Dallas — When considering play development, much of the traditional playwright’s process concerns dialogue, reinforcing a significant reliance on words rather than other theatrical languages (common in Western dramaturgy). At times, we forget that play-making always works toward a live, experienced event. This is why PrismCo, run by Jeff Colangelo and Katy Tye, is one of the most exciting emerging theater companies in DFW. Their next piece takes a fresh look at the myth of King Midas, through movement and environmental theatre practices, opening this week at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. Since Tye created this adaptation, I decided to chat with her about PrismCo’s process and her interest in this story.
PrismCo hosts workshops weeks before the opening performance, functioning like an audience preview, to test out their ideas in the early stages of rehearsal. Colangelo and Tye have hosted these workshops since they started collaborating as undergraduate students at SMU (Their first show for the general public, Galatea, started as a workshop at school before moving on to a professional production). Tye describes these workshops as a “staged reading of a movement piece.” For their most recent workshop, they had not figured out all of the magic elements (as King Midas has the ability to turn anything he touches into pure gold), but they did test out some of the movement sequences. In addition to movement storytelling, the audience will travel between two rooms as they follow Midas’ tale. Tye notes from the workshop, “We were curious if [the standing and moving] would be a distraction, or if people would want to stand for an hour, but we received pretty positive feedback.”
Tye notes that this candid feedback from the audience is the best part of these workshops. They want to know if the work in progress holds resonance or any holes, just like any other staged reading. In this way, Tye describes a parallel concern that many traditional playwrights have: “Everything makes sense from my point of view, because I know exactly what I’m thinking [when I wrote it]. So we get to see what the audience saw, and it’s probably the most integral part of our process.” After the workshop, PrismCo had three more weeks of rehearsal to make adjustments and finesse the magic elements of the performance.
In choosing this subject, Tye argues that Greek mythology contains universal themes that still connect with a 21st century audience. She observed a parallel idea between Midas and Facebook culture, that social media can allow a person to lose their grasp on what is really important in life. These ancient stories also allow adapters to focus on one particular element of the story that resonates the greatest to each individual. For Tye, she connected strongly with Midas’ relationship to his family, as they turn into statues.
For her initial inspiration, Tye felt a spark from a Pilobolus performance. Previously, Tye has done a summer intensive and workshops with Pilobolus, and she credits them for teaching her how to collaborate with others and be comfortable working down to the wire on a project. For this particular Pilobolus work that initiated the idea, “a group of women wear these socks, and the men drag them around…And I thought about Midas with the people in his life in statue form. It’s this idea of interacting with what you lost and having to face it. It’s still lingering.”
In the process, Tye says that she has built the framework of the piece, but PrismCo’s productions are heavily influenced by the performers. “The characters are wonderful but they are not all my creation; a lot of it is what the actors came up with and what they naturally bring to the table.” She offers an example from Persephone, where the actor originally cast as Hades approached the role aggressively. Due to a scheduling conflict, the actor had to be replaced; the next actor had a more gentle personality. As a result, this performer significantly changed the overall reading and meaning of this character. For Midas, Tye describes the performer in the title role as “caring and loving,” as opposed to the traditional caricature of greed.
This production features a full cast of fresh faces to PrismCo, as the company aims to widen its pool of collaborators. Tye notes, “It’s always great to find people who want to do the work you want to do.” Since movement theater is not an oversaturated form in DFW, PrismCo has found many opportunities to educate and choreograph throughout the Metroplex. I believe that their focus on physical theater will serve them well as they evolve in the years to come.
» Shelby-Allison Hibbs is a Dallas-based teaching artist, playwright, director, performer and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. In her Work in Progress column, she'll have conversations with playwrights, theatermakers, directors, designers, dramaturgs and others involved in the process of realizing new work from page to stage as she explores new plays and musicals being developed/created by theaters of all budget sizes in North Texas.
» See our fall theater preview of new work here
NEW WORK CURRENTLY ON LOCAL STAGES
- The Dallas Theater Center and New York's Playwrights Horizons present Kirsten Childs' musical Bella: An American Tall Tale at the Wyly Theatre, Dallas, Sept. 22-Oct. 22 OUR LISTING
SELECT UPCOMING NEW WORK
- Kitchen Dog Theater presents A Stain Upon the Silence: Beckett's Bequest, featuring works by or inspired by Samuel Beckett, including the premiere of a KDT-commissioned work by Abe Koogler, Oct. 7-29 at the Trinity River Arts Center OUR LISTING
- The Drama Club presents The Incident, a one-man work written and performed by Terry Vandivort, running in repertory with Wild, Wicked, Wyrd: Fairytale Time, four new adapations of fairytales, at Bryant Hall on the Kalita Humphreys Theater campus, Oct. 10-29 OUR LISTING
- Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth premieres Kathleen Culebro's Smart Pretty Funny, Oct. 20-Nov. 13 OUR LISTING
- Contemporary Theatre of Dallas presents Patrick Emile and Olivia de Guzman Emile's musical As We Lie Still, which had a workshop performance at the New York Musical Theatre Festival OUR LISTING
- The Ochre House in Dallas presents Kevin Grammer's Dreaming Electric, about Nikola Tesla, Oct. 28-Nov. 19 OUR LISTING
- Theatre Three presents Bruce R. Coleman's Day Light, Nov. 17-Dec. 11 OUR LISTING
PREVIOUS WORK IN PROGRESS COLUMNS
- Len Jenkin's Jonah at Undermain Theatre (April 15, 2016)
- David Lozano and Lee Trull's Deferred Action in a co-production between Dallas Theater Center and Cara Mía Theatre Company (April 28, 2016)
- Janielle Kastner's Ophelia Underwater, presented by The Tribe at Margo Jones Theatre (May 11, 2016)
- Caridad Svich's De Troya, a developmental reading presented by Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth (May 13, 2016)
- Steve Yockey's Blackberry Winter and The Thrush and the Woodpecker in Kitchen Dog Theater's 18th New Works Festival at Undermain Theatre (May 18, 2016)
- Stefany Cambra's Finding Myself in Bed from Proper Hijinx (June 1, 2016)
- Acoustic Nerves/Therefore, a collaboration by Dean Terry and University of Texas at Dallas artists, at the Texas Theatre (June 9, 2016)
- Checking in with playwright Jonathan Norton (July 22, 2016)
- Lake Simons and John Dyer's visual theater adaptation of Don Quixote at Hip Pocket Theatre (Aug. 6, 2016)
- The Third Dallas One-Minute Play Festival, presented by One-Minute Play Festival and Kitchen Dog Theater (Aug. 8, 2016)
- Justin Locklear's Dreamless at the Ochre House (Aug. 15, 2016)
- Jeff Swearingen's Old McDonald's Farm: A Children's Fable about the Obama Presidency at Fun House Theatre and Film (Aug. 17, 2016)
- Iv Amenti's Deep Remembrance Project in the Deep Ellum Unplugged series (Sept. 13, 2016)
- Jessica Cavanagh's Self Injurious Behavior, as a staged reading, performed at Theatre Three's Theatre Too! (Sept. 15, 2016)
- Kirsten Childs' Bella: An American Tall Tale at Dallas Theater Center, a co-production with New York's Playwrights Horizons (Sept. 22, 2016)