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The Mystery of Mr. Leftovers

Jillian Peever in new work by Sharon B. Moore

 

Toronto-based dance artist Jillian Peever tackles her first solo show with The Mystery of Mr. Leftovers. The work stems from one character in a quartet by Sharon B. Moore for graduates of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, where Peever trained, and has grown into a dynamic dance with outrageous theatrics. Peever is mentored on this solo journey by dance icon Peggy Baker and shares Mr. Leftovers with with the world February 25-27. Here’s a bit from Peever on her connection to choreographer Moore, the creative process and character work.

 

What drew you to Moore’s work?
Sharon’s work makes me laugh. As a dancer, I hadn’t thought that I could be a funny character really, but then it all started to make sense the more I got into it. I love to make people laugh and I realize now that I always have. Sometimes dance is taken so seriously, but Sharon’s work connects to real human issues through humour, so there is no despair at the end of the day. Sharon is also an extremely dedicated person. She is so invested in her work and her art, and this motivates me to tackle challenges and learn by doing. I remember once after a showing of our work together in Princeton University someone approached me and said that I was a fantastic actor, and I thought to myself, “Wow! I guess that’s right! When did that happen?” I had been so focused on doing the character both physically and through text that I hadn’t even thought of the fact that I had no formal training in acting. Sharon has such a positivity about her that anything and everything is possible.
 
How has this creative process been different?
With Sharon we just get right to it when we enter the studio. After unloading several props, we start adding new movement material, new text, new props, or running things and tweaking things. Really there is not a moment of wasted time or “downtime.” I am either frantically writing notes, practising lines, figuring out how to manipulate a prop or going over details of the movement every moment of the rehearsal. What is different this time is that I am also working with Peggy Baker at times on the material. So far it’s been very rewarding. Peggy has given me tools to look at the work and to see the structure and aesthetic of the choreography, allowing me to clear away any “background noise” and to finely comb through the dense work.
 
The other element that is different is that all the focus is on me. I feel the fire burning under my butt both in the studio and in the community. As producer I have a lot of work to do outside the studio as well. Add these roles together and you get one motivated artist! I have never before been as excited as I am now to perform a new work. I believe the excitement is drawing attention as many friends and family have been showing a tremendous amount of support this season. That is something I am very grateful for. 
 
What about this work speaks uniquely to you?
Mr. Leftovers himself. As much as he is a figment of our imaginations, Mr. Leftovers is so close to me that I feel he is a part of my personality. I also see his personality in Sharon. Perhaps it was growing up watching Mr. Bean as a kid and laughing hysterically with my brother at his ridiculous and odd way of moving through obstacles. There is something pathetic and sheepish about Mr. Leftovers, but also something so strong and powerful. He is a hero, a sidekick and an outcast. I think many people can relate to feeling those ways. Maybe he is also like that little angel on your shoulder telling you that things could be worse, that things aren’t actually that bad … that life is great, in fact, and it’s all right to have a good laugh at those terribly unlucky days. I’m the kind of person that sees the silver lining in things, and as much as Mr. Leftovers gets down deep into his somewhat disastrous history, he is always so resilient. I love that about him.
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