Dec. 8 2015 11:37 AM

‘The December Project’ uses movement to explore postmodern philosophy

TUESDAY, Dec. 8 — The MSU Department of Theatre’s “The December Project” is certainly not the usual holiday schmaltz associated with end-of-the-year theater. Created by Kellyn Uhl, instructor of musical theater and dance at MSU, this project goes where few Greater Lansing productions dare to go. She describes her role in “The December Project” with an enigmatic, yet knowing smile.

"'The December Project' is … an initiative … that explores themes of postmodern philosophy through bodies in space," she said.

The piece is devised movement, a collaboratively created piece that incorporates elements of dance and theater. Eschewing traditional titles like choreographer or director, Uhl prefers to keep her title vague.

“I am merely aspiring to be a good artist,” she said.

A graduate of the MSU theatre department, Uhl returned after a year in New York to choreograph MSU’s production of “Hair” earlier this year. The gutsy, innovative dance work netted her City Pulse’s Pulsar award for best choreography. Last year, Uhl explored the realm of therapeutic dance, teaching dance at leper colonies in India.

“All of this,” she said, waving her arms in an all-inclusive gesture, “culminates in ‘The December Project.’”

Uhl’s description is mirrored in the ways in which she coaches individuals to find their inner movement.

“In the December project, we use devised themes, we search for a common kinesthetic language, we sculpt movements,” she said, her hands moving through the air even as she described the work. “I am reluctant to be too specific. This is an ensemble piece, and we are constantly revising it as we move towards the opening.”

Uhl is excited to bring this style of performance to the MSU Department of Theatre’s season.

“There is something almost sacred this work, untouched by time,” she said. “We push beyond boundaries, we use the pressure cooker of imagination, we jazz up the very definition of what is theater. Our design team is made up of both faculty and students. We meet, we discuss, we fight for relevance, for authenticity.”

The performers will be using every available inch of the intimate Studio 60 space in the dark recesses of Fairchild Theatre. Tucked away in the basement, Studio 60 provides a space for audiences to disconnect, even for a short time, from the world of smart phones and mass media.

“Theater is a gift, for performers and audience alike,” Uhl said. “It brings us alive, overcomes the numbness that comes from being constantly bombarded by the latest urgent immediate technology.”

“The December Project”

MSU Department of Theatre

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 12; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13

(There will be a post-show discussion following the Dec. 10 performance and a pre-show discussion before the Dec. 13 performance at 1:15 p.m.)

$13/$11 seniors and faculty/$10 students

Studio 60 Theatre

MSU Auditorium, 542 Auditorium Road, East Lansing

(517) 432-2000,