Dallas’ Undermain Theatre’s latest dance-drama confronts what the COVID-19 pandemic has stolen from us all
As the Undermain Theater set out to find the next play to be filmed for its regular home audience, a play came to mind that had been produced by another company in Dallas long before the pandemic. Missing / missing things tell the partially true story of a couple whose strained relationship continues to plague when small household items disappear from their home, a metaphor for the growing gaps in their feelings for each other.
“There is an abundance of episodic dramas on streaming services exploring the effects of COVID with all the details of real life,” said Danielle Georgiou, associate art director at Undermain, in an email interview. “I wanted something more, something mysterious, something that is imbued with the quiet sadness that underlines the show itself.”
Justin Locklear, Georgiou’s personal and professional partner, conceived Things Missing / Missed with actor-directors Melissa Flower and Philip Hays from Houston, where it premiered in 2016. Flower and Hays played the disgruntled lovers who walk past each other. Then a hermit breaks into their home and starts stealing from them, which gives new meaning to what is missing in their relationship.
A year later, the “invented” work in the downtown Dallas library was revived by Georgiou and Locklear’s dance company, the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. This new filmed version, jointly produced by DGDG and Undermain, was shot in Undermain’s famous Deep Ellum basement room, with Locklear as the cast and Georgiou adapting, directing and choreographing the screenplay for the screen. Streaming will begin on January 13th.
Above and left: Scenes by Christian Vasquez from the play “Things Missing / Missed”. Bottom right: Actor Colby Calhoun.(Christian Vasquez and Justin Locklear)
The powerful theater duo Dallas is often inspired by existing texts or stories, which they transform into provocative, highly theatrical live performances for the stage. Despite being a different medium, Things Missing / Missed is the latest example. Locklear and his co-authors relied on two sources.
“The germ originally arose from the reaction to the poetic call for isolation in TS Eliot’s love song by J. Alfred Prufrock and to Christopher Knight’s real decision to leave society and seek the anonymity of life in nature,” says Locklear writes by email. “Things that are missing / missed are fed by the various facets of loneliness and obliteration found in each piece, and at the end a new perspective on these issues is revealed.”
Elaina Alspach, left, and Justin Locklear at the Undermain Theater and the “Things Missing / Missed” of the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. (Christian Vasquez)
Knight, known as “North Pond Hermit”, retired to the forest around the Belgrade Lakes in Maine in 1986 and did not reappear until he was arrested 27 years later. He survived by perpetrating 1,000 break-ins at nearby camps and huts. The fictional Prufrock is a similarly isolated character who is disillusioned with modern life. His feelings of loneliness are expressed in an inner stream of consciousness monologue in Eliot’s first published poem.
The regulars of the Locklear and Danielle Georgiou dance group, William Acker, Elaina Alspach and Colby Calhoun, take turns playing half of the troubled, broken-in couple. Local filmmaker and Dallas Morning News contributor Christian Vasquez acted as cameraman.
Danielle Georgiou, assistant artistic director of the Undermain Theater, left, and the late Undermain co-founder Katherine Owens.
“I’ve decided that this production shouldn’t have a single two-person relationship. Instead, the show obscures relationships as an expression of what we’ve seen this year, ”writes Georgiou. “The psychological effects on partnerships, friendships, and family relationships have been bizarre and difficult, and this story seems like a perfect way to portray those effects in a beautiful, tangible, and disturbing way … We have a cast that is largely present with one another have lived. In addition to the industry-recommended testing routine and careful caution on set, her domestic situation made the process a lot easier. “
Georgiou and Locklear are among the most prolific theater makers and workers in North Texas.
She founded the DGDG in 2011 to create multidisciplinary works that illustrate and comment on the limiting roles women are given by society and look for new paradigms. Nice, for example, took over from Emily Post’s dictation of proper manners. In 2017 Georgiou became Undermain’s in-house choreographer and was appointed Associate Artistic Director in 2019 by Artistic Director Bruce DuBose following the death of his wife, Undermain’s co-founder, Katherine Owens.
Colby Calhoun at the Undermain Theater and the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group’s film about “Things Missing / Missed”. (Christian Vasquez)
Locklear is one of the core members of another avant-garde troupe in Dallas, the Ocher House Theater, where he plays, writes, directs, composes and creates puppets as artist-in-residence. Often times, when other local groups seek help producing shows, the call goes to one of them. This collaboration with Undermain was in development for years.
“When we were doing Things Missing / Missed in Residence at the Dallas Public Library,” Georgiou recalls, “I felt like the perfect piece for the Undermain audience, but at the time I thought it was an unlikely result. Kat and Bruce visited production and I think they got a better idea of who I was as a creator and what kind of work my company was producing …
“When I started going back to history, I was shocked by how perfect and impressive the piece would be for a 2020 audience. I think the audience will connect with the issues of isolation in new ways and recognize themselves in the conflicts that arise when someone else is witness to your own self-obfuscation. During rehearsals we laughed in catharsis at the burden of our new understanding. Cant wait to share the meticulous portraits we have created, especially since it feels like I am all this year. “
Manuel Mendoza is a freelance writer and former contributor to the Dallas Morning News.
Streaming January 13th to 31st. Tickets are $ 15. undermain.org. dgdgdancegroup.com.
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