Danse Theatre Surreality Presents The World Premiere Of THOUGHTS & PRAYERS
Danse Theatre Surreality, a multidisciplinary ensemble led by director Lauren Hlubny, is proud to present the World Premiere of Thoughts & Prayers, a music-driven physical theatre show on political themes, with an original score by composer and saxophone virtuoso Thomas Giles (known for his work with MANA Quartet), who also performs in the piece along the ensemble of musicians and a dancer. The work will be presented at the TADA! Youth Theatre (25 W 28th Street, NY, NY 10001) from September 19 till 29, playing Thursdays to Sundays. Tickets are $15, $35 and $65 and can be purchased at https://thoughtsandprayerstheshow.brownpapertickets.com/.
Thoughts & Prayers - the title of which invokes the phrase synonymous with complacency in the face of preventable disaster - explores America's relationship with tragedy, catastrophe, and hope. The hour-long show, divided into five acts, follows a fictitious couple Dana and Felix as they find themselves facing various cataclysms - global, nationwide, local, and domestic. The piece also features musicians (three strings, three woodwinds) who engage in fully-staged theatrical performance as two Greek choruses: The Congress and The Activists - and comment on the daily hum of media coverage while clashing over political failures and widening gaps of partisanship and class.
Thoughts & Prayers employs Hlubny's trademark method of approaching the musicians as full actors: as she did in sans (2017) and her previous work developed with the acclaimed saxophonist and composer Thomas Giles.Their first joint project, The Stranger (2017), had the instrumentalist moving, dancing, and doing scene-work along with the dancer. The newest production takes their collaboration to the next level, further developing the process of creation of a music-driven physical performance which both artists compare to writing an opera. "My point of departure was almost like writing a libretto, except it was not just text: I presented Thomas with a narrative consisting of specific prompts which he in turn transformed into music," explains Hlubny. Giles adds: "A lot of material needed to be substantially reworked in the context of the narrative, and there was no room for being too precious about my own ideas."
The narrative layer was inspired in large part by actual events that happened during the piece's gestation period, such as the massacres at Parkland and in Las Vegas; a personal family tragedy; Hurricane Maria; the Flint Water Crisis. "Every project I undertake has to have a socio-political mission, and Thoughts & Prayers is partnering with community organizations with similar objectives. We have to understand that over 80% of the experience of the show is coming from the audiences' lives out there in the real world," says Hlubny, whose previous work dealt with concepts such as social justice and gender equality.
Giles says: "I found that the stark juxtaposition central to Thoughts & Prayers is critical in expressing the ethos of our time, the noise of the information age. What this piece intends to say calls for very distinct sounds: hence the stylistic pastiche and contemporary idioms. Listeners will recognize bits of Americana, musical intimations of crowds chanting "Black Lives Matter," sequences of storm sirens and news jingles, violence, loss, sarcasm, outrage... at the end, we hear what I intended as a voice of hope."
In Thoughts & Prayers, the musicians utilize a wide array of avant-garde instrumental techniques, defying the norms of their instrument's traditional roles. It was of great importance to Hlubny that her performers don't sacrifice their artistic discipline and high skills while doing that. "I asked them to exit their comfort zones and develop techniques well beyond their wheelhouse," she explains. "But I also want them to feel gratified within their art forms, and challenged to improve. There are rewards along the way...Have you ever seen a saxophonist run? They look sort of like T-rexes," says Hlubny.
The work is performed by an ensemble: Emma Factor (dancer; as Dana), Guy Dellecave (tenor sax/Congress), Thomas Giles (soprano sax; Felix), Josh Lang (baritone sax/Congress), Galo Morales (alto sax/Congress) , Charlotte Munn-Wood (violin II / Activist), Darian Thomas (viola/Activist), and Lena Vidulich (violin I/Activist). The understudies are Sergio Muñoz (strings), Ivan Arteaga (alto sax) and Rebecca Van Dover (Dana understudy). The production, conceived and directed by Lauren Hlubny, features original music by Thomas Giles, text by Alexis Roblan, scenography by Luther Frank, and costumes by Taylor Barnett.
Photo by Scott Newirth