CollaborationTown Rides The Momentum
"This is the weirdest thing we've ever done and we have done some weird things," says Boo Killebrew, co-creator and performer of The Momentum. Inspired by the idea to create a modern satirical version of the morality plays, CollaborationTown's The Momentum is a hilarious and moving look at the self-help phenomenon. "There are a lot of similarities [between the morality plays and self-help]," says Killebrew. "The stuff they say is all positive . . . It's all about self-imporvement." Born out Christianity, the morality plays were common entertainment of the medieval and Tudor periods intended to educate about religious right and wrong. But the team behind The Momentum found it difficult to identify with the black and white rules based on reward and punishment purported by the morality plays. They started looking for modern-day equivalents. Then someone said self-help.
"The piece has taken on the idea of being lost or being at a crossroads," says Geoffrey Decas. "We found that's when people were going to these self-help places, and that's the kind of people that they were trying to reach." To ground the piece in reality and resist parody, the collaborators took a lens to their personal experiences to complement satire with intimacy. Always with the goal of creating on their feet, the collaborators read self-help books, watched PBS documentaries, and read internet blogs, then wrote text to share in rehearsals.
In its first incarnation, The Momentum was a collection of short pieces exploring the philosophy of the law of attraction: the belief that if you think about what you want it will come to you. "A lot of [audience members] have been self-help. And a lot of them think it's a joke. So we got equal encouragement from both sides," said Killebrew of the first public performance. "[It is] rare that the audience reaction is equal to the humor," remarked Jordan Seavey. "Sometimes it begins to straightforward and normal to me. [Then] I check back in to the fact that it's a very strange little piece.
CollaborationTown submitted The Momentum into the 2010 FringeNYC Festival as a stapled packet of typed pages all in different font size, and was accepted. Director Lee Sunday Evans shaped the patchwork script into a cohesive whole that tells a clear story based on the heart of the piece. "It was very easy to keep writing things, then give it over to her and come at it just as an actor," remarked Decas. With Evans as their trusted guide, they could put aside being writers to concentrate on discovering the piece as actors. "I've never done so little and never been so conscious of letting go and not doing much," remarked Seavey. "[Evans'] whole thing is being there, and breathing, and sharing a gift with the audience."
The Momentum is written and performed by members of CollaborationTown's Artistis Core. Comprised of alumni of Boston University's School of Theatre, the Artistic Core develop, write, and perform original plays. Geoffrey Decas, Boo Killebrew, Jordan Seavey, and T.J. Withamm met at B.U. and formed the non-profit theater organization upon graduating in 2003. The Momentum has won a number of awards, including the 2010 FringeNYC Overall Excellence Award for Best Play, and was a New York Times Critics' Pick.
— Vicki Schairer, Stone Artistic Professional Intern