Dallas — The Drama Club is back with two world premieres, Terry Vandivort’s The Incident and a collection of four short fairytale plays under the name Wild, Wicked, Wyrd: Fairytale Time. WWW offers a unique helping of stories that emerge from Mayan mythology, the Brothers Grimm, Pakistani folklore, and others. However, these are not direct imaginings of these stories, each playwright infuses their own perspective to manipulate and subvert the original tales for a contemporary theatrical audience. Playwrights Maryam Obaidullah Baig, Michael Federico, and John M. Flores each penned plays that stylistically and dramaturgically differ, but all unearth tales from the past with new frameworks. Connecting the whole evening together, JIM/JOHN MAKE NOISE provide music for each tale. We chatted with Baig and Federico about their plays and the production. The production runs through Oct. 29.
TheaterJones: Where did you get the idea to create an evening focusing only on fairytales?
Michael Federico: I think the first meeting we had was with me, Jeff Schmidt, and Christie Vela. We were having lunch we were just trying to figure out something we could work on together. And Christie had said she had been reading a lot of fairytales and old folklore. And so that sparked the idea that they would ask multiple playwrights to adapt different stories, and that they would both direct.
Do these plays represent what The Drama Club aims to do aesthetically or subject-wise?
Maryam Obaidullah Baig: With the Drama Club, when we started in 2008, we wanted to do fairytales and our favorite old plays that were kind of spooky and inventive. And we did The Old Woman in the Woods, which is also an adaptation, and we loved doing that. So this is very much in the vein of what TDC likes to do. So we came back and met with the rest of the members and asked some of us to write and some of us to direct.
As a world premiere and a collection of plays, how will the evening work? What can the audience expect?
MOB: The night will consist of four plays, two are written by John Flores, one by Michael and one by myself. John Flores has written Lighter Than Air and Just Desserts. He is adapting from several different veins, so that it’s not one particular fairytale. Mine (Jo Chaho Tum) is adapted from an 18th century fairytale from Pakistan, and it’s about a prince and fairies and forbidden love. It’s a fairytale I wanted to change since I was a kid, because I had a major issue with it.
MF: Mine is called Mother Holly and it’s adapted from a Grimm fairytale and weaves in old American music. It’s the story of two sisters: one good sister and one bad sister. John pulls a lot from Mezo-American myth and folklore and even East Texas American folktales.
With so many points of inspiration, how do all of these plays connect to or work with each other? Do they all stand on their own independently?
MF: Each one is stylistically, completely different which will be fun to watch and it’s allowing the five women in the cast to do totally different things throughout the night.
MOB: We’re having such a great time in rehearsal mostly because of the variation that’s going to be offered through this night. In one night, you’re going to see four new plays. Each play has a completely different style of narration and completely different viewpoints on life and love and the world.
How have you approached making these plays unique stylistically? Does the unique nature come from the diverse source material or do you as the playwright add to it as well?
MOB: What you’ll find is that we may have picked an [overarching] idea, but our storytelling reflects many different veins. Mine included. The main idea is from one but it is speaking in the language of 1001 Arabian Nights and the Saragossa Manuscripts because each different culture has such a specific way of talking about things. I noticed with a lot of Eastern Fairy tales they’re recipes for dishes, like “fish should be cooked in sesame seed oil, this is how you knit a sweater, this is what you serve at twilight.” I tried to replicate that feeling.
You have five women in the show, which is so exciting. Do all of the plays just contain female characters? Was this something you set out to do?
MOB: We had some great people turn out [at auditions]. It was really tough to pick. A cast of only women wasn’t necessarily what we were going for, and it wasn’t written into the plays. They are all genders, all animals and all thoughts. It’s just that these girls are so good! They’re switching from being a man to a woman to a duck to a rabbit and they’re singing and there’s movement and shadow work. These actresses are amazing.
You also have a live band, JIM/JOHN MAKE NOISE. How do they fit into the performance?
MOB: JIM/JOHN have been scoring our entire rehearsal time. They have an assortment of instruments and technology. They’ve already started playing each night of rehearsal. I think the music is going to be the jewel right next to the extremely strong cast of all females.
How has the overall process of developing these plays been for you both? Have the plays evolved significantly through rehearsal?
MOB: It’s not at all what I had imagined. It’s gone from actors doing certain things to shadow work and puppets and flashlights. Why cast an actor when you can cast a flashlight?
MF: We did a workshop in July to gather everyone together and talk, and figure out how the night would look, you know. I think our grant allowed us to do that.
MOB: OCA [Office of Cultural Affairs] gave us a grant, we got it and we’re like, “We’re going in guns blazing.” And now we think “We can hire at least five actors and three lights.” We were basically pulling chump change together before.
MF: The workshop made that first week of rehearsal allow us to be further ahead.
What challenges have you faced in re-imagining these stories for the stage?
MF: One thing we learned from Faust [The Drama Club’s 2015 production] is that our first draft adhered so much to Goethe. I was having dinner with Jeff Schmidt and thought, “Why don’t we just do Goethe? Why do we even bother?” But there were certain stories we wanted to tell within that framework, so then it changed to “What story are we trying to tell within Goethe?”
MOB: It won’t be Mir Hasan’s story, it won’t be Grimms’ story, but it will be Flores, Federico and Baig telling the stories.
What can an audience expect from their night with these fairytales?
MF: Blood. Jon and I apparently really like blood on stage.
MOB: There’s a stage direction in one of the plays, we won’t tell you which one, but it says “Let this be an epic scratching of blood, and muscle and gore!”
» 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, through Oct. 22 OUR LISTING
- PrismCo's newest movement theater work is Midas by Katy Tye, at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center through Oct. 23 OUR LISTING
- 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, through Oct. 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, through Nov. 13 OUR LISTING
SELECT UPCOMING NEW WORK
- 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)
- Katy Tye's movement theater piece Midas, at the Oack Cliff Cultural Center (Oct. 4, 2016)