Dallas — Animal versus Machine. Writers, philosophers, and artists of all genres have given their insights and perspectives on this epic conflict, and we all deal with this situation in one way or another on a daily basis. But has a resolution ever been found? Not really; but, that’s the beauty of art: we don’t need one. We just need the opportunity to continue the conversation and exploration, and that’s where we find movement-theatre company, PrismCo, on their own journey through this battle.
Animal vs. Machine is the brainchild of PrismCo co-founder Jeffrey Colangelo, and has been the most involved and longest production process of the young company’s journey thus far. Directed by Colangelo’s creative partner and co-founder Katy Tye, Animal vs. Machine explores their individual interests in martial arts and dance. Colangelo has shaped his professional life around stage combat; Tye has shaped hers around physical theatre and acrobatics. But both want to explore the intermingling of movement and theatre and with Animal vs. Machine, they might have found their most successful project to date. “We both appreciate the style of martial arts and how it relates to fight and dance…that’s where my interest lies, in the difference between fighting and dancing. It’s minuscule and it’s interesting to tread that line,” said Tye in our interview as the show enters its final weeks of rehearsal.
The show stars Lauren Mishoe as The Animal, Christina Valentine as The Machine, and Jasmine Segar as The Prodigy. Each found herself drawn to the production through their personal connection to Colangelo and Tye. Mishoe attended Southern Methodist University with the pair.
UT Arlington professor Joe Chapa connected Colangelo and Valentine, an undefeated MMA fighter, based on their shared passion and education in stage combat. Segar and Colangelo grew up together in Florida, and when they both found themselves in Texas, reconnected.
We spoke with Tye, Valentine, and Segar as they prepare to find their place of dominance in the ring.
UPDATE April 30, 2016: This production has been moved to the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park.
TheaterJones: Katy, what was your main motivating factor to exploring the themes and concepts within the show? And with much conversation occurring on how women treat each other and how we view women in the media and through the media, how do you see this production contributing to that discussion?
Katy Tye: Women have baggage, in most movies it’s always the men that have conflict and turmoil in their lives with women adding or aiding their struggle. I really wanted to look at what drives women to fight, something a lot of people aren’t interested in discussing, but I often see women like ducks, they may seem cool calm and collected but there is stuff underneath that they keep off the surface.
What made you choose violence as the main catalyst for the movement and story?
KT: Violence and women are two things that don’t go together often, but women can be violent and angry as well.
What drew you to this show and the concepts explored in the work?
Jasmine Segar: When Jeff told me he wanted to do a show about two female MMA fighters I was completely on board. Mixed Martial Arts has always been an interest of mine. Right up there with a little Tang Soo Do (Karate) and boxing. So, of course, I had to audition! I am playing the Prodigy; a role I was very proud to receive.
Christina Valentine: All through college I would hear people question my motives for studying such vastly different arts, from musicals to opera, martial arts to dance, all tied in with my biology degree. This was the first time someone needed my exact skill set for a show, I wasn’t going to say “No.” When I found out it would be wordless, it was even more desirable because I love diving into new things. I love adding to my list of adventures and accomplishments.
Jasmine, how much experience did you have in dance or mixed martial arts before entering into this process?
JS: I’m not trained in dance. But, I have about nine months of training in Tang Soo Do (Purple Belt) and about a month of training in boxing.
Christina, you are a professional MMA fighter, undefeated! How did you first become interested in mixed martial arts, and was there one specific moment in your life when you knew this was your future?
CV: I was in a really bad relationship. I was tired, miserable, and angry. I was angry at everyone, everything, anything really. I knew I needed an outlet, and I found it in fighting. I always knew I was strong, but I didn’t know for some time that I was strong enough to be locked in a cage with another woman whose soul intent was to essentially kill me or make me surrender. Luckily, I’m the one who gained the W, and I will humbly continue until I feel it’s no longer my time to reign the cage.
As a trained MMA fighter, how have you used that knowledge and applied to the more theatrical and dance section of the show?
CV: From day one, Jeff and Katy asked for my opinions and views on different moves and combinations they were setting into scenes…Theatrically, it’s a funny line between realistic and safe, it’s a very thin, gray line. I’ll do the move Jeff says, and then we’ll work through how to make it safe to perform, otherwise Lauren [Mishoe, who plays The Animal] would be black and blue every day. Dance wise, it’s funny to see how similar some of the moves are. In fact, everything I do as a fight motion…if I simply open my fist or relax my foot it turns into a dance move. It’s funny how similar violence and art appear. Intent is the only difference.
Katy, how has the rehearsal and development process been going?
It’s been going really great. It’s been our longest process due to training the girls in martial arts as well as dance, but it’s paid off. They speak the two languages so well at this point.
What have you learned about yourself from working on this show?
JS: I am a pretty introverted person. I kind of stay to myself. But being an actor is helping me come out of my shell. I’ve done a few shows before, so I’m getting more and more comfortable…but PrismCo shows are a little bit different. A piece that is strictly based off movement, dance, weight sharing, and mixed martial arts, you must be prepared to come even further out of your shell! I’ve learned that I am capable of expanding my boundaries, leaving my comfort zone. I’ve had a lot of fun with that.
KT: That I have anger too.
Christina, how has the process been for you?
CV: Bluntly, it’s been very frustrating. I say that only because I’ve never truly been in such a free form of theatre. In opera, the script is set, the music is set, the costumes are set, and there’s absolutely no change in time or tempo. There are no questions of motive or reasoning, and certainly no creation of character. You’re told from day one who you are and what you do. In the beginning, I thought I was a free thinker, a distinctly free spirit artist, but I quickly realized the truth about myself, I like structure! Oh dear, how I miss structure! It’s exciting in a different way, though. I love how far I’ve come into my role and movements, and am beyond happy to be able to say I made the decisions and I made the character, and I’m happy with the little piece of me I’ve given.
In one word describe this show to our readers and your future audience?
What do you hope the audience takes away from this show?
JS: A feeling of escape. That kind of feeling you get from reading a good book or watching a good film. I hope they find themselves drawn in. Enjoy the show, everybody!
CV: Each person will find himself reliving an exact moment of his life while watching our show. Whether it is a real memory, or the memory of a mental fantasy, Animal vs. Machine will throw you into the depths of your mind, the dark places where your fears, anxieties, insecurities, and drive for better days come from.
KT: I hope that people walk away with something, anything. Could be that women are badasses. Could be that they learned something about themselves and their past. Either way, as Jeff will agree, more than anything we want the audience to be engaged.
» Look for additional video footage about Animal vs. Machine coming on TheaterJones