From Our Assistant Choreographer

PHOEBE FOX is the Assistant Choreographer for Little Fish and a current Northwestern student. We asked her to write about her unique experience on the show.

It is a universal constant that the more meticulously you work out plans for the future, the more spectacularly those plans will fall apart. And the more that process of all your planning falling apart will feel like free falling through empty space with no end in sight, neither a safe landing nor a splattering on the pavement. But once in a while, out of the mad typically useless scramble in that free fall you will stumble upon something that you had never even thought to look for, something that ends up being just what you needed, something that is even better than what you had planned in the first place—so much so, that it feels like fate, even if you’re not sure you believe in that kind of thing.

This is how I came to work on Kokandy Productions’ Little Fish only two weeks before rehearsals started. Up until May 8th, I had been planning to spend my summer break (I’ve just finished my junior year at Northwestern University where I am studying Theatre) in my hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii, working as a film/television casting assistant as I have the past three years. May 9th, I found out that the production I had thought I would be working on had fallen through, and I was suddenly staring down my final summer in college with nothing to do and was about to lose my opportunity to get grant funding for an unpaid internship. I began asking everyone I passed—teachers, academic advisors, previous directors—if they knew of any companies or programs who might take on an intern to do some unpaid labor. I’m not really sure what I kind of position I hoped to find this way, but I knew that without a job, being home for the summer would find me neglecting my artistic practices and studies due to the sheer inertia.

In making these requests, I was reminded—as I am constantly—of how fortunate I am to be surrounded by mentors in my program who are actively connected to the Chicago theatre community and are willing to use their connections to support my growth as an artist. Every single person I asked either gave me suggestions of people and places to reach out to or promised to keep on the lookout for possibilities. On May 10th, after only two days of this questioning, my voice teacher (Kelli Morgan McHugh) suggested that I reach out to Allison Hendrix, whom I have had the joy and privilege of working with periodically as a vocal coach through the Northwestern Music Theatre Program over the past two years, to see if she needed an intern at Kokandy Productions. It seemed only a funny coincidence when I happened to run into Allison not four hours later and mentioned my conversation with Kelli. It seemed to be cosmic intervention when Allison emailed me later that night and asked me to assistant choreograph her show, Little Fish. It was nothing that I had ever considered as a possible internship position—probably like most people, I hear internship and think of coffee runs and administrative work—but I knew immediately that it was what I needed out of my summer: experience in a professional rehearsal room, an artistic work experience rather than an administrative one, and an opportunity to take the plunge into the world of choreography—which as a dancer I had interest in but no experience of my own—with a safety net.

So I knew (or was pretty sure at least) the process even started that it was going to be a valuable for me, even if all I did was sit in the room during rehearsals and take notes for Kasey and Allison. But I could not know what I ended up getting out of working on Little Fish: how much it would mean to me that Allison and Kasey respected and valued my input and thoughts on the process, that the actors trusted and respected me in the room (when I’m sure it was obvious that I was both terrified and thrilled when I ran sections of rehearsals), that I would fall in love with this bizarre, funky, silly, smart show that I had never heard of before Allison emailed me the script. I didn’t know how grateful I would be to learn from Allison and Kasey, two super smart, passionate, kickass ladies who care about making intelligent, interesting, personal art. I wouldn’t realize until halfway through the process how much Allison trusted me to bring me into the room to work on a piece that she loves with all her self. I continue to be surprised that I, a twenty-year-old undergrad who doesn’t smoke and has never lived in New York City with only dim memories of post-9/11 America, identify so easily with Charlotte fighting herself to grow and change, with her disillusionment with the world around her (although maybe that’s not so surprising right now), with her slow, incomplete journey to something that approaches both simple “okayness” and transcendence at the same time.

Now, on the other side of this process, knowing how I have loved it and learned from it every second, it seems even more like cosmic intervention than it did when the opportunity fell into my lap. It feels now as though I am reorganizing myself around the past eight weeks and the experience that I didn’t choose for myself because I didn’t know I needed it. “A revelation,” Charlotte says. Little Fish has been my small, unfinished revelation.