(Photo: @kyliewesterbeck on Instagram)
By Gavin Dorval
The Philadelphia FringeArts Festival is a place for contemporary art and performances, featuring independently curated and produced works of dance, theatre, and music. The festival is meant to bring together audiences and artists, which is exactly what Peg! does. Kylie Westerbeck’s Peg! follows the story of Peg! (she wrote the exclamation point on her birth certificate) a childish and energetic girl from Minnesota who wears hot pink clothes and puts glitter in her eyebrows. Peg! loves 80s music, PB&J sandwiches, and Costco—specifically the cute guy who works there, Fransisco. Starting with a warmup set to upbeat 80s music, Peg! is high energy start to finish. The show is set up like a talk show, and features bits such as Peg! recounting a nightmare, listing things she finds sexy, and giving the audience personalized advice, and it ended with a musical number thanking the audience—whom she dubbed “Peggers”—for coming to see the show.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect about Peg! is the audience participation. Westerbeck had no problem playing off of the audience and improvising silly one-liners—I was laughing throughout the entire show.
The one-woman show was created by Rowan University student, Kylie Westerbeck, who also starred in it. However, she also featured members of the stagecrew, who also attend Rowan University: stage manager MacKenzie Trush, scenic designer Andrew Robinson, and videographer Robin Purtell. Additionally, Rowan students, Abby Leyh and Alex Dossantos (sound and light designers, respectively), contributed to the amazing show. The fact that the show was created entirely by college students makes it even more impressive and exciting to watch.
Not only did I have the opportunity to see Peg!, but I was also able to get an interview with Kylie and talk to her about some of her thoughts on the show.
What parts of the show stay the same every night?
The only things that stay the same every night is the PowerPoint presentation and the dance structure… even those change depending on what the audience reacts to. The entire show is based on structures, and we all improvise inside each structure… kind of like a series of mini games!
Since the show involves so much audience participation, what was the rehearsal process like?
The rehearsal process relied very heavily on having strangers and friends in the room. I would often have someone watch the show and give feedback from the point of view of a new audience member. Back in June, I invited a group of RUTD [Rowan University Theatre and Dance] students and alumni who I trusted artistically to come and watch a work in progress showing, and they gave me some great feedback that ultimately shaped the final product! Ultimately, it came down to me trusting the structure and my character, in order to create the best final product.
Why did you pick Minnesota?
When the character, Peg, was created back in June of 2017, the accent came only after I developed her physicality and the details of her life. The Minnesotan accent developed pretty naturally, and thus it became part of Peg!
How did you come up with the character Peg?
In June of 2017, I was hired as an actor and collaborator for the Hollybush Summit’s 50th Anniversary at Rowan University. Under the direction of Melanie Stewart and the dramaturgy of Brian Grace-Duff, the ensemble each developed a character that resembled someone in a family setting. Mine was Peg!
Did you already know you wanted Peg! to be set up like a talk show beforehand, or did you decide to do that after developing the character?
The idea of a talk show came as a “what if” situation. I wasn’t sure if I was going to take Peg anywhere after the HollyBush Summit 50th Anniversary performance. A lot of people had told me that they would love to see Peg on her own, and so I took a risk and decided to do it. The talk show setting only came as a structure for a one-woman show. It ultimately was closer to a variety show, but the original talk show idea was just a basis for how Peg would function as her own separate theatrical function.
What do you think you and peg have in common?
Me and Peg have a LOT in common. I have a lot of characters I have created and they are all odd parts of who I am. I love Costco… I love dancing horribly to 80’s dance music… and most importantly I am completely gullible and naïve at times. I really decided to jump back into the character because I missed my detail-oriented and horrible dancing lifestyle. Peg was a way for me to jump back in and appreciate my naivety and capture my child-like self again!
What’s your favorite thing about performing Peg!?
I love watching the audience watch Peg. It is such wholesome fun. I love being able to be a kid on stage and do whatever I want… haha. It’s always a game. It’s always a challenge. But it has been the most fun I have had on stage in a long time.
The 18th was your final performance at the fringe festival; is the world going to see more of Peg?
I hope so! This is most definitely not the end. I have had so much positive feedback on the show and so I know that the epic saga of Peg! must continue. There are loads of opportunities out there… more fringe… stand-up..? So much… I just need to figure out what is best!