Students team up to choreograph the W&M Theater “Company”

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  • Supervision of the dancers:

    Zach Townsley ’23 (left) and Kate Bobulinski ’22 choreograph the William & Mary Theater production of “Company” which will run from April 21 to May 1, 2022 at the Kimball Theatre.
    Photo by Jennifer L. Williams

by Jennifer L. Williams

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April 19, 2022

Kate Bobulinski ’22 and Zach Townsley ’23 dance in sync during their first forays into choreography with the William & Mary Theater ‘Company’.

Not enough; they don’t actually dance together in the upcoming production. But they do anything but because Bobulinski choreographed the show with Townsley as the fight choreographer, which involves more of a tango fight game.

“I was so excited when Kate asked me to come and help her choreograph this number,” Townsley said.

“Company” will run from April 21 through May 1 at the Kimball Theater. Directed by W&M drama teacher Laurie Wolf under the musical direction of musical theater director Phaedra McNorton, “Company” comes from the book by George Furth with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

{{youtube:medium:right|PoWG7ruwEyM, ‘Company’ Rehearsal: The affectionate fight scene}}

More students and alumni than usual fill creative positions for this show, with Peggie Zeng ’22 working as a rehearsal pianist. Corey Strickland ’17 is a costume designer.

Alumni of the university’s 1980 production of “Company” will meet current cast members at a Zoom event on Tuesday to talk about the show and available careers in acting.

Bobulinski is a chemistry major and kinesiology minor who has been dancing for 20 years through her high school visual and performing arts and studio training. She takes dance lessons at W&M, but studied science while immersing herself in acting outside of academics.

Beginning as a dancer and performer on stage in Shakespearean plays, Bobulinski’s dance role in 2019’s “A Chorus Line” was her first big stage performance. She then became a costume designer, designing and costuming a virtual musical during the height of the pandemic.

With a knee injury, Bobulinski choreographs while seated and cannot demonstrate the dance moves, which she says has been a learning experience.

“This is my first college-level choreography experience outside of class work,” Bobulinski said. “So it was really fun to incorporate what I learned in high school — because I did a lot of choreography back then — and to be able to work with people who can dance and people who can’t. know and put together this wonderful, incredible musical.

Townsley is a double major in theater and sound design, theory and production. He has 14 years of martial arts experience and about three years of stage combat experience.

Townsley, who is also an actor in “Company,” got his start at the W&M Theater as an ensemble cast member in “A Chorus Line.” He played the character Headband and danced in a performance for the first time. He then studied lighting as a technology field throughout the pandemic and did electrical production, stage management, and sound design work throughout that academic year.

“This is my first experience of semi-professional choreography,” Townsley said. “I’ve done things with a few other martial artists, where we’ve set up little quick fights for fun, but I’m so grateful to Kate and our manager Laurie Wolf for letting me choreograph professionally for the musical comedy.

The plot of “Company” follows single New York man Robert as his many married friends attempt to influence his views on marriage while revealing much about their own relationships. The music and dance in the show illustrate their connectedness as well as their eccentricities, according to Bobulinski.

The number she and Townsley are collaborating on is called “The Little Things You Do Together” and features a couple arguing.

“The wife, Sarah, is taking karate lessons,” Bobulinski said. “She’s very focused on trying to be physically fit and look like what the women look like in her magazines, which is the stereotype she’s fallen into. The typical showmanship for this issue only has karate, just stage fighting.

“So what the director wanted was for it to be more danceable and for it to be a tango. So it’s a tango-type dance to show the fighting and the intensity, but also the connection and the story of how Sarah and Harry, her husband, show up throughout our little number.

Because of the musical counts, the dance cannot be a real tango.

“It’s influenced by tango, but especially ballroom dancing,” Bobulinski said.

Before rehearsals or choreography began, the pair began teaching the actors how to roll 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 intertwine and blend Kate’s choreography with the martial arts that Sarah is supposed to follow,” Townsley said. “So the fight choreography is influenced by karate and judo techniques that I learned and secured with elements of onstage fighting.”

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