Sunday, September 18, 2011

DALLAS Lives Undead

Saturday, September 17, 2011, marked the closing performance of DALLAS, as part of THE UNDEAD project at the Philly Fringe Festival.

I feel very satisfied with this experience, proud of all the work done on this piece, and with the multiple layers of discovery found during the process and performance. I am humbled by the excellent work done on this project by the artists who brought it to life.

John F. Kennedy (Jonathon Phipps), Jacqueline Kennedy (Angela Smith), and Clinton J. Hill (Tom Tansey). Photo by Aaron Oster.

This work, created in collaboration with electronic music composer Mike Vernusky, has now performed in three separate incarnations (in four different venues) in Philadelphia, as well as one in New York City. And while I have loved all of them, this particular one, the Undead/Philly Fringe version, may be my favorite for a number of reasons.

Of Dallas's productions, this version was the only one with an extended run, as it played for eight performances in the "Playground" space of Philadelphia's Adrienne Theater on Sansom Street. This run allowed me to bear witness to the growth possible within the run of this work, borne out through the expressive bodies, faces, and gestural choices made by the five wonderful actors performing the work (as some of you know, there is no live dialogue in Dallas, all of the live performance is through gesture and movement exploring dynamics of speed, shape, and memory). With each performance, the actors grew more confident, lived more deeply inside the unfamiliar demands of piece, expressed their stories more fully through their entire bodies. Dallas, delivered by the performers, continued becoming more of itself.

This process made me aware of another truth of this production-- that the performance actually takes us through something. As audience, we arrive someplace different than where we were when we sat down in the seats of the Adrienne. As someone obsessed with rites of passage, with journeys, with relationships between performance and audience, I'm thrilled by this discovery, as I feel offering the audience a journey, especially a difficult one, is one of the most generous gifts imaginable.

Man Behind the Counter (Ryan Ruggles), Waitress (Lynnia Shanley), and Jacqueline Kennedy (Angela Smith). Photo by Aaron Oster.

Creating this experience were six collaborators who were new to me, and with whom I sincerely hope to keep working (this was another of my favorite parts of this particular production-- my introduction to new collaborators who I like a lot). The group, as a whole, was thrilling and really enjoyable to work with.

Director Theresa Epp lead us through a wonderful process, one that was full of creative moments, of deep listening, of generosity, of graceful willingness to take risks. Terri's approach to this piece opened up even more layers of complexity, creating and illuminating even more worlds than I thought were present. Actors Jonathon Phipps (John F. Kennedy), Ryan Ruggles (Man Behind the Counter), Lynnia Shanley (Waitress) Angela Smith (Jacqueline Kennedy), and Tom Tansey (Clinton J. Hill) proved to be a talented, thoughtful, brave, and lovely ensemble, full of exciting choices, rigorous attention to detail, and willingness to live fully in multiple time-spaces at once.

Completing the experience was the participation of long-time collaborator Mike Vernusky, whose work on this piece excites me every time I listen to his haunting, brilliant composition. Visiting Philadelphia from Austin in early September, Mike was able, for the first time ever, to see our collaboration work with live artists. During a rehearsal near the end of our process, Mike was able to experience of how Dallas collides in multiple dimensions, and to contribute his thoughts to how the work can move through space.

Clinton J. Hill (Tom Tansey). Photo by Aaron Oster.

One of the culminations of this work was the opportunity to share it with eight audiences, the last two performances packing the house of the Adrienne Theater. I'm thrilled that I got to share this piece with so many people, and I hope they all (collaborators and audience) enjoyed it as much as I did.

Big thank yous to all the collaborating artists in Dallas, as well as all the other Undead offerings (which I enjoyed sharing company with), including the hot live music of Up Your Cherry. Special thanks to Wally Zialcita, who produced this project with lots of generosity and sensitivity.

Continued thanks to actors Cody R. Kirk and Michael Kranes, whose voices continue to come through the walls of the 24-hour diner, and to Dianna Schoenborn-Marino, for whom the script was originally written.

Rock on,