Kristin Calabria has spent the past few weeks leading her clients in burpees, speed skaters and squats. But these aren’t your typical fitness clients — they’re actors.
For Hunger & Thirst Theatre’s latest production, “Messenger #1, A New Ancient Greek Tragedy,” director Hondo Weiss-Richmond brought Calabria on as a movement consultant to help bring playwright Mark Jackson’s contemporary retelling of the Greek trilogy “The Oresteia” to life.
The New York trainer created warmup and workout sequences in the show to convey the athleticism of three-foot messengers who serve the House of Atreus.
When Calabria isn’t teaching yoga at Y7 and Box + Flow and doing bootcamp classes at YG Studios, she’s acting or doing voice work herself, too.
We spoke with Calabria about the unique theater role ahead of “Messenger #1’s” premiere.
When Hondo approached you, what did he ask of you?
We were looking for ways in which more contemporary physical movement could come into the show. His pitch to me was, these people are basically, for their jobs as messengers, they’re running marathons to deliver these messages. My first goal was to have that feeling inside their bodies. That physical vocabulary will help in the storytelling, so the audience will understand how physical their jobs are.
How did you end up doing that exactly?
The first thing that I did was I created a warmup for them — that was my litmus test to see where they were physically and what kind of capabilities their bodies had. After I saw where everyone was, I was able to use my own movement vocabulary from the bootcamp classes that I taught, and more interesting, primal movements from yoga, and gave those to the actors to see how it felt in their bodies. After that we created a bunch of sequences that weave inside the show, both when the messengers are speaking and when they aren’t speaking. Some of them are really fluid, some are intense plyometric exercises.
What is the warmup like?
It’s similar to a more cardiovascular sun salutation, from yoga. There’s full range of motion, there’s a lot of squatting. There’s peak plyometric activity so they get their heartrate up and start to build cardiovascular endurance. It’s usually about 3 minutes long.
How have the actors taken to the movement and activity?
They’ve been so great. When you think of a show being movement-heavy, you think, oh, it’s going to be dancing. But this is much more crawling on the ground and doing burpees in a stylized way. Basically all of these exercises that people will kind of know are changed so that they fit the realm of the play. It was definitely new for them. It was a fun experiment for us all.
In addition to burpees, what other exercises did you pull from and play with?
We found that speed skaters worked really well — you get this idea that this person is running without them literally running laps around the stage. And in the same way, sprinter hops were really great at telling this story of ‘I’ve been running for a really long time and this is a hard job,’ as well as a lot of plyometric exercises like squat tucks. They give you the same burst of cardiovascular energy as you would if you were sprinting, but take a shorter amount of time and a lot less space.