Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Balancing Act

By Margaret Regan

OCTOBER 26, 1998:  ELIZABETH HEICHELBECH'S NEW one-act play is about ballet, sort of. Featuring Heichelbech and two other actresses in "ridiculous tutus," Little Words is "more about the comic potential of ballerinas," she says with a giggle.

It may be naughty for Heichelbech to make fun of grown women in pointy little shoes, but she's earned the right. She was a serious ballerina for marev3: t only as a little girl at the barre, but as a professional on the stages of the ballet companies in Louisville, Lexington, St. Louis and Indianapolis.

Right now, though, Heichelbech considers herself an interdisciplinary artist, and she has a show this Saturday night to prove it. She's directing, producing and performing TILT, short for Total Interdisciplinary Live Theater.

Not only will Heichelbech perform in the ballet playlet (along with acting buddies Sara LaWall and Margy Wilson) she also wrote the script and directs. She'll also do a solo modern dance piece inside and outside a giant plastic bag ("the kind futons come in"), and she'll lead a nine-member cast in a performance piece that entails putting objects into a giant fishing net. The audience will be issued soap bubbles, she says, and "we're hoping that they use them."

Why the switch from classical to free-form?

"All my life I wanted to be a ballerina," Heichelbech explains. A native of a "piss-ant town in Kentucky," she went to the University of Louisville for two years and then quit to go ballet pro. But after a few years on the dance circuit, "I got more interested in the experimental...My interest lies in the middle, between theatre and dance."

Heichelbech left the ballet and headed for Tucson, where she quickly found herself playing to good reviews on the local theatre scene. She was the unhappy wife in IT's Stepping Out, a delicious comedy about an amateur tap-dance class (she had to dance down to look like a clunky beginner), and she played the lesbian sister of the groom in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress at Borderlands.

Eventually, she went back to school, undertaking a triple specialization in creative writing, modern dance and new genre in the UA's interdisciplinary studies program. She'll graduate in December. Dancing on occasion with the UA Dance Ensemble, she discovered in an uncharted piece that "improvisation is a blast."

"Improvisation in Three Speeds," her Saturday dance piece, is a "free-form dance, not really choreographed. As far as what is actually going to happen, I don't know. I have a basic structure, but no music."

Likewise, the performance piece, "The Dredgers," a structured improvisation, is partially left to chance. "Nine of us carry things through the audience. The goal is to get things in the cargo net...We don't know if that's gonna work. But I hope it will be fun and theatrical."

Besides performing, writing and directing the concert, Heichelbech is also producing. She's paying for it with some designated scholarship money, ad revenues from the program, in-kind donations and, she hopes, ticket sales. She's nervous, of course, but she has confidence that TILT is something distinct.

"I haven't seen anything like it before."

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