Audiences will have a chance to judge its merits for themselves when Prism Movement Theater and the AT&T Performing Arts Center present Lucha Teotl July 15-24 at the Wyly Theater as part of ATTPAC’s 2021 Elevator Project Series.
Writers and co-directors Jeff Colangelo and Chris Ramirez started working on the play when they first came up with the idea in 2018 to base it on lucha libre.
“We just got off a show about MMA, and I’ve done a lot of shows about Aztec mythology, so I got the idea of doing a show that mixes lucha libre with Aztec mythology,” says Colangelo, who's been the artist director for Prism Movement Theater since 2019. “I pitched the idea to Chris [Ramirez] and he simply responded with a ‘Hell yeah.'”
Lucha Teotl tells the story of couple of male and female luchadores teaming up on their quest for a championship. The show promises to fit multi-year lucha libre storylines into the production along with all the acrobatic moves and colorful outfits that are staples of lucha libre wrestling.
Colangelo and Ramirez describe the show as a “love letter to professional wrestling.”
Professional wrestling and performance art have more similarities than fans of either art form would probably like to admit. The predetermined fights told inside a wrestling ring — representing good versus evil — or the tales of underdogs overcoming unfair odds are theatrical. And when you include costumes, choreography, and the physicality of live performances, at times you could swear that you’re watching a highly physical dance routine produced by TITAS Presents.
“Wrestling tells stories that a lot of other art forms aren’t able to tell in the same way," Colangelo says. "Wrestling has a unique narrative structure.”
The art of wrestling inspires a passionate following as it connects with audiences through nostalgia. The eccentric personalities and risk-taking from the performers keep the fans coming back.
“When you walk into the Wyly Theatre, you’ll get a sense of what a big-budget wrestling show feels like,” says Ramirez. “We have a ring in the middle of the theater and an Aztec theater as the entrance ramp. We’ll have an audience ringside to cheer and boo the wrestlers. It’ll feel like a wrestling event as well as a play.”
To make the play feel as much as a wrestling show as possible, its creators encourage audience members to bring in their own custom-made signs offering support for their favorite luchador.
Lucha libre has been around since its origins in 19th century Mexico, and its fast-paced, colorful theatrical components have influenced wrestling styles all over the world. The masked wrestlers — known as luchadores — are seen as superheroes in Mexico. The most famous wrestlers are made into Mexican pop culture icons. Although lucha libre was born and perfected in Mexico, its crisp action and flamboyant characters have captured the imagination of wrestling fans around the globe.
Ramirez and Colangelo brought on lucha libre star Aski the Mayan Warrior, a Dallas native, to train the cast of Lucha Teotl.
“It’s for people who love professional wrestling and for people who don’t know that they love professional wrestling yet." –Chris Ramirez
“The cast is a mix of local actors, MMA fighters, and professional wrestlers,” Ramirez says. “The show is ambitious in its DNA. When we finished writing the script we thought, 'How are we going to pull this off?'”
Aski trained the team to safely perform the acrobatic wrestling maneuvers for months in preparation for the show. While they're not wrestlers or athletes themselves, Colangelo and Ramirez recognize the amount of work and risk required of the cast.
“The wrestlers are putting their bodies on the line every time they step in the ring, so we made sure that Jeff and I got body-slammed at least once or twice so that we feel what these performers are feeling,” Ramirez says.
Lucha Teotl will be Prism Movement Theater’s first indoors show since the pandemic. Although Colangelo has been with the company for seven years, this upcoming production holds a special place in his heart.
“This is a massively ambitious project for a small, independent theater like us,” Colangelo says. “The fact that we’re going to be at the Potter Rose in the Wyly is a huge honor for us. Not many people get to perform there besides Dallas Theater Center and Dallas Black Dance Theater.”
For lifelong wrestling fan Ramirez, putting a show like Lucha Teotl on in the arts district is a dream come true.
“It’s for people who love professional wrestling and for people who don’t know that they love professional wrestling yet,” Ramirez says. “There’s no way anyone will leave sour after watching this show.”