COMPANY XIV is one of the most unique and dynamic performing companies around, and director/choreographer Austin McCormick continues to wow audiences with his brand of opera, circus, burlesque, ballet, gender bending, over the top costuming, and some of the best performers around.
Steven Trumon Gray has become a stand-out in the company’s new show, Cinderella, not only because he embodies the prince, but because of the way he connects with both the audience and Cinderella herself. We caught up with the triple-threat to find out more about being a jack-of-all-trades.
How is Cinderella different from previous shows you’ve been a part of?
Well, firstly I’m a lead in this show, so it’s the first time I’ve been able to develop a singular character and give him somewhere to go. In other productions, I’ve had the opportunity to be a featured aerialist with my partner Allison, or have had the opportunity to do some wonderful featured partnering. I’m quite lucky to get to investigate many of my actions on stage each night and see where they take me energetically. I mean, you have to be interested to be interesting and the amount of opportunity to delve into this character/work is extremely rich and pleasurable.
What keeps you coming back to Company XIV?
There’s something about the work that feeds a lot of my desires as an artist at once. I get to see how things are lit, get to play with phrasing, communicate transparently with my coworkers (family), and take risks based on what makes me feel full. There’s a certain sense of adhering to one another as humans from a macro perspective inside the troupe that I really enjoy. You have the chance to truly connect with one another through a tunnel vision like aperture that makes the piece thrive and grow. Live art is just like every other organism, it can die if you don’t nurture it, give one another proper awareness and attention. And foremost, who else is doing this kind of work to this quality in New York?
How is Cinderella challenging you as a performer?
I would say that the most challenging part as a performer is allowing myself to feel fully available energetically every day to be charming and be charmed in return. Some days it’s just difficult to leave your baggage at the door. Prince Charming (the character I play) has eyes that are enchanted when he sees Cinderella and is seduced by other characters somewhat freely. This needs an open and available heart to allow love in and radiate it back in return towards Cinderella. Making sure I’m in a place each night where Allison is charmed by me is definitely something I’m in the process of navigating.
You’re a man of many talents. How do you juggle the dancing, acrobatics, singing and photography?
I actually have been lucky enough to not have to juggle it much. Singing and acrobatics are somewhat back-pocket skills that I can use whenever I’m asked. I wish I would use them more. Mostly, I do dancing and photography and luckily enough, they’ve supplemented each other in between projects. When I’m not dancing, or letting my body recover, I work on building my book and collaborating with many other likeminded artists. And when I’m in a show, I can select what days before call time that I want to do a conceptual photography project, shoot some headshots, or build upon my Wet-Series.
As a photographer, what is your favorite subject to shoot?
I love shooting conceptual portraits where I get to experiment with hair, make up, shaping light, and connect with an evocative subject that brings something compelling to the frame. I think my work is a weird mix of an album cover and a European fashion portraiture aesthetic. I joke around that my work is like David LaChapelle without the budget or the set design. I’m finally feeling like I’m cultivating my own aesthetic and a community of likeminded artists that I enjoy working with. I also have a fascination with humans and the elements.
I’m doing a fine art series called the Wet-Series, where I’m seeing how humans navigate the element of water; whether it’s a spiritual wash, a curious tactile exploration, or even one that’s provocative or arousing. I find the connotations that come with the word “wet” fascinating. I’m actually trying to raise money for printing it
What’s next for you?
I’m always doing fun photography projects, but I’ll be doing Nutcracker Rouge with Company XIV.
Photos by Phillip Van Nostrand