Thingamajig spotlight on Steven Sitzman: Fight choreographer for ‘West Side Story’

By Tess Wisher
Special to The PREVIEW
Steven Sitzman is the fight choreographer and plays Lt. Shrank in Thingamajig Theatre’s production of “West Side Story.”
This is Sitzman’s fourth summer in Pagosa Springs with Thingamajig Theatre and we are beyond lucky he is back in the area.
Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Sitzman studied theater at Niagara University where he trained in fight choreography as well as acting. From there, Sitzman worked professionally as an actor in Pagosa Springs; Grand Lake, Colo., and other places around the United States.
When Tim Moore, the artistic director, offered Sitzman the job, he couldn’t turn it down because Thingamajig and Pagosa are such special places filled with such special people.
“It’s fun to come to a place where it’s like vacation, but you get to make high quality art for an audience that understands and appreciates all your work,” said Sitzman.
Along with being a cultural classic, “West Side Story” is a beast of a show to choreograph because “the plot revolves around violence.” The most difficult aspect of the show’s violence is the “complicated nature of the fight scenes, because they involve so many people in such an intimate space.”
To Sitzman, the secret to great and safe fight choreography is trust. Every night, Sitzman begins his pre-show work by running through each fight with everyone in the space. In these moments and while teaching the choreography, Sitzman says he “puts a lot of trust in the actors to communicate as soon as the staged violence is not fully under control.”
Overall, Sitzman’s fight choreography is a major character within “West Side Story.” The story is reliant on believable gang violence between the Sharks and Jets so Sitzman’s work helps progress the story while highlighting the racial tension between the two gangs.
“West Side Story” will be playing throughout the summer with Thingamajig Theatre at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. If you’re interested in seeing this amazing show with phenomenal fight choreography firsthand, visit pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW (7469).

This story was posted on July 2, 2018.