11th Hour Theatre Company has kicked off its season with the remounting of “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” a hip-hop adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” running now through Sept. 25 at the Skybox at the Adrienne on Sansom Street.
The play is a musical that infuses Elizabethan times with a hip-hop flavor, and is performed with a live DJ and features four actors who play all the characters.
Turning actors into believable hip-hop dancers is the role of choreographer Samuel Antonio Reyes. Raised in the West Chester area of Pennsylvania, Reyes moved to Philadelphia to become an art teacher, but soon learned that he loved dancing and acting too.
“I remember auditioning for a spot at the University of the Arts for the acting department and being told that I wasn’t talented enough,” Reyes says. “But in my family, being shot down only gives you more ambition to make it. So I re-auditioned and they finally let me in with the hope that I would get better.”
And get better he did, going on to the dance department where he fell in love with ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. “I had been an acting major but soon realized I wasn’t being challenged enough, so I asked to cross over to the dance department. And once they took me in, I think my career was born.”
Reyes went on to receive his B.F.A. in Performing Arts from the University, and was the recipient of the Cushman Acting Award and The Theater Ensemble Award. He then went on to study dance under the training of Ronen Koresh (Koresh Dance Company) and Renni Harris (RenniHarrisPuremovment).
Reyes performed locally in such productions as “St. Louie Woman” and “Pal Joey,” and was nominated for a 2002 Barrymore Award for best Choreography and Movement in a musical.
He also toured and created for Disney’s radio and television star Raven-Symone from 2004-2006, and continued to collaborate and work with various theater and dance companies.
“I think the primary job of a choreographer is to inspire the cast, all your dancers,” Reyes volunteers. “They have to trust that the work coming out of you will be OK and honor the fact that they are then honoring your work with their bodies. That’s important. And that’s what I try to convey to them in rehearsal.”
The timeline in this show, he continues, is the late ’80s and into the early ’90s. In his collaborations with the show’s director, Megan Nicole O’Brien, Reyes says they work off each other, trading ideas and trusting they are moving in the right direction.
“Megan is very smart as a director. She knows what she wants to see and then gives me the freedom to create the movement to support that vision. Since she realizes I know more about the hip-hop era than she does, she trusts me and gives me lots of creative freedom.”
This is not the first time the play has been mounted in Philadelphia. In its first Philadelphia run, the show earned seven Barrymore nominations and two wins. “The creativity behind the show is what appealed to us in the first place and that appeal is still there today,” says O’Brien. “This show was also the first show that really garnered us a large amount of creative and critical recognition, but because of many factors, not many people go to see the show. We wanted to bring it back to give more people an opportunity to see this show that we all feel so passionately about.”
In addition to his dancing skills displayed in many capacities throughout the area, Reyes is a professor of dance and theater all over the tri-state region, and is currently an adjunct professor at Temple University with his own introductory class on hip-hop theater.
Knowing first-hand what it’s like to be turned away from one of your goals, Reyes says first and foremost you must believe in yourself. “And then you can overcome anything. If people say you’re not good enough, you must then just get smarter, work harder and get more and more persistent.”
For times and ticket information, call (267) 987-9865.