COVID-19 Put This Theater On Wheels

Prism Movement Theater’s new show, “Everything Will Be Fine,” envisions cars as COVID-safe “bubbles” not just for the audience but for the performers.

By Jerome WeeksJuly 7, 2020 7:32 am, , ,

From KERA:

Not many dance shows begin when the performers get in their cars — the doors thunk shut — and start ‘em up. But that’s how this next dance number goes.

“Everything Will Be Fine” by Prism Movement Theater runs at the Latino Cultural Center June 26-27, and July 10-11.

On a recent evening at the Latino Cultural Center in downtown Dallas — actually, we were in the parking lot — director Jeff Colangelo signaled the performers where to park their cars. They formed a semi-circle around the performance area where all their headlights would shine. This was only the second, full-scale, in-the-flesh, pedal-to-the-metal rehearsal for Prism Movement Theater’s new show, “Everything Will Be Fine.”

Keeping their distance: Kwame Lilly (right) directing dancers, left to right: Kelsey Milbourn, Ania Lyons and Rai K. Barnard.

Colangelo will be using cars as COVID-safe ‘bubbles’ for the performers. The idea may seem to be the logical extension of the whole ‘drive-in’ solution for social distancing. Audience members remain safely “quarantined” in their cars – why not the same for performers?

But —

“This is actually been an idea that’s been in the works for several years at this point,” said Zoe Kerr, the playwright behind “Everything Will Be Fine.”

Two years ago, Colangelo pitched her the notion of an entire drama done in and on and with cars. It wasn’t a story so much as an intriguing, technical staging challenge: The cars would provide the lighting, the sets and the music – which would be broadcast through the audience’s own car radios via a low-watt FM transmitter. Just like a drive-in movie.

But the real challenge was finding funding for this unconventional show. So their plan got shelved.

Then the pandemic halted all the conventional stage shows.

“So we were trying to find something that we could do that was COVID-19 safe,” said Kerr. “And Jeff floated the idea of the car show again.”

COVID didn’t provide just a new reason to try the idea; it helped get them a grant. And it provided the basic story about a young woman grieving the loss of her partner.

“I had just seen a photo from a hospital,” Kerr recalled. “It was doctors holding up a sheet of paper that just said, ‘He is now at peace, we’re so sorry.’ And that image was really sticking with me as sort of an iconic image for 2020. So I started writing down the different stages of grief and how they might relate to this year in which we’re all kind of dying and growing and changing as people.”

In the Latino Center’s parking lot, Kwame Lilly shouted to be heard over Hayley Williams’ song, “Cinnamon.”

“Yes! Cool. Just like that,” he told the dancers. “And of course you can even give them a little more space so they ain’t in your space. But you got that.”

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