A stated goal of Attack Theatre is to create passionate portrayals of everyday life. So when the dance company’s co-artistic director and co-founder Peter Kope was introduced to the poetry of former Allegheny County police detective and boxing coach Jimmy Cvetic, he was inspired to create a work infused with the passionate portrayals of everyday life contained within Cvetic’s poems.
Attack Theatre performs the world premiere of In Defense of Gravity Dec. 1-3, at Pittsburgh Opera’s George R. White Studio, in the Strip District.
With more than 3,000 of Cvetic’s poems spread over several books, the next task was to focus on some central themes, says Attack’s other co-artistic director and co-founder, Michele de la Reza.
“We are not theatricalizing any one poem,” says de la Reza. Neither is the work a biography of Cvetic; instead it reflects the situations, emotions and feelings contained in his very humanistic, often salty poetry. However, the poem “Little Feet,” about the effects of a death, is a jumping-off point for the 90-minute “image-narrative” (as de la Reza describes it), which follows a central character (portrayed by Kope) who at first is in the depths of despair. From there, the protagonist gets caught up in a surreal situation where supernatural, perhaps angelic beings guide him toward some level of salvation.
Lightening the mood will be aphorisms and Yogi Berra-like quips from Cvetic’s poems, some delivered in recorded voiceovers by Cvetic and actor Patrick Jordan.
The work’s title, which creates an acronym for Cvetic’s nickname, “Dog,” also refers to how “gravity” can suggest weightiness, gravitas or a physicalized struggle, says de la Reza.
Joining Kope onstage will be de la Reza; Attack’s five company dancers, including Simon Phillips, an Atlanta transplant who recently replaced Anthony Williams (now with Chicago’s Deeply Rooted Dance Theater); vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield; and a live music ensemble performing a multi-styled soundtrack consisting of new arrangements of existing compositions and original material.
Of having his poetry turned into a dance work, Cvetic (an occasional CP contributor) says: “In one word, it’s wonderful. ... The energy of the dance and the energy of my poems working together really sends a message of hope out into the world.”