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Staging a visceral, tactile production of ‘The Outsiders’

Tony Award-nominated director Danya Taymor and choreographers Rick and Jeff Kuperman dig into the physical demands, fiery staging and vulnerable grit of their new musical. 

The company of “The Outsiders” on Broadway, 2024 (Credit: Matthew Murphy)

In conceiving her vision for “The Outsiders,” director Danya Taymor felt an instinctual pull that the musical needed to be elemental. She told the scenic design team, AMP and Tatiana Kaveghian, “We need to use the elements: water, fire, earth, air.” She explained, “The floor of the set is dirt, there’s fire and smoke, there’s real rain. It’s visceral.”

“The Outsiders,” based on the eponymous S.E. Hinton novel and the Francis Ford Coppola film, takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, circa 1967. The city is home to the Greasers and the Socs, rival gangs that occupy opposite sides of town. The Socs, to the west, are the privileged, clean-cut socialites-to-be; the Greasers, to the east, are the poor, gruff working class — which includes 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis who lives with his two older brothers after losing their parents in an accident.

“I think what the scenic elements seek to do is create a world that the characters have to struggle against,” continued Taymor, who has earned a Tony Award nomination for her direction. In her hands, “The Outsiders” is an extraordinarily physical production in the sense that it not only communicates through the body — as all theater does — but it is rooted in physical expression and demand.

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