In the little-known depths of the Music & Dramatic Arts building, open the right door and one may find people spinning around more than 20 feet above the ground, tangled in silk ropes. It’s the Physical Theatre Club, an almost completely unknown student organization. But it’s always on the lookout for new members.
The club focuses on anything in theater that is more than just acting. Along with aerialists, they regularly have people practice stage craft, movements and even improv. They meet every week in the afternoon, Monday through Thursday, to practice and help each other learn new moves.
The club president, Allyson Huval, a public relations and religious studies junior, said her most rewarding moments are helping novices learn the craft.
“It’s not someone who comes in here and is just dropping from the ceiling,” Huval said. “It’s the people who come in dedicated [and] who work hard. They want to succeed. They want to perform and they show it.”
The members really do work hard. The average member usually spends about 11 hours per week practicing his or her moves. Aerialists stop using rosin coating on their hands to strengthen their grips once they move from beginner to intermediate status, often climbing more than 20 feet of silk using nothing but their grasp on the rope.
Members have only crash pads for a safety net. Despite this, there have been no injuries in the club’s history. Huval attributes this to hands-on teaching, and making sure no one goes beyond his or her experience level. By the time members finally get into the air, they can handle it.
“I actually love going up there,” said phyical theatre junior and club member Chase Bell. “The higher it is, the more fun I have. It’s like an adrenaline rush.”
For Bell, one of the best things about physical theatre is the challenge and the thrill of scaling the silk ropes.
Huval has been an aerial yoga teacher since high school. However, most club members do not start with much experience. Bell had no experience with physical theatre before he took a class and became hooked.
“I gave it a try and I just fell in love with it instantly,” Bell said. “I started from a beginner, worked my way up and then after advance, I decided I wanted to teach instead of learn more.”
Bell was not the only member to discover a passion for physical theatre. It is fairly common for club members to pick up a physical theatre minor or majors. Huval said one member switched from biology to physical theatre. She said she was not surprised by this.
“There’s nothing really like it anywhere,” Huval said. “There’s no classes even close to this. There’s no real clubs that are close to this, so it’s very unique.”