By Shari Goldstein Stern
“Let’s try” could be multiple award-winning IMPRINT TheatreWorks’ (IMPRINT) mantra. The team works the theater like The Little Engine That Could. That has been the theatre company’s head space since its founding in 2014.
At historic Samuell Grand Park (SG) in old East Dallas, IMPRINT TheatreWorks will present a new work, “The Tree — An American Rock Musical” Oct. 29-Nov. 14. The park’s Amphitheatre, residence to Shakespeare Dallas, will be the site of live performances. Shakespeare Dallas co-produces the show.
The IMPRINT team came up with a hybrid musical. While the “The Tree — an American Rock Musical” is presented live onstage at SG, it will simultaneously be streamed into patrons’ homes. There will be no lag time, recording, Zoom or green screen. What you see on your computer screen is the live performance in real time. It will feature music direction, music and lyrics from the debut album of DFW band Veteran Children, featuring Ian Ferguson and Aubrey Ferguson.
The heart of IMPRINT’s focus is the power of collaboration. How smart it was for the company to bring together a treasure trove of brilliant minds in the area’s theater community to collaborate in writing, creating music, vocals, lyrics, acting and movement by Danielle Georgiou for a piece of art to be enjoyed live in a natural setting and, simultaneously, at home — virtually — during a crisis.
The distinguished writing team includes local artists with reputations for brilliant theater. They are Michael Federico, Franky D. Gonzalez, Jonathan Norton (Playwright in Residence at Dallas Theater Center; “Penny Candy”), Alle Mims, Cameron G. Casey, Lauren LeBlanc, Ian Ferguson, Aubrey Ferguson and Drew Wall.
IMPRINT has taken on massive challenges to present high-quality theater to local audiences while the COVID-19 international pandemic continues raging. “If someone is going to be innovative about how to move forward during COVID-19, theater people should be the pioneers,” said Ashley White, IMPRINT artistic director.
White described the piece this way, “Classic mythology merged with a rock score, the narrative weaves elegantly and highlights unique voices and world views in a powerful way.”
The well-known and talented cast includes Aubrey Ferguson, Ben Phillips, Edmund Simpson II, Matthew A. Holmes, Mark Tam Quach, Natassia D. Diggs, Olivia Broome, Sarah Powell and Cosette Montemayor.
The SG Amphitheatre is the home to resident theater company Shakespeare Dallas’ annual Shakespeare in the Park series. Three classic works by the Bard are staged each summer, Tuesdays through Sundays in July. Half of Shakespeare Dallas’ fall season is also staged at SG.
“The Tree” is directed by Tiana Kaye Blair, a member of the Dallas Theater Center’s (DTC) Brierley Resident Acting Company. Blair said, “The story of humanity gaining the power of knowledge is such a well-known and charged subject that carries a lot of baggage.”
Blair is best known as one of the area’s most skilled actors, with shows like “Penny Candy,” “The Great Society,” “Twelfth Night” and “Hair,” among many others to her credit.
While the IMPRINT team has been working on the production for months, the playwrights did all their writing in September. White was quick to acknowledge the support and mutual respect of the IMPRINT staff, volunteers and board of directors. “They wanted to provide us with all options to meet our needs,” she said.
The company has been in virtual rehearsal for two weeks. Oct. 11 will be the first time it steps on the SG stage. When asked what the greatest challenge has been with the show, Blair replied, “I don’t think we’ve seen our greatest challenge just yet.”
White explains the COVID-19 safety precautions in practice at the theatre grounds: “Socially distanced seating pods have been set up across the Amphitheatre. They either seat two or four people and are spaced out by at least six feet. In accordance with county health guidelines, we will not allow more than four people in any pod. There will be ushers on both sides of the Amphitheatre to guide you.”
At a time when all else is uncertain, it is comforting to know that intelligent, creative theater professionals are looking out for those suffering from theater-withdrawal.
The SG Amphitheatre is located at 1500 Tenison Parkway. The only permanent seating is reserved for disabled patrons. Bring chairs, blankets and pillows. There will not be any to rent. Bring food and drinks, including alcohol, but drink responsibly. Food trucks will be in the area.
There are ample bathrooms on site, and all are ADA compliant and altered for social distancing.
Performances are scheduled for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 29-Nov. 14. All performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets are now on sale for both live and streaming performances. For information and reservations, visit IMPRINTtheatreworks.org or by calling 469-518-1605.