North Texas Daily

Theatre collaborative creates alternative productions

Theatre collaborative creates alternative productions

Theatre collaborative creates alternative productions
April 17
01:53 2014

Matt Wood // Staff Writer

In a garage at the end of Dudley Street, a scene of utter madness unfolds.

Shrieks echo from within and mad laughter fills the space. A dancing duo does a waltz across a rubber-padded floor and a curled-up man mutters to himself, “There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.”

For Sundown Collaborative Theatre, this is just another day at rehearsal.

Sundown Collaborative Theatre is a Denton-based, nonprofit performance company that aims to create thought-provoking theatre experiences.

The theater is currently in the process of producing an original play “Insatiable Infatuation with Violence,” which will be performed May 2 to 4 and 8 to 11. The show will include multiple UNT talents.

The play

Paul Vaughn, director and creator of “Insatiable Infatuation with Violence,” described it as an indictment of not only society, but each person’s acceptance of violence.

“We’re trying to bring [acceptance of violence] to the forefront, as a point,” Vaughn said. “We’re asking, ‘why are we OK with this?’”

The plot centers on Joan, the main character, whose brother is slain by a serial killer. She seeks justice for his murder and along the way runs into myriad absurd individuals.

The over-the-top characters that surround Joan function as amplified versions of the norms of violence that we accept. Vaughn said this serves to cause the audience to reflect on the ideas that are taken for granted.

Vaughn said in making the play, he came up with a framework and had actors improvise or create certain lines along the way.

“Collaboration makes it stronger,” he said. “The more ideas you have, the better end product you end up with.”

History of Sundown

Six Denton artists formed the company in 2007. On a shoestring budget, the group sought to present a different kind of performance, with encouraged input from all those involved.

“We want to make sure everyone gets a say in how a production is created,” said Tashina Richardson, artistic director for the company.

Richardson said she does a bit of everything within the company and has acted in it previously.

“I sort of have my hands in all of it,” she said. “Making sure productions go up, and are high quality. I basically make sure stuff gets done.”

Since its creation, the company has put on 34 productions, ranging from reinvented source materials, such as A Clockwork Orange, to various original plays.

The walls of the rehearsal space are adorned with posters, and mats cover the stage where the actors practice lines and stage movements.

Stage front are two makeshift director’s chairs where Richardson and Vaughn sit, with notebooks opened in their laps, as the follow along with the script.

The company’s rehearsal space occupies the garage of Nick Ross’s, the associate artistic director, home.

The group meets four to five times a week, depending on the show. Over a single week, it may rehearse for up to 16 hours.

Chris Worthington, a UNT film graduate, regularly attends the shows and said Sundown offers a critical service to Denton.

“Accessible art is a vital contribution to any community, and Sundown is lucky enough to operate in a city which draws in so many creative people,” Worthington said. “Sundown shows are always affordable, stimulating, and enriching.”

The cast

UNT theatre arts junior Bethany Burnside, who plays Joan, was asked to join Sundown by Vaughn. She had seen previous Sundown performances and was interested in the company’s work.

Burnside said the experience is a stark contrast from typical rehearsals, largely because she improvises many of her lines.

“I’m used to having a script ahead of time and going off of someone’s words,” she said. “But I like it. It’s been a really awesome process, and it’s definitely helped me grow as an artist.”

In her experience with Sundown, Burnside said she has found it easy to bounce ideas off her fellow thespians as well as directors and has enjoyed working with them all.

Burnside said her character, who is structured and confrontational, is entirely opposite of who she is in real life.

“Joan is really strong-willed in how she handles her brother’s death,” she said. “If my brother died, you wouldn’t see me for weeks. I’m super introverted.”

Kate McCay, who graduated from UNT, plays Mrs. Pitts, a married woman trapped in an insane asylum. She said the collaborative nature of the company fosters a supportive atmosphere.

“The environment lends itself to everyone seeing each other as an equal, as opposed to seeing each other as being higher up than someone else,” she said.

The actors and actresses have the leeway to offer ideas to add to the script as they rehearse. English senior Collin Miller, who plays the mad Dr. Julian, said he has never had this experience before, stating that it challenges a different side of acting.

“Some directors are so protective of their scripts that they don’t allow actors to invest their own ideas into the process,” Miller said. “But that’s a part of Paul [Vaughn]’s process.”

In developing his character and working with Vaughn, Rodriguez said Sundown has given him a wider range of experience.

“I feel working with Sundown, more so than with any other experience, has made me grow as an actor,” Rodriguez said.

With their performance about three weeks away, the performers admitted to being a bit nervous, but said they strongly believed in Vaughn’s concept.

“It’s terrifying,” said Jeremy Rodriguez, who plays Mr. Pitts alongside McCay.  “But I feel like anytime you have a project and you’re not completely done, and you’re just rehearsing, it’s terrifying.”

For those interested in attending the show, Burnside and Rodriguez had one definitive piece of advice:

“Don’t bring your children,” they said with a laugh.

Feature photo: Theatre arts junior Bethany Burnside listens and English senior Collin Miller gives his take on their roles. Photo by Byron Thompson / Intern Photographer 

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