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Ohio State students to merge dance, theater, music, visual art in ‘Polyphony’ performance

Courtesy of Kelly McNicholas


It can be difficult enough for artists to put together a show with only one artistic medium, but some Ohio State students are constructing a performance that incorporates many different artistic forms.

“Polyphony,” scheduled to open at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Mount Hall Studio Theatre, is a performance event that features different artistic forms including dance, theater, music and visual art. 

Rachel Switlick, a fourth-year in English and dance and a choreographer/facilitator of the project, said she started putting the show together as part of her senior distinction project, an independent research project for dance majors, but the idea for it came much earlier. 

Switlick said that when she started at OSU as an arts scholar, she became friends with people who were artists in other genres, such as music and visual art. When she and her friends went to each other’s performances and shows, they felt that they did not fully understand the other genres of art.

“That was kind of a frustration, that we were all interested in art but we were segregating ourselves by our different disciplines,” Switlick said.

This frustration is what Switlick said inspired her to create a performance that incorporated multiple artistic forms. 

She said preparations for the performance began last fall, but that each individual piece “had its own timeline.” 

Leela Singh, a third-year in theater, wrote three monologues that are set to be featured in the show, and she will perform one of them herself.

Singh said she has been working on her monologues since last semester and became involved in “Polyphony” after her adviser told her Switlick was looking for a playwright. 

Switlick and Singh said using so many different types of art did not come without challenges.

“Everybody had new things to consider that they didn’t have to consider if they were just making the art themselves,” Switlick said.

For example, Switlick said the process of preparing a dance and preparing a theatrical performance are almost opposite.

“For dance, you would learn the dance and then you would flesh out the details of your character … but in theater, you develop the character first and then you do your blocking on the stage,” Switlick said.  

Singh echoed these feelings.

“An actor’s process is kind of … backward from a dancer’s process,” she said. “But it was really interesting to see when everything was synched.” 

Debra Beight, a third-year in communication and sexuality studies, said she thinks that putting on a performance that incorporates so many artistic forms would be challenging to do well. 

“You don’t want it to come across as chaotic,” Beight said. “I guess it would be finding that balance of getting the correct kind of flow.” 

Switlick said she hopes the audience does not view “Polyphony” as many different, separate pieces.

“I’d really like people to get a holistic view of things,” Switlick said. “I’d like them to see the interplay and the change and whatever can happen when we cross those arbitrary boundaries that we set for ourselves.” 

Performances are scheduled for Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Mount Hall Studio Theatre, located at 1050 Carmack Road. 

Admission is free, but reservations must be made by emailing the requested date, time and number of seats to polyphony2013@gmail.com.  

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