Theatre Reviews

3-24-15 RECAP of Shakespeare in the Bar

It may be 2015, but when the doors at The Wild Detectives in the Bishop Arts District opened Monday night at 8 p.m. to a swarm of more than 220 rowdy, beer-drinking “groundlings,” the bookshop-bar could have easily been the Globe Theatre in 1599.

These “groundlings” came to see a barely rehearsed version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, produced and performed by 15 actors as a part of Shakespeare in the Bar. In Shakespeare’s time, a groundling was the poorest member of the audience, who had probably just left work and who typically stood to watch the show from the back of the ground floor.

Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare in the Bar’s third production at The Wild Detectives. Shakespeare in the Bar is a brand-new project in Dallas, organized by SMU theatre alumni Katherine Bourne and Alia Tavakolian and Dallas director Dylan Key.

“This time around, more than in the past, the actors are really challenging themselves to lean into the vulnerability that comes with simply bringing yourself to the moment,” Bourne said. “With so little prep time, there is a real fight or flight mentality – to either cover up with a mask to protect yourself, or to trust yourself and your ensemble. One is easier; the other is braver.”

By 8:15 p.m., The Wild Detectives was at full capacity and members of the staff had to start turning people away. There was not a foot of empty space in the backyard of the bar where the show took place. By the time the show started at 9 p.m., the groundlings had had time to grab a beer, get some tacos, and get acquainted with their neighbors, so they were ready and eager for the Bard’s words to fill the playing space.

“I loved the relaxed atmosphere and how it was just them doing what they are good at while drinking beer,” said junior accounting major Sarah Cocke. “It was a fun night out and I would definitely go again!”

At the start of the show, the team of Shakespeare in the Bar encouraged the audience to yell, indulge in a drink or two, and have a great time along with the actors.

Actor Janielle Kastner, who graduated from SMU in 2012 with degrees in theatre and English, said that this go-around for Shakespeare in the Bar was the most fun for her so far.

“The audience responded so strongly to the show tonight,” Kastner said, who played the role of Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing. “Oftentimes it seems like as an audience member you have to perform the role of ‘watching Shakespeare’ – that barrier is immediately thrown out the window when an actor crawls over you and your drink to hide under your table lest she be discovered eavesdropping.”

The majority of the 15 actors either graduated from or have some kind of relationship with SMU, and many SMU students were in the audience.

The production was accompanied with music by The 8th Street Orkestar, which added a lively mood to the transitions from scene to scene during the performance.

“My favorite part when they played ‘Boys are Back in Town’ and all the men jumped out of the truck from behind the bar,” said SMU junior applied physiology major Noelle Hunter, who attended the performance. “I thought it was hilarious.”

Much Ado About Nothing is a Shakespeare comedy said to have been written between 1598 and 1599. In the play, Claudio is tricked into rejecting his beloved Hero at the altar on the belief that she has been unfaithful. At the same time, Beatrice and Benedick are being pranked into professing their love to one another.

The cast interacted and reacted with the house throughout the performance, which broke the barriers between actor and audience member. Cast members danced on tables, picked on individuals and, much to the audience’s interest and enjoyment, called for “line” every once and awhile. The overall vibe was relaxed and lighthearted, but that did not take away from some very serious acting going on inside the playing space.

“My favorite moment of these shows is the first time the audience laughs out loud together,” Kastner said. “You can feel the audience and the ensemble take a collective sigh of relief – this is time to engage and enjoy and leave the rule book at home!”


4-20-14 – UNDERMAIN presents a vigorous piece of theatre

It was as if a gunshot went off when actress Ivuoma Okoro stepped on the stage to deliver what I thought was the curtain speech for the Undermain Theatre’s recent spitfire of a play, WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT A PRESENTATION ABOUT THE HERERO OF NAMIBIA FORMERLY KNOWN AS SOUTH-WEST AFRICA FROM THE GERMAN SUDWESTAFRIKA BETWEEN THE YEARS 1884-1915 written by Jackie Sibblies Drury.

A mouthful, I know.

Turns out, this curtain speech was actually the prologue for the regional premiere of this play.

A play in which the title is a joke. The play is not a history of the Herero of Namibia; rather, it is a play about the lack of abilities in a group of actors to tell the story of the Herero of Namibia.

The story that the actors attempt to tell is about the genocide of the Herero tribe in Germany. Both the Germans and the members of the Herero tribe believed they owned the land. Because of this tension, the Germans forced the Herero to work without pay, took their property and raped their women. As an act of rebellion, the Herero rebel killed nearly one hundred German soldiers.

While the actors try to give a historically accurate presentation of the Herero, the only primary sources they have are letters from the Germans that do not mention the genocide at all.

In the study guide provided to audiences written by the Undermain Theatre’s literary manager Stephen Foglia, he points out that the play is a piece of documentary theatre, which became popular since the middle of the 20th century.

Directed by the Undermain Theatre’s Artistic Associate Dylan Key, the play was a marathon.

All of the actors were on stage the entire time and were in action for the full ninety minutes, attempting to present their history and preserve the message of the Herero however they could.

Actors include Jake Buchanan, Christopher Dontrell Piper, Blake Hackler, Bryan Pitts, Shannon Kearns-Simmons, and Ivuoma Okoro.

Performances run at The Undermain Theatre in Deep Ellum. For more information, visit




4-20-14 – GALATEA moves audiences without words

Galatea proves that a performance does not need words to create an inspiring and moving piece of theatre.

Created and directed by Jeff Colangelo, Galatea opened April 17, 2014 at a deserted warehouse in Trinity Groves in Dallas, TX and has sold out every night so far.

Galatea explores the story of an artist who is trying to create the perfect girl. Galatea is an innovative, one-of-a-kind wordless movement show that uses paper, aerial silks, and weight-sharing to explore the story of an artist who is attempting to create the perfect girl as his one true love. In the process, he creates an entire world made entirely out of paper and populated by a vibrant plethora of characters who teach the girl what it is to be human.

The story is told with a small budget that was public on a Kickstarter page that Jeff Colangelo. The only props are large amounts of scrap paper, donated from various theatres in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The costumes were drawn from the actors’ and dancers’ own closets, enhanced by well-crafted paper adornments.

Through the real artwork in the lobby, audiences could see how The Artist created the fantastical characters in the show and perceive how long and obsessively The Artist worked to create this perfect girl.

The premiere took place in the Greer Garson Theatre on SMU’s campus in the spring of 2013. The original workshop production was supported and funded by SMU Student Theatre (SMUST) as part of the Division of Theatre at SMU.

Almost the entire original cast returned to do the show this time around, including the original artist, Dean Wray, who flew in from New Orleans to be a part of the show this spring.

The cast included Kelsey Rohr, Katy Tye, Jeff Colangelo, Ricco Fajardo, Gabi Stilwell, Kristen Lee, Camille Cucjen, and Hope Endreyni. Additionally, the show featured magic from magician Trigg Watson and completely original music from Fabricio CF, a violinist who transforms himself into a one-man band for the production.

Colangelo had audiences on the edge of their seat and in stitches. Audiences were never quite sure how to react to things at any given moment, as actors were entering through the audiences and creating other surprises throughout.

Thanks to Colangelo’s specificity in movement, intention and action, every bone, muscle, and artery was in place for every theatre artist in the piece.

A particularly moving scene was when The Artist (Dean Wray) made it snow for his Perfect Girl (Katy Tye). At this point in the story, The Artist seeks opportunities to make The Perfect Girl as happy as possible, because he is aware that he cannot do it singlehandedly. When he makes it snow on stage, you could see the specificity in the way in which The Artist was listening to The Perfect Girl. It was clearer than ever in this moment that all he wanted to do was please Tye.

Galatea is an awe-inspiring piece of theatre artistry and is appropriate for children of all ages. The production runs until April 27, 2014 in the Green Warehouse at Trinity Groves. Tickets start at $10 for students.



2-14-14: Cock at Second Thought Theatre by Mike Bartlett

The playing space is simple. Bryant Hall is a small black box. However, Mike Bartlett’s drama, Cock, which plays at Second Thought Theatre (STT) January 31-February 22, is messy and chaotic and full of action and life. The audience was left with simply the actors’ voices and bodies to tell the story.

Director and associate artist at STT Alex Organ facilitates  Bartlett’s discussion in a unique and specific way. The four actors in the play simply draw chalk to create the playing space. Before the second act begins, the actors come on stage, mop up the chalk from act one and draw in new lines for the rest of the play.

This is typical of a STT production, where minimal sets are encouraged and where audiences are treated to wonderful acting and directing. Even playbills are electronic. Second Thought Theatre was founded in 2003 by Barbara Bouman, Lance Currie, Mike Schraeder, Steven Walters and Tom Parr IV and has been producing shows of a wide variety ever since.

Set in London in present day, the play tells the story of a gay man who falls in love with a woman. The audience is caught up in the love triangle between John (Justin Locklear) and his two love interests, W and M, played by Danielle Pickard and Blake Hackler, respectively. Robert Ousley completes the cast as M’s father.

Who will John choose?

Mike Bartlett’s story is both wildly comic and sincerely thoughtful and serves as a discussion of identity and sexuality.

For more information, visit Cock runs until February 22 at Bryant Hall at the Kalita Humphreys Theatre at 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., Dallas, TX, 75219.


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