Aaron Zilbermann

Living Theatre, Part 12

Aaron Zilbermann is back and, with guidance from board and community members, is reassessing the future of Metamorphosis: a new living theatre.

published Friday, January 11, 2019

Photo: Courtesy
Aaron Zilbermann

Dallas — The new year is upon us and Metamorphosis is in the depths of self-assessment, setting priorities and fixing internal structures within the organization. Sometimes it is important to take a step back and assess what is happening within and to restructure as needed. Metamorphosis is in a process of self-discovery, a sometimes-trying task for a new theater company. The leadership is taking the time to consider how we want to operate as an artistic community and what we want that to look like. We are also discussing how we want to establish Metamorphosis within the Dallas theater scene. We are brainstorming innovative ways to bring new audiences to the theater and to make theater more relevant to today’s society. We intend to continue to make theater for theater-goers and non-theater goers alike. And without an incredibly supportive board, none of this could be possible.

Metamorphosis is blessed with a dedicated board and the organization certainly would not exist without their support and their willingness to go above and beyond what is expected of a board member, helping to ensure that Metamorphosis will walk in the path toward true success. As a group we are in the process of attempting to define exactly who we are and what we do. And one important thing I have learned from the board is to not create art on anyone else’s terms. Never move forward with a project if you don’t feel the timeline will lend itself to meeting your own expectations for the project. And don’t take on more than you can handle. It is important to surround yourself with people who will check you on this. We need to do what we know we can do and if we do it well, then perhaps we can add more the next time around, if the capacity exists to do so.

One of the changes the board intends to implement is to focus more on the social justice message and less on the play itself. We are here for social justice, but we happen to do theater. We are no longer going to begin our marketing of a show by publicizing the name of the play. That will come later. First we will ask a question that is central to the theme of the play and encourage various communities in Dallas to answer this question on our social media leading up to the performance. For example, one of the questions we will ask in this upcoming year is “Were you too young when you learned about sex?” People from all over Dallas will have the opportunity to respond to this question on our Facebook page and offer insights into their experience with sexuality education.

Over the summer, Metamorphosis set an audacious goal to fundraise $100,000 in order to fund a full season and an after-school program for urban youth in Dallas. With a board that has practically no fundraising experience among us, this goal turned out to be nearly impossible. North Texas Giving Day was not unsuccessful, but we didn’t reach our goal for that day. Yet, at the same time, I am impressed with what we did bring to the table, securing a grant and raising enough money to fund a good amount of what we want to do. Our goals and our ambitions were larger than our reality. Most donors who we asked for money gave less than we had hoped. After all, we are a new theater company struggling to establish itself in the Dallas theater scene. It’s the chicken and the egg scenario. We need money in order to run effective programming and produce powerful plays, but people and granting entities don’t want to give us much money until we have established ourselves as a successful company. The solution is to accept the amount of money we have been able to fundraise and to do what is possible within our limited resources. We must get creative and innovative in the way that we produce work.

Asking people for money is an extremely difficult task. Everyone feels awkward and no one wants to do it. I’ve gotten advice from a variety of people who have experience in raising money. Some of the advice contradicted each other and some of it seemed logical. But ultimately, I simply had to plunge head first into the water and begin reaching out to potential donors. I met with numerous people who had seen our plays, and everyone I met with ended up giving something, some much more than others. This fact was indeed inspiring. We need all of the support we can get, and everyone I approached was willing to help. What we need more than anything else right now is widespread support amongst our supporters and followers. We appear to have a solid base of supporters who want to see us succeed and we need those people to donate what they can, no matter how small. Everything helps. And while it certainly is nice to receive a $1,000 donation from one donor (after all it’s much less work than approaching several donors for smaller donations), there is something powerful about having 10 $100 donations, or even 20 $50 donations. This kind of broad base support is what we are looking for next. If you would like to be a part of this movement to support Metamorphosis, go to our website at and click on the donate button.

Metamorphosis is also in the process of developing collaborative partnerships with other organizations. On Dec. 12 we met with the three core members of Artstillery: Ilknur Ozgur, Abel Flores Jr., and Michael Cleveland. We sat at Mudsmith in Lowest Greenville for several hours, getting to know each other, learning about the work and methods both of our theater companies employ, and ultimately discussing the possibility of working collaboratively on several pieces of theater. One of the most interesting things that Ilknur said during our time together was, “I try not to hang out with theater people. The best thing you can do for yourselves as a young company is to hang out with as many non-theatre people as possible.” It was clear that Ilknur felt that this is what could help produce relevant theater. All of us stood up from the table at the end of this meeting and felt a shift in mood and a sense of energy and motivation. I was certainly inspired by Artstillery’s methodology and approach to creating new theater. Clearly we have a lot to learn from them, and fortunately they are a collective of theater-makers willing to share their process. Their process is captivating and is the closest thing I have seen that embodies the the theories put forth by Peter Brook about a living theatre. And after all, the official name of our theater company is Metamorphosis: a new living theater. If we truly want to create a living, breathing theater for the masses, then first we need to listen to and learn from those theater artists who are already on the path to developing this type of theater. 


» Aaron Zilbermann, executive artistic director of Metamorphosis: a new living theatre, has worked with Big Thought and other local teaching institutions.

» Visit the Metamorphosis website here and its Facebook page here.

» Living Theatre runs on the second Friday of the month



  • Februrary 2017: Introductory column
  • March 2017: Going non-profit, boards of directors, and creating original work
  • April 2017: Finding space
  • May 2017: Zilbermann and Johnson discuss Amiri Baraka's Dutchman, their June production
  • June 2017: No column
  • July 2017: On starting a theater for social justice
  • August 2017: No column
  • September 2017: On starting a playwriting collective
  • October 2017: Is the non-proft model the only way?
  • November/December 2017: No column
  • January 2018: Staff changes and preparation for the next production
  • February 2018: On the importance of branding
  • March/April 2018: No column
  • May 2018: Reflecting on the recent production of Day of Absence
  • June 2018: Looking at a new era for Metamorphosis
  • July-December 2018: no column
 Thanks For Reading

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Living Theatre, Part 12
Aaron Zilbermann is back and, with guidance from board and community members, is reassessing the future of Metamorphosis: a new living theatre.
by Aaron Zilbermann

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