Contemporary playwright Leslye Headland brings a post-modern spin to the traditional theme of the “seven deadly sins” in her ongoing series of comedic morality plays, each examining a different transgression in the context of current life. One of her works, “Assistance,” runs at the Wilma Theater through Feb. 3.
The plot revolves around the world of Nick and Nora, 20-somethings working in a tyrannical tycoon’s downtown Manhattan headquarters, juggling phone calls and jumping through hoops with marathon endurance — all for the privilege of being mocked and insulted by their boss.
Philadelphia native Jaye Allison is the show’s choreographer, and what a hand she was dealt by the show’s director, David Kennedy. “In the very beginning they had no idea who the actress playing the particular role would be,” Allison recalls. “But they hired me and told me to find a tap dancer who could speak with a British accent and also speak Spanish. Now that’s asking an awful lot from one person.”
Working with those explicit directions, Allison said she eventually found a “wonderful sponge of an actress by the name of Emily Althaus. We worked together day and night right up until the opening night, but somehow it all came together and it all worked.”
Allison herself admits she, too, needed lots of help getting to where she is today. When she was seven years old, she attended a friend’s dance recital at the Academy of Music, and that turned into her defining moment of knowing what she wanted to do with her life.
“I watched her on stage singing and tap dancing with a row of other girls, and that turned into a magical number for me. But it took me another seven years to get close to learning how to do it myself,” she said. “And then, even without formal training, but with a routine taught me by a friend, I tried out for the High School for the Performing Arts and was accepted.”
Today, Allison is credited with being the founder of New LEJA Dances (formed with high school buddy Leon Evans, who always had faith in her many talents even when others did not), and continues 30-plus years as an independent dance artist. She is also a member of the 2nd Generation Silver Belles — the first were a group of 1930s African-American chorus girls who established themselves in Harlem —and much, much more.
With many other associations and numerous honors to her credit, Allison explains that one of her major responsibilities as a choreographer is to work closely with the director, pulling off the vision he inspires.
“Once he sees my work, he knows if it’s right. He describes things to me in imagery, then I have to go ahead and design it all for him so his vision comes to life on the stage,” she said. Working today means she has fulfilled a dream and a passion that has been with her for many years. “I would say that modern dance is my forte but that kind of dancing has a shelf life,” she explained. “However, I also love tap dancing and tap dancers can go on until their legs give out. So I expect to be around for a long, long time.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 546-7824.