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PUSH Physical Theatre Unveils PUSH Forward Project

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PUSH Physical Theatre Unveils PUSH Forward Project

Like so many performing arts groups, the shut-down of all but essential services back in mid-March due to COVID-19 has rendered Rochester's world-renowned PUSH Physical Theatre jobless. Forced to cancel nearly $50,000 in contracted performances at festivals and theatres as well as its annual Summer Intensive that draws students from around the world, the 20-year-old company has no live bookings in sight. And - with the renewed surge in cases all over the country - getting back to normal seems further and further off for everyone.

Not to be deterred, these masters of physical storytelling began creating training videos in late March. That series now contains a dozen lessons - from "Partnering Without a Partner" to "Harder Than it Looks" - all of which are available for free on its YouTube channel.

It's a complicated time for this genre-defying, award-winning company, whose performers interact intimately, climbing all over one another in a gravity-defying display of sweaty acrobatics and artistry. But - ever creative and determined - the non-profit arts organization has come up with something called the PUSH Forward Project.

"The PUSH Forward Project supports our company's mission to create and perform physical stories that inspire change," explains PUSH Co-Founder/Co-Director Darren Stevenson. "These are especially needed now, as we deal with the current upheaval created by COVID-19 as well as social issues like Black Lives Matter."

The Project's first program is the development of a new work called "You Know Me," which will explore gender, race, religion, generation differences, and more. The plan is for Stevenson, PUSH company member Ashley Jones, and guest artist Hassiem Muhammad to quarantine for two weeks in August, during which time they'll conduct intense, brainstorming Zoom sessions. Then, for six days in September here in Rochester, the three collaborators will create, rehearse, and film the results, which will premiere in the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival's Virtual 2020 Fringe.

"A very important part of the Fringe show will be audience feedback, which we will collect and evaluate afterwards," says Stevenson.

The PUSH Forward Project is currently under consideration by several funders for a small grant, but the non-profit organization is also launching a crowd fundraiser, Support the PUSH Forward Project, to help underwrite expenses.

"The performing arts are really struggling right now, and will continue to do so until it's safe to gather again," he adds. "We're all very grateful for any support that allows us to continue our work."

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