Prism's classes are for students 2 to 18 years old.
Prism's classes are for students 2 to 18 years old.
courtesy Prism Movement Theatre

Prism Movement Theatre Is Teaching Kids — and College Students — the Basics of Puppetry

When Jeff Colangelo and Katy Tye, the co-founders of Prism Movement Theatre, were fellow students at Southern Methodist University, they had the idea to create an unspoken theater that focused on movement. Almost six years and many performances later, the duo is sharing their experience and unique approach to theater in the form of free classes for Dallas students.

Prism offers free puppetry, mask and playwriting classes to community centers, community colleges and anywhere budding theater students can meet to learn about new techniques. Classes are available to students 2 to 18 years old. Prism Movement Theatre made the move to a nonprofit corporation last year.

“We wanted to provide educational programs, and we wanted to do a number of things that a nonprofit theater would anyways, so we figured that was the best way to go about it and the best way to continue our particular brand of work,” Colangelo says. “I think our goal ultimately is still the same — we still aim to make the type of theater we want to make, and we’re probably one of the only companies that provides the type of theater that we create as well.”

Prism focuses on making completely unspoken plays. This is not to be confused with silent — the theater company still uses music and sound cues to enhance the emotion of a scene. Prism doesn’t aspire to diminish the power of sound but rather demonstrate the importance and beauty of movement in its ability to tell a story.

The ultimate goal of the classes is to introduce and pique interest with the different techniques. In the case of the 2-year-olds, Prism visits a library and gives a demonstration of puppets.

In the case of older students attending institutions such as El Centro College, Prism takes students through the many stages of puppetry. In a single class, the 18-year-old theater students will learn how to build a puppet, the basics of using a puppet and how to take these movement skills into their professional lives.

When Colangelo teaches playwriting, he approaches it from the methodology of spoken-line plays rather than unspoken ones but stresses that the building blocks to creating a story follow the same course. The emotions and desires of the characters should be the driving force of the play, and those can be displayed in a variety of ways.

The students who attend the free classes are not only getting an advanced course on theater craftsmanship, but they’re also receiving a sneak peek into the techniques Prism will use for its upcoming show, As Dreams Are Made On.

Prism has operated in many spaces but has found an invaluable resource in the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. The center has hosted Prism shows in the past and is making its space available for Prism’s new show, which runs through April 29. With a grant from the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the show will be free to all audiences. Rafael Tamayo, a manager of the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, has worked with Prism and Colangelo on many occasions.

“Jeff Colangelo is probably one of the most creatively resourceful people I know," Tamayo says. "And every production I have seen by Prism has been innovative, jaw-dropping and presented by some of the most passionate people I know. Anytime they approach us for presenting a project, we do our best to make it happen.”

For more information on attending As Dreams Are Made On, visit prismco.org.

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