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Nighthawks at PCS's JAW (Photo Credit: Stephen A. Miller)

Nighthawks at PCS’s JAW (Photo Credit: Stephen A. Miller)

Nighthawks’ draws inspiration from Edward Hopper paintings to create physical theater

by Marty Hughley, The Oregonian, August 27, 2012

Few things are such established images of Americana, so clearly representations of us, yet at the same time so mysterious, as the paintings of Edward Hopper.

“The images are so evocative — the colors, the lines, the angles,” says Portland theater artist Camille Cettina. “The scenes always have this subtle sense of mystery, that something just happened or is about to happen, and it piques your interest in them.”

Cettina’s interest in Hopper has led to a performance piece called “Nighthawks,” named after Hopper’s iconic 1942 painting of a brightly lit diner on a dark city corner. Push Leg, a fledgling physical-theater company led by Cettina and Anne Sorce, will present the work-in-progress Monday at the Firehouse Theatre as part of the Portland Actors Conservatory PAC LAB program.

Cettina and Sorce are college pals who went on to further theatrical training abroad (Cettina at the London International School of Performing Arts, Sorce at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris) and recently reunited in Portland, starting their joint venture last fall with “Mr. Darcy Dreamboat.”

Their company’s odd sounding name refers to “the leg you push off of at the beginning of a race, that gives you an explosive start,” Cettina says. And “Darcy,” a playful, personal look at the emotional life of an avid reader, was indeed a fine start.

(Sorce, meanwhile, has worked with fellow Lecoq devotees at Imago Theatre, most notably as the titular star of this spring’s hit “The Black Lizard,” which returns for another run on Oct. 5).

Since “Mr. Darcy Dreamboat” was a solo performance by Cettina, the pair felt their follow up should be a character-driven ensemble piece. “So we were asking ourselves what kind of world do want it to inhabit, and Edward Hopper’s work just came to mind,” Cettina says.

A brief showing for the “Devise and Conquer” portion of the JAW festival last month at Portland Center Stage accented the mystery, with an at once eerie yet comic feel to the dancerly depictions of American archetypes. Cettina says that the upcoming workshop will take the characters further from their origins (in clowning workshops with Imago’s Carol Triffle) and begin using text to strengthen the relationships in the piece.

Cettina and Sorce are “devisers at heart,” and view their current project as akin to dance theater, but may work with a script writer as they develop “Nighthawks” further. That, however, probably won’t be until sometime next year, because some of the show’s cast members will be on tour in the coming months with the Imago show “Zoo Zoo.”

More Nighthawks in the Press

Reviews for Mr. Darcy Dreamboat

“Camille Cettina can certainly make 80 minutes fly by. With her sprightly storytelling, impish impersonations, literal leaps and bounds around the room, and coy curlings-up in an armchair, the self-confessed “avid reader” reveals a rich private fantasy world, peopled by various book characters.”

Portland Monthly Magazine

“Cettina’s energy is apparently boundless as she dances and darts about the stage portraying the various characters who people these works of literature.  The transitions between characters are smooth, and she just as fluently returns to her own voice.”

“thought-provoking and engaging”

The Oregonian

“vivacious solo performance”

The Willamette Week

“What’s interesting is the way that she, for moments at a time, cracks open those books, bringing them to life and letting the audience access those feelings for themselves.”

Portland Mercury

Mr. Darcy Dreamboat rubs elbows with the best of the best in the Oregonian’s Fall Arts Guide!

From our Preview Performance at the 2011 Fertile Ground Festival

“Mr. Darcy Dreamboat” Although it was only the first 15 minutes of a work-in-progress, the excerpt of this solo show that Camille Cettina performed in January’s Fertile Ground festival was a joy to watch. In this paean to the power of reading, Cettina traces a path of literary discovery from Nancy Drew to Jane Austen and beyond, using a vivid physicality to convey the little pleasures and great transformations that come when a good book and a ready imagination meet and fall in love.

 Nov. 11-20, pushleg.com

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