Sundown Collaborative Theatre Tries Their Hand at Shakespeare, With Help From Sigur Ros

Shakespeare seems to be on the minds of Dallas theatre-makers this month. Last weekend, there was a staged reading of Romeo and Juliet at the Wyly Theatre, Shakespeare in the Bar at Wild Detectives, and of course, Dallas Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Now, Sundown Collaborative Theatre is taking their stab at the Bard with their adaption of The Winter's Tale.

If you don't know the plot of The Winter's Tale, here's a brief rundown for you:

King Leontes destroys his family, friendships, and kingdom with false accusations of infidelity between his wife and best friend. Throughout a sixteen-year time period, we see the consequences of his destruction in two lands and over two generations. The play explores what actions must be taken for order to be restored to the lives of Leontes and his ilk.

I spoke with director Tashina Richardson about the decision to use this play and why Sundown will be presenting their work in two locations in the Metroplex over a relatively short time period. And of course, why she chose Sigur Rós for the soundscape. But first, can we take a moment to reflect on the beauty of Sigur Rós' ethereal music, and that wonderfully sexy video starring Shia LaBeouf? (NSFW) Now back to this interview.

For Richardson, the decision to stage The Winter's Tale was an easy one: it's her favorite Shakespearean play. "The first time I read it, I remember being struck by the stage direction, 'exit, pursued by bear,' and the execution of a statue coming to life. Shakespeare used theatricality and spectacle in many of his plays, but I think this one challenges the reader to really dig into the meaning of those striking visuals."

The decision to use Sigur Rós was almost as easy, as Richardson was wholly inspired by one song in particular, "Popplagio." While listening to it on the train to work one day, she fell into a trance and saw the play unfolding before her eyes. It became the basis of the entire adaptation. As she listened to the rest of the album more closely, she realized how well it worked with the trajectory of the show, so she started working on the adaption utilizing the music as the soundscape. "It underscored text-based scenes and replaces some of the dialogue as well. There are some scenes that don't have any music behind them, but I'd say the show is about 75 percent music underneath, 25 percent not."

This is similar to another well-known adaptation of a Shakespearean play, Sleep No More, by British theatre company, Punchdrunk. The company transformed a block of warehouses in Manhattan into the McKittrick Hotel--an abandoned hotel full of ghosts, witches, and creatures of the night. The production rethinks Macbeth and uses music and dance to create another world. While Sundown's production is not as large-scale, nor as immersive as Punchdrunk's, it does follow a parallel idea of seeing what happens when you take Shakespeare's language into the body and explore the transformative power of his take on the human condition.

"I choreographed about five pieces in the show, and there are other movement-based sections that came about more organically in the process," says Richardson. "The music with the movement is most often used to replace the more expository elements of the text. Every scene with a song underneath has a section where movement takes over to tell the story."

Richardson also stars in the show as Hermione, and will be looking at quite the challenge balancing her directing duties with her responsibilities on stage. "I'd say the biggest challenge is being able to turn off the director mindset and just try to be an actor...This week, I've been transitioning into being more of actor since the show is completed, and it's hard. I still want to sit out and give my actors notes!"

It will be interesting to see how Sundown's take on The Winter's Tale manifests. But we'll have plenty of chances to see it as they are staging it in two locations in the Metroplex: Denton and Dallas. For their first two weekends, they will be in their hometown of Denton at the Green Space Arts Collective (October 3-5 and October 10-12), then they will move to Dallas and into a place called Rockin' Rehearsal (October 17-19).

Sundown has been a Denton-based company since its inception, and had their first production in 2008 at Green Space, so it makes sense to remain producing work there, but now, in their seventh season, they are looking to branch out. They have done a few shows in Dallas at the Margo Jones Theatre, but with the State Fair, they sought out alternative locations. That's when they stumbled upon Rockin' Rehearsal. "They usually rent out to bands, but they're letting us see what we can do with their warehouse space," says Richardson. "We have a tendency to thrive in non-traditional locations, so we're equally nervous and excited to see how it works out."

Sundown Collaborative Theatre presents The Winter's Tale October 3-5 and 10-12 at 8:00 p.m. at the Green Space Arts Collective, 529 Malone St., Denton. And then October 17-19 at 8:00 p.m. at Rockin' Rehearsal, 1430 Regal Row, Suite #340, Dallas. $10 general admission; $8 students/seniors. There will be a small reception and talkback after the October 3 and October 17 shows.

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Danielle Georgiou