“Rattletrap,” Josh exclaimed one day in the middle of rehearsal, to which the company looked at him with wide confused eyes. “Rattletrap is going to be the title of the last work in our spring program.” ‘Rattletrap, what a strange word.’ I thought to myself, ‘Oh it must be a word Josh made up or some sort of onomatopoeia.’
Well, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally decided to ask Josh what rattletrap meant. He seemed slightly surprised that I didn’t know the meaning, but also that I had waited so long to ask him. But in my defense, I was surprised that it was even a real word! He then informed me that a rattletrap is an old, rusty, and rattly pickup truck. For Josh, Rattletrap perfectly exemplifies his adolescent years growing up in the small desert town of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Almost every family he knew growing up had some sort of rattletrap that him and his pals would either hang out by or in until the wee hours of the morning. In thinking of his past and teenage years, Josh decided to create a new work that explores the themes of adolescent sexual discovery, curiosity, and youthful lust, but not through his own personal narrative. Instead, Josh manipulates and uniquely interprets the writings of Larry McMurty in order to relate to a broader audience and provide a deeper look at this tumultuous time within every human’s life.
Although Josh may have grown up in Las Cruces in the eighties and nineties, Rattletrap is set in West Texas in the fifties. However, things in the southwest did not change much in those forty years, so Josh heavily relates to the lives of the characters in McMurty’s novels. For those of you who are not from the southwest or a small town, imagine a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, and as much as you would like to have your privacy, small town secrets are whispered through the wind.
I personally cannot relate at all to the setting of the work, as I grew up in Southern California as the child of two very liberal/hippie-esque psychologist parents. But, regardless of one’s upbringing, the themes within the work are extremely relevant and relatable. In RATTLETRAP, similar to real life, the six dancer cast is left to fend for themselves and figure out how to deal with their blossoming sexuality. One would think that intimate relationships and sex, which play a huge part in the overall human experience, would be taught by society in a much more beneficial way. But instead, most people learn the norms of these very individualized experiences from movies, TV shows, songs, and watching others go through it, creating confusion, shame, judgement, the construction of restrictive patterns. These constructs restrain us, which make youth rattle with desire. This in turn, often leads to aggressive, irresponsible, and insincere circumstances of love and intimacy, although most youth desire attentive, gentle, and genuine love experiences.
Josh questions these fabrications and the adolescent experience with a twist, in order to comprehend the constraints of small town living within the vast landscape of the desert. In Josh’s West Texas world, although the boys may think they are in control, the girls also assert their authority--deceiving, shielding, pursuing, watching, judging, and pouncing in a way that may not actually have been possible without consequences during the fifties. Along with these bursts of gender revolutions, the piece also features the women and men acting within the confining gender roles that are characteristic of the fifties and even present times, making us wonder if things have changed at all. In addition, as is distinctive of Josh’s recent work, there are undertones of gay relations occurring in secret and sometimes with the eyes of society watching. In a way, Josh’s creation allows the teenage sexual experience to transcend the restrictions of the small town while simultaneously diving deep into the stereotypes of southwestern traditional living. The piece for this reason is bursting with young lust, playfulness and flirtatious behavior sprinkled with underlying aggression, and some dangerous and suffocated acts and movement. It almost ever so slyly and gently shatters our preconceived notion of what young love should look like, what is sexy, what intimacy means, and how society participates in private relationships.
With brand new music composed by our beloved collaborator Brandon Carson, the work swirls with the sounds of the desert, rattletraps, ratchets, and bits of blues. It is a piece that will have you tapping your foot to the beat while simultaneously pulling at your heartstrings. Forcing you to question who is in love with who, if that matters at all, when love is stronger than lust, and if the ideals of love that we seek and romanticize over ever truthfully flourish?
Grab your truck and buckle up! Let’s get this rattletrap guzzlin'!
Reserve your seats for Joshua L. Peugh's Rattletrap & Yellow as well as guest choreographer Gabrielle Lamb's Can't Sleep But Lightly. The performance will take place Saturday, March 3 at Addison Theatre Centre at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. For tickets, CLICK HERE.