Preview: Choreographer Luke Murphy returns to Kelly-Strayhorn to get 'Drenched'


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Just a few years out of college, Luke Murphy is a rising choreographer and dancer living the best of two worlds.

The Ireland native spends time in his home country creating and staging works, and he lives partially in New York City, where he performs in "Sleep No More," an immersion theater rendition of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," and works as a freelance artist. He also is an artist-in-residence at the Tribeca Center for Performing Arts and the Duo Multicultural Arts Center.

But there's a third city that's close to his heart and his choreographic process -- Pittsburgh.

'Drenched'

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Where: Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty.

Tickets: $25 in advance, $35 at the door, $20 for residents of ZIP code 15206 and $15 for students and artists. www.kelly-strayhorn.org or 412-363-3000.

Information: Luke Murphy will conduct a master class 10 a.m. Thursday at The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship. The 90-minute class is $10.

"It's really where all my beginnings kind of came from choreographically," said Mr. Murphy, who studied dance at Point Park University and graduated in 2009.

He's maintained his Pittsburgh ties, most recently showing excerpts of a work-in-progress at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater as part of its "East Liberty LIVE!" summer series. This weekend, he'll return to the East Liberty venue to showcase the finished product, "Drenched," an examination of the pop culture-induced expectations of relationships versus the reality of romance and friendship.

Mr. Murphy premiered "Drenched" in September at the Absolut Fringe Festival in Ireland. The presentation Friday and Saturday, part of the KSTmoves series, will mark its U.S. debut.

"Pittsburgh is the first place I want to show it. The community is really enthusiastic and is really supportive."

Since college, Pittsburgh has served as a laboratory of sorts for Mr. Murphy. It's where he regularly discovers what he likes, what works and what doesn't.

"I started off and wanted to be a jazz dancer," he said, but while he was at Point Park, he uncovered his connection with contemporary movement. He also relies on performance opportunities here for budding artists, such as the Kelly-Strayhorn's annual newMOVES Contemporary Dance Festival, for testing new works.

"It's the place you get to get the most honest feedback before you take it to the wolves and the rest of the world," he said.

When he gave Pittsburgh a sneak peek of "Drenched" last summer, he tried out more evocative adult sections to see how the audience would respond.

"You always want your work to be accessible to a wide range of people," Mr. Murphy said. "But you don't want to shy away from something either."

For those who saw "Drenched" as a work-in-progress, the performance this weekend will help put all the pieces and the overarching message in perspective. Mr. Murphy will dance the approximately 56-minute piece with Carlye Eckert, a graduate of the Julliard School who performs and creates her own work in New York.

"She is a really strong dramatic performer," he said.

The dancers will dissect through humor, sarcasm and raw, aggressive movement the pictures pop culture paints of relationships, from casual connections to close bonds. They'll be accompanied by a multimedia installation by David Fisher that will flash clips of cinematic romances, from "Gone With the Wind" to "Titanic."

"I would really like people to see themselves in the piece, to see their own experiences in what they're watching," Mr. Murphy said. "Ultimately, what we're trying to do is discover something that's universal by investigating something that's really, really personal."

theater

Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com.


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