Dallas’ theater landscape is becoming increasingly dominated by young companies. Post-grad artists are making a mark with original works and innovative performance pieces that often fuse dance, movement and clowning into the storytelling.
Prism Co. is one such group. Founded by SMU theater graduates Katy Tye and Jeffrey Colangelo, Prism is a unique addition to the sea of theater companies in North Texas. Each of their original productions is entirely wordless and performed through intense physical choreography. Tye and Colangelo both gravitated toward the movement work they did in their theater training and wanted to continue exploring that method of storytelling. Colangelo frequently works as a fight choreographer in Dallas and Fort Worth. Almost every big theater has had him on their roster at some point.
Tye also choreographs, directs and writes. Last spring Prism produced Animal vs. Machine, which consisted of an actual MMA fighter in the ring with an actor. The challenge of creating wordless theater is not actually a challenge at all to Prism. Tye and Colangelo feel right at home with the possibilities of movement. Characters who do not speak enable Prism to produce plays with very diverse casting.
Tye’s latest creation Midas, which will open their Greek-themed season, was inspired by the frustrations and emotional limitations of social media. Tye feels that Facebook in particular has become a facade. Constant updates from friends that seem to value flash over substance led her to the myth of Midas.
Midas was a king in Greek mythology who prayed for the “golden touch,” which would transform anything he touched to gold. Tye started making connections between the myth and real life. Midas, says Tye, is a “hoarder of treasures,” and the play depicts the vast riches he acquires versus what he loses: his family.
And Tye’s Midas is essentially a story about family. The family members represent Midas’ various wants: a trophy wife, a son whose value is in his strength, a “jokester” son and finally a daughter. Tye, who is very close to her own parents, wanted to draw parallels between the importance of family and what we lose when we devalue human interaction.
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The story is a “museum tour” through the stages of grief, says Tye. What begins as a showcasing of the home and its contents now completely gold will eventually reveal all that Midas has lost in his vain pursuit.
Midas is a dark comedy, Tye says, a clowning piece that uses movement to depict emotion and relationships. Clowning, Tye explains, is the process of “object manipulation,” or giving status to objects and finding joy in sadness. “A clown is never in a great position,” she continues. Through snippets of Midas’ life we will see a story of a man who loses everything.
Like many of Prism Co.'s plays, the show will involve the audience to tell the story. This was a central part of Animal vs. Machine, which utilized the audience members as the fighting ring. Nothing is static in the Prism universe.
It's tough for young people entering adulthood in a world dominated by often meaningless social media, and the artists behind Prism Co. see wordless communication and movement as tangible ways to combat it. A “throwback” to Greek mythology is refreshing in an age when technology is valued above all. The second play in their season will be a retelling of the story of Jason and Medea.