I’d like to invite you to my upcoming workshop production of TALA. TALA is my senior thesis project for Columbia’s MFA program in playwriting and the first project I’m writing/directing as Artistic Director of Pacific Beat Collective, a new theater company I’m preparing to launch after graduation.
TALA is a meta-theatrical play performed by Rafael Benoit, Daniel K. Isaac, and Natalia Miranda-Guzmán. The play centers on Rafael, Daniel, and Natalia, three actors performing “Tala,” a play written by Kyoung (performed by Daniel), a Korean-Chilean playwright who is struggling to write the story of Pepe and Lupe (performed by Rafael and Natalia), two Chilean lovers caught in the middle of a desert in a Chilean island called Chiloé.
The performance goes awry as Kyoung’s autobiographical monologues start eating up the show and astrological phenomenon ensue in live, video projections on-stage. Kyoung’s stories ramble through his experience immigrating to the States, living through 9/11, and his research of post-9/11 politics, which led him to be blacklisted by Homeland Security and go undercover to North Korea. As the play reaches its climax, Pepe and Lupe’s story merges with Kyoung’s autobiography, drawing surreal parallels between life, performance, and the creation of art as an act of revolution.
For me, the creation of TALA has been about opening the form; making a theater that invites new artists and audiences into the process. Currently, TALA includes the collaboration of two visual artists, Jason Krugman (who specializes in large-scale, plexi-glass and LED lit, installation pieces) and John Knowles, a contemporary video designer. This work is being integrated through a set designed by Marie Yokoyama, lighting design by Chuan-Chi Chan, and costume design by Elizabeth Groth, resulting in multiple compositions inspired by surreal art and movies set in the American Depression era.
Based on our research of folkloric arts from Chiloé, we’re also creating new dances re-interpreting Chiloé’s “El Pavo,” a dance based on the mating of turkeys. Our choreographer, Yin Yue, has taken this dance into a whole new other level, and we’re working with new music based on traditional rosaries and contemporary jazz sung with dying languages from the island. I’m particularly excited about the show’s music, since our collaboration with composer Svetlana Maras and sound designer Chris Barlow has been completely virtual. Even though Svetlana lives in Serbia, she’s been able to compose for us beautiful, post-structural orchestrations, which elegantly reflects the play.
TALA’s text, which I’ve developed with support of the Ma-Yi Theater’s Writer’s Lab, Lark Play Development Center, and Vermont Studio Center, is a surreal collage of satirical sketches based on Samuel Beckett’s works, letters and poems written by Chilean poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, and autobiographical monologues. The script we’re performing this April has been further developed with the collaboration of the actors, as one of our goals was to tailor-make the script for the needs of the ensemble. After four months of rehearsals, we’ve come up with a unique play, a story that has lovely quirks mirroring the idiosyncrasies of Chiloé’s local, whimsical, and dissident characters.
This entire process has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had making theater. However, I must give due credit to my mentor, Lee Breuer, who has helped me tremendously in the writing and direction of this play. TALA’s performance is highly influenced by Lee’s directorial melding of physical and method-based acting, which he’s mastered through his years of work with Mabou Mines. This workshop of TALA would not have been possible without him, and it’s exciting to see how Lee’s led us to spin TALA off its wheels. We’ve embraced this challenge with discipline and rigour, making of TALA an absurd, yet objective inquiry into what is is to make theater today.
TALA will be performed on Sunday, April 8th @ 7:30 PM, Monday, April 9th @ 2:30 PM, and Tuesday, April 10th @ 7:30 PM at the Mabou Mines Studio, located at 150 First Avenue, 2nd Floor. If you would like to attend the show, please email Amanda Crater at [email protected] for tickets. We have extremely limited seating and our first performance is almost full. I highly encourage early reservations!
I hope you’ll be able to join us!