FARGO — As a choreographer for countless local shows, most of the time, Patrick Kasper is telling actors to follow his steps.
Lately he’s been directing actors to follow his words, but find their own voice.
Kasper wrote the text and songs for the brand-new musical “Purple Rhymes with Orange,” which he is also directing. The show makes its premiere Saturday night, Jan. 25, at Shanley High School.
He's usually a bundle of energy — smiling, laughing, chatting and always moving — but sitting down to talk about his first theatrical creation, he is calmly focused.
“No one could believe I sat down for six hours a day and wrote,” he says with a smile.
The project started a decade ago when Kasper wrote “Purple Rhymes with Orange” as a children’s story. Still, he always thought it could work on the stage. In April 2019, he started adapting it and writing the 14 songs that help shape the tale.
The story follows Orange (Dillon Spurlin) and his search for a soulmate. He undertakes this quest with his friend, Grey (Kasper), who is searching for something himself. Along the way, they meet a colorful cast of characters that help shape their lives.
He says the show is less a romantic journey than a search for individuals to find their place and people in the world.
All of the characters are named after colors, but they have more personality than just shades and hues. Brown (Randy Talor) is a dancing lumberjack, Black (Chris Taylor) is a shock-rocker, White (Emily Durow) is a Broadway diva, Green (Katie Spokely) is a snotty influencer and Purple (Sam Davis) owns her own coffee shop.
Kasper compares the characters’ journeys to a crossword puzzle in how some intersect and build off each other.
“It’s all a roller coaster, meeting the characters along the way,” he says.
He adds that a similar collaborative approach is used in producing the play as he has consulted creative people on and off the stage and has encouraged feedback along the way.
He's worked with all of the actors before.
“That makes it easy, when you trust people on and off stage and you collaborate with them,” says Kasper, who runs the exercise and motivation outfit Positive Motion and teaches at Gasper’s School of Dance in Fargo.
Spokely worked with Kasper in last year’s production of “Mamma Mia” at Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre and “Legally Blonde” at Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks. He served as choreographer for both productions, but this time has been different as he has encouraged the actors to find the character rather than follow his lead.
“Not only is it exciting to be a part of something completely new like this, but it’s so much fun to get to have influence over brand-new characters and numbers and get to help shape them into who and what they are,” she says. “As an actor, it’s unique because I don’t have a previous expectation to live up to for my characters and performances, like my character of Green. I am creating the standard. So it’s really freeing because I don’t have to work inside as many predefined limits of the character, I get to color in the spaces to bring her to life.”
Kasper, who is also currently choreographing an upcoming production of “Shrek” for Horizon Middle School, appreciates the local theater community helping him on his own theatrical journey. He has had to work around the schedules of all the performers, and when damage to the roof at The Stage at Island Park prompted the venue to temporarily close, he had to scramble for a new stage before landing at Shanley, his alma mater.
He uses the phrase “tabula rasa” — Latin for "blank slate" — as one of the work’s themes.
“If you choose to sit alone, you’re not going to fill your plate with excitement,” he says. “I’m the most mediocre person in the world, but I don’t give up and I surround myself with brilliant people…. We’re all looking for someone or somewhere to belong, but we all have challenges to get there.”
If you go
What: “Purple Rhymes with Orange”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25
Where: Shanley High School Theater, 5600 25th St. S., Fargo
Info: Tickets are $10 at the door