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Conceived by Lear deBessonet
Adaptation, Music, and New Lyrics by Todd Almond
Based on the Play by William Shakespeare

A Public Works Dallas Production by The Dallas Theater Center,
Southern Methodist University School of the Arts, and
AT&T Performing Arts Center

AT&T Performing Arts Center

Directed by Kent Gash
Music Direction by Vonda K. Bowling
Choreography by Mayte Natalio
Scenic Design by Jason Sherwood
Costume Design by Mari Taylor
Lighting Design by Dawn Chiang
Sound Design by Andrea Almond
Wig Design by Nicole Alvarez
Fight Coordination by Jeff Colangelo

CAST (In alphabetical order)
Perdita – Ivey Barr
Clown – Edgar Flores
Polixenes – Ivan Jasso
Hermione -- Tiana Kaye Johnson
Antigonus – Liz Mikel
Leontes / Autolycus – J.D. Mollison
Florizel – Jeff Pope
Mamillus – Alan Ramirez
Time – Juan Carlos Ramirez
Spanish Oracle – Rosaura Ramirez
Camillo – Ruben Reza
Young Perdita – M. Rayne Smith
Oracle – Sheryl Stafford
Shepard – Terry Thompkins
Paulina – Sally Nystuen Vahle
Mopsa – Debra Washington
Dorcas – Theo Washington
Featured Dancers – Jakavia Bonner, Samantha Campbell, Norma Cruz, Karla Gonzalez, Eraina Harper, Karen King, Amber Paschall, Caryn Steine, La’Mauria Taylor, La’Nia Taylor
Featured Vocalists – Tiana Shuntae, Alexander, John Herrera, Dionne Kirby
Featured Sicilians – Gloria Barnes, Eleana DeMus, Thelma Lett, Igenell Moten, Rogelio Pena Jr., Martha Smith, Jackie Thomas, Sandra Glenn Tuck
Featured Bohemians – Demetria Gilbert, Shiri Gupton, Damon Richardson, Tamika Sanders
Citizens of Sicilia – Francisco Diaz, Rosa Escobedo, Van L. Hamilton, Maria Hernandez Sebastian Jaimes, Jessie Johnson, Anyeli Macz, Willie McGee, Olivia Meredith, Annalisa Moreno, Diana Napoles, Joyce M. Phillips, Sofia Ramirez, Luna Reza, Maria Reza, Oceano Reza River Ribas, Eric Rodriguez, Martha Rodriguez, Betty Spillman, Dorothy Taylor, David Diaz Vega, Patricia Vega, Jane Zamudiok
Citizens of Bohemia – Francisca Arellano, Rafael Araiza, Raymond Araiza, Janeth Araiza, Jarek Arellano, Samantha Flores, Sandra Gonzalez, Ziza Gonzalez, Anamelia Jaramillo, Nathaly Karen, Jaeden Lesllie, Rianna Lopez, Zo Mei, Jessica Miller, Marjorie Murat, Leticia Ramirez Joy Reemtsma Ruby rivera, Christine Skibell, Tommie Thompson

Cameo Groups: American Airlines Drag Queen, Bandan Koro African Drum/Dance Ensemble, Dallas Mavericks Dancers, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Company, Grand Marshall Michelle N. Gibson featuring Unfaded Brass Band, Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Mariachi Estampas De Mexico,

Reviewed Performance: 8/31/2018

Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

“Exit, pursued by a bear,” is possibly the most famous stage direction in all of theatrical history. In the production that just closed at The Dallas Theater Center, that stage direction was followed this way: Antigonus (Liz Mikel) had just reluctantly abandoned the baby Perdita as King Leontes (J.D. Mollison) brutally commanded, when suddenly a bunch of adorable children in bear costumes came pouring out of a large basket, and start dancing around her! They all danced offstage, followed by a smiling Momma Bear wearing a big fur coat and lots of sparkling jewelry. Take that, “pursued by a bear!”

For me, that action served as a metaphor for the approach to the evening: unexpected, warm, fun, and joy-filled. People from all over Dallas, often from the same family, came together to appear in a production that exuded inclusion, optimism and genial interaction. Boy, did I need to see some of that in this world we’re living in! The heart-pounding African Drum and Dance Ensemble, the Unfaded Brass Band led by the magnetizing Michelle N. Gibson, superb mariachis, exotic East Indian dancers, the terrific Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Company, four stellar members of the Dallas Mavericks Dancers, AND a glamorous drag queen, all became part of the love-fest, and the audience went wild with each new appearance! If the purpose of the evening was to introduce the diversity of Dallas to its audience, and “regular folk” to what the experience of being involved in a theatrical production by actually participating on stage can be like, then the evening was a roaring success.

Using the barest outline of Shakespeare’s play, The Winter’s Tale, as the starting point, the production provided an outstanding, and unusual look at what our city can do when it comes together to create an evening filled with optimism and confidence. Supported by only five professional actors, the ensemble boldly put forth The Winter’s Tale’s story of redemption and forgiveness in a totally stirring manner.

J.D. Mollison played both Leontes, the jealous husband, and Autolycus, “Though I am not naturally honest, I am sometimes so by chance,” the ragged pickpocket and rogue. If you hadn’t read the program ahead of time, you probably would never have guessed that the same actor was playing two roles. He completely immersed himself in both, creating fully rounded characters, clearly drawn and motivated. The audience loved him as the wily Autolycus and he clearly loved becoming that character. His singing was fine too, filled with emotion as Leontes, and humor as Autolycus.

Antigonus was played by Liz Mikel who turned in another of her usual powerhouse performances. As our narrator and guide, she also took part as a character in the show, lending her big voice and charismatic presence to the unfolding tale. This was yet another role originally written for a male that Ms. Mikel has portrayed recently at the Theater Center, again underscoring the evening’s theme of letting talent shine beyond expectations.

Tiana Kaye Johnson sang and acted her way into the audience’s hearts as Hermione, the young, pregnant, wrongfully accused queen of Sicilia. She clearly captured the joy of marriage, friendship, and motherhood, and then the confusion and distress as her husband began his unfounded ranting about her relationship with his oldest and best friend. Her re-awakening to life, and her subsequent duet with her reunited daughter at the end of the evening were lovely.

Ivan Jasso as Polixenes, and Sally Nystuen Vahle as Paulina, both showed us how talented and confident actors can expand and strengthen a production, even in smaller roles. Mr. Jasso’s rugged appearance and strong voice, combined with his commitment to the role, made the friendship that falls into confusion and anger believable and relatable. Ms Vahle is never less than a commanding actress on stage. Completely at home, she exudes a persona that lets the audience know they are in the hands of a consummate professional. Her Paulina was a character of strength and deep compassion, all of it paying off in the final scene as she revealed the still-living Hermione.

Ivey Barr sang beautifully as Perdita, the long-lost daughter, with her prince Florizel played strongly by Jeff Pope. Terry Thompkins as the Shepard, and Edgar Flores as the Clown, both come across strongly in their roles, Mr. Flores being an especially funny straight man for the antics of Mr. Mollison’s Autolycus. Mamillus, the young son of Leontes and Hermione, was delightfully brought to life by the young Alan Ramirez.

The entire cast, mostly made up of volunteers from the community centers participating in the Public Works Dallas endeavor, was composed of enthusiastic participants, many of them children, who were captivating in their obvious commitment and delight at being part of such an event. Each had their moment in the spotlight, and each came through with flying colors.

Reflecting those flying colors, the costumes by Mari Taylor were wildly creative, fantastical in the best sense of the word, and entirely appropriate for each character in this approach to The Winter’s Tale. Wig design by Nicole Alvarez and Fight Coordination by Jeff Colangelo added their own special and unique gifts.

Scenery by Jason Sherwood was stunning in its evocative creation of a palace, a forest, a cathedral, and every other location needed, by a series of partial arches and chandeliers. I’m assuming that the lighting design by Dawn Chiang extended to the constantly changing moods created by the lights embedded in the arches, and everywhere else on stage as the lights accented persons and moments, and created magic to match the fantasy. Sound by Andrea Allmond and the orchestra under Music Director Vonda K. Bowling provided ambient sounds and accompaniment for the singing and dancing. There was also good balance between the performers and the orchestra.

As director, Kent Gash had the monumental job of pulling all of these disparate elements together into a comprehensible and workable evening of theatrical entertainment. To say that he succeeded is an understatement. Keeping the storyline clear, defining the characters, working the various groups into the story, and pulling together a largely inexperienced cast to create a unified vision, had to be daunting. The thrilled audience spoke to his success with their overwhelmingly receptive response.

Dayron J. Miles, director of Public Works Dallas, in his interview with Nancy Churnin for the Dallas Morning News, said that his hope was to “bring people together across lines of age, race, ethnicity, language and socioeconomics.” He is not alone is feeling that this kind of project is needed more than ever in these “divisive political times.” The obvious pleasure reflected on the faces of the cast, and delighted and enthusiastic acceptance by the audience only underscored the success of the project in meeting its goals.

A vaudeville is defined as entertainment consisting of a highly diverse series of short acts or “turns.” Using this approach brings together the City of Dallas and its multicultural and multitalented population by highlighting the many distinct approaches to expression. Different as they may be, all are alike in the community’s need to manifest itself in a unique celebration of life. Presented together, these “turns” serve the wider purpose of fostering understanding and inclusiveness. As an example of recognition, forgiveness and reconciliation, using Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale seems the perfect framework. Public Works Dallas, The Dallas Theatre Center, and all those involved are to be commended and encouraged to continue their work to bring mutual respect and oneness to our community.

Dallas Theater Center
SMU Meadows School of the Arts
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Public Works Dallas
The Winter’s Tale

Final Performance Sunday, Sept 2nd, 2018