At the Dallas Theater Center, a dramatic journey begins in a garage.
Director Tiffany Nichole Greene and the theater’s Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company devised Something Grim(m), an immersive outdoor theatrical event beginning at the Lexus Silver parking garage in the Dallas Arts District. Delayed by Texas’ unprecedented winter storm last month, this limited engagement production will run from March 18 to April 4.
From the garage, the audience takes a 40-minute creative journey to various locations around the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre. Inspired by Grimm’s fairy tales, the story follows a gardener, a maid, a cook, a farmer, and a very special child on an exploration of power and privilege and a journey back home.
Featuring comic strips, pop-up storybooks, as well as pre-recorded video and audio elements, the story is told in several segments with each step along the path revealing a new part of the story. The production engages patrons by requiring each audience member to make a moral choice based on the impact of the fairytale they have just seen.
Something Grim(m) was produced with safety in mind. Using similar COVID-19 safety protocols developed to film the theater’s holiday production, In the Bleak Midwinter, actors were filmed so live performers will not be onsite. Audience members are required to wear masks, entry times will be staggered and contact with staff will be limited. There will also be a maximum number of tickets available per time slot to reduce guest interactions. The outdoor setting allows room for social distancing.
Tiffany Nichole Greene discusses the creation of Something Grim(m).
NBC DFW: Why are Grimm fairy tales a good literary basis for this theatrical event?
Tiffany Nichole Greene: Grimm fairy tales peep into humanity’s darkest corners and expose the sides of us we try to hide or present doesn’t exist. Few are bold enough to go there the way the Grimms do. The lessons they teach are rarely attacked from such an angle. Most people don’t want to admit how horrible we can be to one another. But we can’t change something we’re not willing to admit exists.
NBC DFW: Part of the magic of theater is a live audience engaging with live actors in the same room. How do you make this feel like a piece of theater when the audience is not in a theater and the actors are filmed?
Greene: Theatre is live, yes. But it’s about the engagement. And this experience still asks the audience to be a part of the journey. It’s not all a film. There are so many other storytellers at the focus. The lights, sounds, visuals, the travel. The design elements live and breathe with the audience.
NBC DFW: What are the technical challenges of producing this outdoor dramatic journey?
Greene: WEATHER! We’ve run into some impossible weather! Pray for us!
NBC DFW: As a director, in what ways is this project rewarding?
Greene: Oh! In sooo many ways! I devised a play! That’s one thing. This story is my creation, inspired by a few Grimm fairy tales, adapted into script form by myself and the company of actors. Also, it’s been increasingly rewarding to think of theatre in this way. To bring life to stationary objects. To design and then depend on structures to come alive and tell a story. This is definitely the most unique piece of theatre I’ve ever directed. Entire moments with only audio and lights and soundscape and maybe a little haze. It’s a very different brain space. A liberating one!
NBC DFW: What gives you hope as a theater maker during this pandemic? What have you learned about the power of theater during this extraordinary time?
Greene: I have learned that it will always be. I’ve learned that, like water, it can take the shape of any object willing to contain it. And when there is no container, it will simply flow freely until it encounters its limit.