TheaterJones

Food Channeling

Food Channeling

Ten young women in pastel tie-dyed T-shirts and black pants enter arguing. They take their seats in a row of folding black chairs facing the audience at the South Dallas Cultural Center's performance space. They fuss about the menu, about the people invited, about the safety of the surroundings.  Everything. This cacophony of complaints rises to a crescendo, subsides, and one especially peevish girl asks, "Can I get a to-go box?" Blackout.

This compelling five-minute opening scene in Cry Havoc Theater Company's new devised work, From the Table: A Celebration of Food, is funny and familiar to everybody who gathers with family, friends and anybody else at the table to sit down and eat a meal. So begins a revealing, 70-minute work, a rising tide of tightly choreographed scenes, that touches on the history and wildly various expressions of our deeply societal and intimately personal relationship with food. 

Q&A: Mara Richards Bim

Q&A: Mara Richards Bim

The founder of Cry Havoc Theatre Company on the creation of Babel, the documentary play about gun violence opening in the Elevator Project.

Dallas — Mara Richards Bim is the founder of Cry Havoc, a director, an adjunct faculty member at Eastfield College, and a consultant for Dallas ISD’s Department of Theatre and Dance. Her Dallas directing credits include Cry Havoc’s The (out)Siders Project, Shut Up and Listen!,  Shots Fired (co-director) and The Great American Sideshow, all developed with the teen performers of Cry Havoc, who conduct interviews and create devised, verbatim theater. Along with members of the Cry Havoc Theatre Company, she has created Babel: A Play About Guns, running July 5-15 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas as part of the Elevator Project Series.

Mara spoke with us about the importance of the work the teens of Dallas are doing through theatre.

Hashtag Winning

Hashtag Winning

Cry Havoc Theater Company pulls no punches with its latest devised work, the anti-Trump The Great American Sideshow.

Since Nov. 9, 2016, it has been easy to predict that arts-makers would comment on the political moment through louder art. Among the classic plays that theater artists have revived nationally are Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, absurdist works that are remarkably evocative of the new president. An adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 is on Broadway. Then there’s Julius Caesar, with which New York’s Shakespeare in the Park stirred so much controversy for a Trump-looking title character that outdoor Shakespeare organizations across the country, including Shakespeare Dallas, received death threats.

This year in our area, three original works have been the most pointed in criticism of the current administration and his diehard supporters. Two were at the Festival of Independent Theatres—Audacity Theatre Lab’s adaptation of the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator, and Jeff Swearingen’s The Caveman Play, performed by young adult outfit The Basement. The latter was a sly, clever commentary on pack mentality and some humans’ refusal to believe in discovery, progress and logic.

Cry Havoc Theater Company’s The Great American Sideshow, directed by Mara Richards Bim, doesn’t even try to veil its indictment of 45. A co-production with Kitchen Dog Theater and using KDT’s current home at the Trinity River Arts Center, the devised work was created by teenagers from high schools across the Metroplex.

The setting: a circus sideshow where the freaks include Fortune Teller (Eboni Bolton), Bird Girl (Zephira Zithri Guimbatan), Bearded Lady (Keyshawn Lefall), Strong Man (Frankie Mars), Noodle Man (Luis Matos), Pop Eye (Tilah McGrway), Pin Cushion (Jordan Mercado), Narcoleptic Chameleon (Sheldrick Pearl), Sword Swallower (Zion Reynolds) and conjoined twins Ruth (Regina Juarez) and Ruth Ann (Michelle Ann Marie). Mother (Trinity Gordon) watches out for young acrobat Lily (fourth grader Maren Bennett). Fabian Rodriguez is a Barker.

The floundering freak show is purchased by a man named Otto Baron (the obvious Trump stand-in who is never seen), who sends Narcissa (Valeria Marin) to help whip things into shape. Most hilariously, Baron has a golden bird named Birdie (De’Aveyon Murphy) who has short, hashtag-ready outbursts that begin with a “tweet, tweet” (see our short video above). Journalist (Mary Bandy) tries to get the story and keeps being stifled by Baron and his supporters.

Co-Productions with Kitchen Dog Theater

Co-Productions with Kitchen Dog Theater

Cry Havoc Theater Company and Kitchen Dog Theater will co-present CHTC's Shots Fired with a new work this summer.

The collaboration to bring these two shows to audiences this summer marks the first official partnership between Cry Havoc and Kitchen Dog. “When I founded Cry Havoc Theater in 2014, Kitchen Dog was the first theater I approached about a possible collaboration,” said Richards Bim. “I’m a huge fan of the stories they tell, the quality of their productions, and their commitment to cultivating new voices in the theater. I’m honored and grateful for their partnership and commitment to bring Shots Fired back and for their invaluable support in the development of The Great American Sideshow.”

“Given both of our companies’ proclivities for new work and timely, provocative subject matter, this partnership seemed like a natural fit to me”, says Co-Artistic Director Tina Parker. “I was very moved by the performance of Shots Fired I saw this past winter and it is my sincere hope that KDT can help increase visibility for this amazing young company.”

Fired Up

Fired Up

The teen ensemble of Cry Havoc Theater Company creates the compelling ensemble piece Shots Fired, about the Dallas police shootings and responding through art.

I won’t spoil the clever way in which it is staged at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, but let’s just say that it’s interactive with the audience, but not obtrusive. They use their interviews to get at big issues brought up by the shootings: Black Lives Matter, the clear majority of good cops vs. the much smaller number of bad ones, how the gunman was killed with the bomb, and what it means to rage against the machine. Remember, just days before the tragedy there were police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, which sparked the Dallas demonstration.

Their Shot

Their Shot

Mara Richards Bim, director of Cry Havoc Theater Company's Shots Fired, on how the teen ensemble interviewed officers, protesters and others after the July 7 Dallas police shootings.

Mara Richards Bim, founder and artistic director of Cry Havoc Theater Company, is committed to providing talented young Dallas teenagers a voice on the stage. Working with young writers and actors, the company produced last year’s fascinating devised theater piece, Shut Up and Listen, as well as Good Kids, a critically applauded work showcased at the Festival of Independent Theatres.

Now Bim and co-director Ruben Carrazana have created a new work based on the violent outcome of a July 7, 2016, peaceful protest rally in Dallas in response to recent police shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers. An African-American Army Reserve veteran ambushed police officers assigned to the rally, killing five and wounding nine officers.

TheaterJones talked with Bim about the process of making Shots Fired, a response based on interviews conducted in the fall of 2016 by local teenagers.

FIT Review: Good Kids

FIT Review: Good Kids

Cry Havoc Theatre uses teen actors for a fantastic production of Naomi Iizuka's Good Kids, about rape culture, at the Festival of Independent Theatres.

In 2012, at a high school party in Steubenville, Ohio, a drunk girl was raped by several jocks. It was filmed on a cellphone, posted across social media and watched—but not reported—by many teenagers, male and female.

That incident is dramatized by Naomi Iizuka in Good Kids, which Cry Havoc Theatre produces for its first entry in the Festival of Independent Theatres, directed by Shelby-Allison Hibbs (who, for disclouse purposes, writes a column about new work for TheaterJones).

Iizuka deftly mixes documentary and fiction, with narration to the audience and everyday interactions between the students leading up to, and the aftermath of, the crime. “We don’t just know the truth, we see it unfold,” one student says about watching it on cellphones, a statement that also captures the essence of the storytelling style.