Jon Peiffer

Wild Things

Jon Peiffer

For six exhilarating performances in spring 2005, Wild Things romped and stomped, flew and sang, played and swayed on the Johnson Theatre stage. Here’s how it went:

Take 1 wizard—Jon Peiffer, a senior majoring in music performance, add 1 superlative choreographer, Gay Nardone, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance. Add 10 musicians, 6 singers, 20 dancers, and 36 dedicated production staff and crew members. Mix it up and the magic begins.

Tentatively at first, lights blink and swirl on a darkened stage. As light dawns, huge suspended cloth bags hatch three young male dancers. A child in the audience who seems to “get it” before anyone else chuckles away.

This dance/music/song comprising 11 pieces flows from “Jungle Breath” to “Creatures in the Night” to “Ewok Village” to “Sticks” to “Eros” to “Tribal Rainbow” to “Six Adoni” to “Baio Butterfly,” to end with a celebration.

Under the spell of Gay Nardone’ choreography, dancers transform tribal circles to chorus lines to clusters of jitterbuggers. From barefoot thumps to percussive taps to moments of flight—the dancers exuberantly realize the spirit of each dance.

And what does a wizard do? Well, for one thing, he finds a wonderful faculty mentor—music professor Michael Annicchiarico. Then he writes and gets a grant—thanks to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). With that support, Peiffer composes the music in about a year, finishing just days before opening night. And because he is a wizard, Peiffer is also a sound designer, dancer, piano player, and drummer. Then, after the final performance, a dancer, on behalf of the company, presents Peiffer with a bouquet of roses and these words of praise: “Some call it insanity. We call it creativity.”

--Carrie Sherman