Cami Pileggi is a senior at the University of the Arts and HPI 2018 artist who directs, devises big group theater experiences, and plays the ukulele. Growing up in Philly, she has a lot of passion for this incredible city and the art it shares with the community through making art as well as teaching. Cami reflects back on the semester and how her process as a theater maker and performer has changed and left more room for her honest self in the making of a big work.
Can you talk about two or three milestones that have come up for you this semester?
Pretty much any time we had a class with Shavon Norris was a big deal for me. She’s definitely become one of, if not the, biggest artistic role model in my life, besides Amy Smith who previously was, which is the reason I came here. Just because of how well thought out and emotionally stable her classes are, and how, because art is such a vulnerable thing, and Shavon and most of the professors here really leave room for all of the mushiness and weirdness and distance that comes with making art as a person. And also, other milestones, I mean these are very vague and drawn out, not instances, but being able to have time to figure out the art that I want to make and being able to hold space for the physical time, like if I’m too tired I can sleep, if I’m too sad I can take time for that. Yeah, having time to make the art that I need for the person that I am in this place and this time.
We’re leading up to the final showcase, and you worked on a lot of things, including your senior project, at HPI this semester. Can you talk about if different ideas have come to you being here, or if you have more drawn threads from before HPI started?
It’s definitely changed my process, it’s changed the way I work with other people, changed the way I spend time making art. It’s changed the way I work on things, not so much the product though, I will say, which is not really a bad thing for me, just not what I was expecting. I expect to go to a school like this or a conservatory type situation, and I expect my artistry to be changed in so many ways, like “Oh I can access this character in this way or I can access this narrative through this type of movement I didn’t know about before I learned this method,” you know what I mean? Instead, it actually changed the way I work, the way I make the thing. Which is so much more fruitful I think, because it feeds my spirit so much more and I have so much more fun making it, I feel such a general consensus. I’m in love with working with big groups, I’m in love with collaboration and devising, but it’s a hard thing to do, to get into a room and agree on things, or not agree, you know? It’s a hard thing to do. But here I really learned how to honor everyone’s ideas and include everyone in a way that at the end of the show, the product feels like a limb on all our bodies.
So you’re doing a big group devised piece for your final, called Foodity. Can you talk about Foodity and how that became an idea? What are you expecting to unfold in the weeks leading up to it?
I’ve always been really interested in interactive walk-through-big-building experiences. It’s still something I’ve made and loved to make, so I figured I would make it in here. But I also love bringing people together. I love giving people free rein but having a little bit of say about some things so that I am able to tie it all together somehow. It’s going to be fun, I’m excited. I’m also excited about the piece I’m working on for it, which is about my parents. Will there be eggplant rollatini? I don’t know, I think, my dad is probably going to make, I kind of want him to make meatballs because watching him make meatballs is really interesting. It’s a film. It’s going to be a cooking show pretty much, but of my dad, and my mom’s going to narrate it, live. But she won’t know what he’s doing, so she’ll be making things up, it’s going to be funny. Whatever he makes, we’re going to serve. That’s me accessing my pleasure, as Shavon would say.
So you’re also a student at UArts, and you’ve lived in Philly for your entire life. I’m wondering if you can talk about how HPI has fit into the rest of your life here?
I didn’t really know about Headlong until I met Amy last winter, a year ago, and that was when I was like “What is this place?”. I knew about the people who ran it, the people who were a part of it, and I knew about them being part of the theater community, but I didn’t know much about the Headlong or HPI community itself. But it’s perfect for Philly. It’s something that really captures the essence of Philly. Cheesy to say, but it is the city of brotherly love, people are like “no, everyone sucks and there’s so much violence.” But everyone sucks and there’s so much violence everywhere, the people in Philly are actually nice people. They’re weird, and they make things like Headlong, where they get people together, and they provide access and make things. And they make names for themselves but in this hidden building in the middle of Broad Street. No one knows this is here. I didn’t know it was here. I went to high school across the street and literally did not realize that this was here until I interviewed. So I think that’s a really good metaphor for what Headlong is.
Do you have a fun fact that you want to share?
I remember everyone’s birthday whoever I met. I love birthdays.