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Jeffrey Colangelo Creates a New Brand of Physical Theater for Dallas

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The sound of artists at work can be heard in Trinity Groves. On Monday afternoon, at the intersection of Bataan Street and Singleton Blvd, the sound of drills, paper shuffling and loud conversation filled a bright green warehouse. Throughout the space visual artists install site-specific work; at the center, Prism Co. founder and theater director Jeffrey Colangelo spreads thousands of sheets of 81/2 by 11 paper, hoping not to get a paper cut.

"In all of our shows, we incorporate two things: Movement and fun," Colangelo says. "In each one so far, we've chosen a specific material to play with, whether it's paint, light, children's toys. For this one, it was paper."

Colangelo and a group of like-minded young theater makers founded Prism Co. after working together on a few pop-up shows around town. As a fight choreographer, his aesthetic is based fully in using movement to express a narrative. Thus far, the shows his company devises contain little to no dialogue.

"I believe in storytelling through stage fighting. Each fight move is a piece of text," Colangelo says. "When I began to really understand that, I realized that an entire story could be told through movement."

Galatea invites the audience into an art studio, where they find a man hard at work, attempting to create the perfect girl. Think Ruby Sparks meets Pygmalion of Cyprus. As the artist, tears page after page from his notebook in his fruitless attempts, a series of characters enter the studio, including his female paragon.

This piece was a collaborative effort between Colangelo and Katy Tye, both of whom focussed on physical theater during their time as students at Southern Methodist University (Tye will be a senior in the fall). Each brought an expertise to the table: Colangelo creates fight scenes; Tye creates scenes on the aerial silks. When I swung by the space to peek at the set, Colangelo untied the silks and began to glide through the space.

"As we continued building this show, we found it contained a great deal of magic and illusion," he hollers, landing from a quick float around the set. "Which is why it fit perfectly to invite local magician Trigg Watson to be part of the show."

Magic, aerial silks, and a dialogue-free story sounds like Cirque du Soleil. Certainly, the show will have a bit of acrobatics and cater to a broad demographic, but this is far from a circus. It's a new way of thinking about theater, at least in Dallas. To find another company interested in a similar form of physical theater, you'd have to travel somewhere like Montreal to see Les 7 Doigts de la Main, a company that recently earned American recognition for its work on Diane Paulus' Pippin.

"We're not the only company doing this in the world, but this type of theater is hugely unique to Dallas," Colangelo says. "I hope I can keep making shows like this for a long time."

He hopes the company's month-long residency at the Trinity Groves warehouse can become a regular thing and that the show runs without a glitch. After a successful Kickstarter, Colangelo feels pretty confident. The only left?

"We need more paper. As much as we can get our hands on," he laughs. "But recycled only, of course. Other than that, we just want an audience to come enjoy it."

Have a bundle of 81/2 by 11" paper around the house? Email jjcolangelo@yahoo.com. Galatea runs April 11-27 with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays- Sundays. Tickets are $15. During the run of the show, a site-specifc art show with work by 15 local artists surrounds the performance space.

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