Jake Nice's production of We're Gonna Die — originally starring Sammy Rat Rios (pictured) — gets an encore, thanks to the Elevator Project.
Jake Nice's production of We're Gonna Die — originally starring Sammy Rat Rios (pictured) — gets an encore, thanks to the Elevator Project.
Rob Martinez

ATTPAC Renews Efforts to Support Dallas' Small Performing Arts Companies

The AT&T Performing Arts Center is doubling down on its Elevator Project series, which began in 2014 and provides grants and performing space to local performing arts companies. There are eight companies on the lineup for the recently announced third installment — three more than last year — and they represent a wider variety of art. Opera, youth theater and a staged dialogue with an Amazon Alexa all made the cut.

All shows are general admission at $25 a ticket and will be produced in the Wyly Theatre studio space, Hamon Hall inside the Winspear Opera House or the reflecting pool in Sammons Park. Productions will begin in September and run through July 2018, including weeklong and some multiweek runs.

ATTPAC took some heat last year after receiving money from the city to cover its debt, but the center has made a renewed effort to support smaller, emerging and local arts groups with the help of the city of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs.

“It’s important that there’s a place in the Arts District where artists can take risks, premiere work and find new audiences,” says David Denson, ATTPAC's director of programming and the creator of the Elevator Project. “There’s also a hunger from Dallas audiences to discover these groups and test drive their work. We think the center can help provide that platform.”

The 2017-18 Elevator Project is the first time a five-person panel of arts professionals and advocates has curated a season. An April call for entries from Dallas-based artists and arts groups yielded 41 proposals. In considering the proposals, ATTPAC prioritized new work and groups that didn't have performance space; it selected a mix of genres, artists and subject matter.

The artist panel comprised Becki Howard, a violinist and the former director of programming at ATTPAC; Terry Martin, head of fine arts at Greenhill School and former artistic director at WaterTower Theatre; Vicki Meek, a sculptor and writer and the former director at South Dallas Cultural Center; Judy Pollock, arts patron and the former chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission; and Lily Weiss, executive director at Dallas Arts District and former artistic director at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

The series will see the return of We're Gonna Die, Young Jean Lee’s 50-minute rock music concert that's also, sneakily, a play. Dallas-based composer Jake Nice produced the play this spring in venues across DFW. Nice says he's excited to give the production a second life in Dallas, this time with a consistent venue and cast.

“While audience responses were overwhelmingly positive, the structure I chose posed certain challenges. As the tour came to a close, I recognized that if granted the opportunity to perform the show again, I needed certain resources to improve what groundwork I had already laid," Nice says. "Thanks to David and his team at the AT&T Performing Arts Center ... I expect this play's universality to speak louder and clearer than ever and for audiences to leave feeling unified and hopeful about the fact that, yes, We're Gonna Die.”

Here's the Elevator Project's rundown of the 2017-18 season:

American Baroque Opera Company
Masquerade: Opera Cabaret (three performances)
Hamon Hall

Masquerade: Opera Cabaret will harken back to the popular eighteenth century cabaret with music and masks taken from the most popular operas of the baroque. These performances will feature dazzling arias by Handel, Vivaldi, and their contemporaries, sung by popular Dallas sopranos Anna Fredericka Popova, and Jendi Tarde, mezzo soprano Laura Warriner Bray, and countertenor Nicholas Garza, and accompanied by a full baroque orchestra on period instruments. Audience members are encouraged to sport their best Venetian mask for a chance to win prizes.

Performance Schedule:
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14
8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15
8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
Big Bad Wolf and Les Fairies (three performances)
Wyly Theatre — Studio Theatre Level 6

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance celebrates the opening of its fifth anniversary season with two new creations by Founder and Artistic Director Joshua L. Peugh.

Peugh will create a world premiere modern reimagining of the classic ballets blancs 'Les Sylphides' titled Les Fairies. With music by Frédéric Chopin arranged and performed live by Meadows School of the Arts staff musician Richard Abrahamson, the new creation will feature the brilliant dancers of Dark Circles in a romantic style ballet with a twist.

The second work, titled Big Bad Wolf, is inspired by cautionary tales people worldwide use to frighten naughty children. Influenced by characters described in stories by Heinrich Hoffmann, the Grimm Brothers, and Charles Perrault (among others), the work will be grandly theatrical and will also draw from vaudeville. The work will have an international premiere at Seoul Performing Arts Center (South Korea’s foremost art and culture venue) in conjunction with Korea National Contemporary Dance Company.

Performance Schedule:
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19
8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20.
8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21

Jake Nice
We’re Gonna Die by Young Jean Lee (three performances)

Wyly Theatre — Studio Theatre Level 6

We’re Gonna Die is a cabaret-style musical written by experimental NYC playwright Young Jean Lee that celebrates the unifying nature of human mortality. Equal parts stage musical and rock concert, We’re Gonna Die juxtaposes tales of everyday suffering with uplifting indie pop songs. In this 60 minute one-act, the Singer (the only speaking character in the play) directly addresses the audience to share her experiences of tragedy and encourage us that nobody needs to suffer alone. On the contrary: we’re all suffering all the time, albeit in our own personalized ways. The Singer wants to assure you that your pain is totally normal, that life is inevitably tragic at times, and that, yes, we’re all going to die.

We’re Gonna Die premiered in 2011 at Joe’s Pub in New York City as the 11th play in the hallowed 13P playwriting coalition. Young Jean Lee performed the role of Singer in that production backed by her band Future Wife (who helped write the six songs in the show). Since then, notable productions include the 2015 production at London’s Southbank Centre — for which David Byrne of Talking Heads sang the songs while Lee performed the monologues — and Company One Theatre’s touring co-production with American Repertory Theatre in 2016. Jake Nice produced the North Texas regional premiere of We’re Gonna Die in 2017 starring Sammy “Rat” Rios as the Singer.

Performance Schedule:
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018
8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10

Bandan Koro African Drum & Dance Ensemble
Guinea Fare: Her Story, Her Ipseity (three performances)
Hamon Hall

Experience the joys, sorrows and the beauty of becoming a woman while identifying with one’s absolute self. Guinea Fare meaning “women’s dance” in the Maninka language, explores the journey of four women as they travel to their ancestral homelands through contemporary dance, spoken word and traditional African music and dance. Set to the tone of modern day women’s issues, this explosive production is set to debut in Bandan Koro’s inaugural theater season, Ipseity: The Disturbance of Self. This experience is intended for the entire family.

Performance Schedule:
7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22, 2018
8 p.m. Friday, March 23
8 p.m. Saturday, March 24

Adam Adolfo (Director)
ELEMENTAL: Nature’s Rhapsody (three performances)
Sammons Park — Reflecting Pool

William Shakespeare wrote “there is not anything which returns to nothing, but all things return dissolved into their elements.” Conceived by Producer/director Adam Adolfo, Elemental explores the five classical elements of the world around us through song, dance, spoken word, and theatre. Created specifically for the Elevator Project, with staging in Sammons Park’s Reflecting Pool, this evening salon takes its audience on an expressive journey from our humble beginnings as ‘star stuff’, to the first drop of water needed to sustain life, through earth as we cultivate our own bones so that we may fly through air only to see our spark of creation and our own internal fire doused by time. Featuring music, dance, and poetry, ranging from opera to pop, modern dance and ballroom, and Shakespeare to hip-hop, this is a night to celebrate our lives in the world around us for Shakespeare asked “Does not our lives consist of the elements?”

Performance Schedule:
8 p.m. Friday, April 20, 2018
8 p.m. Saturday, April 21
7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22

Soul Rep
The Freedmans (12 performances)
Wyly Theatre — Studio Theatre Level 6

Written by members of Soul Rep’s writing consortium, The Freedmans is a signature production created to commemorate the opening of Dallas' Freedman's Memorial 20 years ago and to pay homage to our city's black pioneers and early Freedman's community of the late 19th and early 20th Century. The acclaimed production is comprised of compelling and colorful true and imagined stories told through poetry, monologue, song and dance. It is appropriate for all audiences, ages, ethnicities.

Performance Schedule:
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, 2018
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3
8 p.m. Friday, May 4
2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 5
1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 6
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 10
8 p.m. Friday, May 11
2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12
1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 13

Therefore Art & Performance Group
The Alexa Dialogues (three performances)
Hamon Hall

The Alexa Dialogues explores the outer edges of our interactions with artificial intelligence, anticipating near future emotional entanglements and the complexities of human-AI relationships. Therefore performers Hilly Holsonback, Abel Flores, and Hannah Weir will interact live with Amazon’s voice-driven Alexa AI agent, as well as create large-scale video art works and improvisational performance segments. Words, performance, and music written and directed by Dean Terry in collaboration with Therefore.

Performance Schedule:
7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24, 2018
8 p.m. Friday, May 25
8 p.m. Saturday, May 26

Cry Havoc Theater Company
Babel (10 performances)
Hamon Hall

In our highly politicized environment, conversations about gun ownership and gun control go nowhere. In fact, the very words used to discuss guns in America shut down the conversation between people on opposite sides of the debate. It is as if we are living in Babel, in a state of confusion, unable to get anywhere or to understand one another. What would happen if we sat down and listened to each other?

Following the success of Shots Fired, the acclaimed documentary theatre piece about the 2016 Dallas Police shootings, Cry Havoc Theater Company is creating a new documentary work that examines the second amendment right to keep and bear arms. For Babel, the company will travel locally and nationally collecting interviews from voices on multiple sides of the gun ownership debate. Those interviews, along with the teens' reflections on them, will offer a glimpse into the emotionally charged, national conversation.

Performance Schedule:
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 5, 2018
8 p.m. Friday, July 6
2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, July 7
1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 8
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12
8 p.m. Friday, July 13
2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, July 14
1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15

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