love.Â
Body Awareness has been in the works for a long time. Two others were cast inÂ the role of Joyce, but because of unforeseen circumstances were not able to continue the project. Because the last one was so late in the process, Nicola saw no other option than to step in.
This has led to some unexpected changes in directing. They formed a collective style, withÂ Julia (stage manager) and Maria (production assistant) sitting in the audience and making notes to give to Nicola afterwards. Nicola also had rehearsals at her home where they ate her baking and drank tea while they sat around the table and ran their lines. This makes perfect sense since the play takes place in the home.
Of course Nicola is the director and her decisions are final, but I think this open line of communication between cast and production members will create a bond of trust and inclusion that we will feel from the audience.