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Glyptis brings unique skill set to Prizery stage

South Boston News
Kelly Glyptis as the Witch in the Prizery's summer theatre production of Into the Woods. / June 15, 2017
A kick, a smack, a tumbling fall – stage actors make such moves look believable, realistic and even painful, but they are carefully choreographed and painstakingly rehearsed.

Given her own experience onstage – and a scar on her leg from a theatrical combat mishap – Kelly Glyptis, a Prizery Summer Theatre veteran, stresses the importance of having someone on hand to help choreograph fighting and action.

“There are hundreds, thousands, of horror stories” about things that have gone wrong, she said.

Glyptis is a returning member of The Prizery’s professional summer crew. But she offers a different set of skills than many of her fellow performers. Her forte is the ability to safely and realistically choreograph stage scuffles and action. She also holds major roles in the plays themselves.

This skill set was particularly valuable to The Prizery last summer with its productions of “West Side Story” and “Carousel,” both of which involved a fair amount of onstage violence. This summer, her abilities will be put to good use for “Into the Woods” and “The Addams Family.”

Glyptis is a registered member of the Society of American Fight Directors, an organization “dedicated to promoting safety and fostering excellence in the art of stage combat.”

But Glyptis’ art is more than just combat. In “Into the Woods,” for example, she has to ensure that Cinderella can manage a fall down a steep surface, in heels. Glyptis also has to choreograph a slap while making sure no one is touched, much less hurt.

The blows and falls all depend on eye contact, placement and cues of actors on the stage. It’s crucial to have communication with a partner, no matter who is committing the action. The signals have to be known to the actors but invisible to the audience. It could be placement of a hand at head-level before striking, placing a hand on someone’s back before a fake stranglehold or making sure everyone knows when an actor is about to take a fall. They’re “very obvious things,” says Glyptis.

While mimicking a slap, the actor has to create a realistic hitting sound using his own body while also hiding it from the audience. Furthermore, Glyptis seeks to teach other actors about these techniques, so they can take that knowledge with them to their next show.

It’s all about making “sure everyone feels comfortable and safe onstage,” she said.

As for the importance of her work as an action director, she noted, “You’d never hold a musical without a musical director,” she said.

A graduate of Indiana University, she also holds a master’s degree in vocal performance and opera from the same school. Glyptis grew up in Manassas and has performed around the United States, Canada and Italy. As for her time in South Boston for theatre, she gives high praise: “It’s a nice little community and they really support the arts,” she said.

The collective attention to the cast, the community dinners and the leeway with on-stage decisions, are “very rare,” and “create a real sense of camaraderie,” said Glyptis.

“Into the Woods” opens Friday with multiple performances: or 572-8339.

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