Point Park grad, Luke Murphy, enjoys 'Sleep' role

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NEW YORK -- After graduating as a dance major from Point Park University in 2009, Luke Murphy jumped into the highly competitive dance scene in New York City and hasn't stopped since.

The Cork, Ireland, native (he was attracted to the variety that Point Park had to offer) began with an enviable apprenticeship at Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, then launched into the "New York freelance thing," working with notable companies such as Sean Curran, Heidi Latsky and Erick Hawkins.

He also found time to showcase his own choreography at the experimental theater club La Mama, on the Lower East Side, and sandwiched in three trips back to Pittsburgh for the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater's newMoves Festival.

Mr. Murphy found himself in Boston in October 2009 when an edgy British movement theater group, Punchdrunk, was appearing for a six-day run in "Sleep No More," inspired by Shakespeare's "Macbeth." The group was gearing up for a massive reworking of the production in New York City, and, on the suggestion of a friend, he auditioned.

Calling it "an extraordinary experience," in which he was judged on his presence and ability to dance with emotion, Mr. Murphy was cast in the role of Macduff, the thane of Fife and a Scottish nobleman. When he first walked into the lobby of the "McKittrick Hotel," a renovated warehouse space in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, he was "blown away" by what they had done with it.

"Sleep No More" struggled for the first couple of months in New York, but since then has been a certifiable hit. The producers have also been flexible about letting Mr. Murphy take some time off to work with modern dance maven Martha Clarke, who personally called him to appear in her latest work, "Angel Reapers." And he recently got a grant from the Arts Council of Ireland to create a duet, which he hopes to bring to Pittsburgh.

But he's still listed in the program for "Sleep No More," which has been extended through March. That's about as stable as freelancing can get in the Big Apple.

Besides, Mr. Murphy has memorized about half of "Macbeth" at this point and calls his two duets with Lady Macduff one of his greatest experiences so far in his young career.

As for the production itself, there's "not a wrong way" to experience "Sleep No More." "You can't get lost," he says, even though there are a reported 100 rooms to explore, prompting the suggestion to wear very comfortable shoes and contact lenses under your white mask. "Just go with your instinct."

First Published December 21, 2011 5:00 AM


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