In the pre-pandemic era, Dallas Theater Center’s Public Works Dallas was an annual musical pageant featuring more than 200 community members reflecting a vibrant city. This summer, Public Works Dallas transforms that pageant into A Little Less Lonely, a film about a community’s resiliency and the promise of a post-pandemic world. The film will be available on August 10.
Tatyana-Marie Carlo directed 60 community members from her home in Rhode Island via Zoom over eight weeks before coming to Dallas for filming. The film, devised by the participating community members, begins in the world of Zoom, eventually transitioning to a fantastical dream world that embodies the community’s hopes for the post-pandemic future.
The production combines scenes filmed on Zoom from each participants’ homes with fantasy scenes that were filmed outdoors on location at Bachman Lake Together, Janie C. Turner Recreation Center, and Jubilee Park & Community Center.
Carlo talks about directing on Zoom, the inspiring power of a community’s perseverance and her new tattoo.
NBC DFW: When the Dallas Theater Center approached you about the project, what made you say "yes" to taking it on?
Tatyana-Marie Carlo: Originally, this wasn't the project I was supposed to work on. I was supposed to assist Christie Vela on Twelfth Night through a Drama League fellowship. The Drama League was so incredible. They asked me if I would like them to reward me with the fellowship money or would I like to take on this project that the folks at Public Works Dallas were dreaming into being? I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of anything at the Dallas Theater Center. It was an easy yes for me. My work stems from community, it’s a lot of the work I had done even before I went into grad school and once I was in grad school. I love working with folks that are not actors or what we think of actors in a sense. I love working with folks at different levels of experience. I jumped at the opportunity to say yes because it aligned with my own passion of working with the community.
NBC DFW: This is an original production, created and performed by sixty members of the community. What did you learn from the community about creating theater?
TMC: The importance of remaining present and meeting people where they are. So much happened within the last year, people are at different stages of their lives. People have lost family and friends, folks have lost jobs, opportunities have come and gone - we made our rehearsal space sacred. Anything we can do as directors or leaders to make someone's day better, we should do that. I will take that with me in my future projects.
NBC DFW: What were the challenges of directing by Zoom and then coming into town to film?
TMC: This piece was completely devised! We started with literally no text! We had the designers, myself, and the Public Works Dallas community. We had a concept based on information we acquired from the community prior to rehearsals starting, but we had no script. That was definitely a challenge overall.
Working on Zoom? You have to learn patience! You have to learn patience because the internet is going to go out, people are going to freeze, things are going to happen. We only had 90 minutes per site. Losing 5 minutes out of those 90 minutes is a big deal. So that was a challenge. The BEST part was filming in person! Finally seeing what people look like. I remember some of the kiddos were like ‘you look so different’! It was really cool to finally be together and to see everyone in person, even socially distanced.
NBC DFW: What have you learned about the emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while working on A Little Less Lonely?
TMC: Everyone lost something. From my family, we lost family members. Other people lost their jobs, lost opportunities, there is a communal loss and sadness. I think sometimes our own experiences can feel so individual, like you’re the only one going through these things. Going through a collective trauma and realizing that everyone is doing their best. Everyone is trying their absolute best. I learned that during this. People showed up the best that they could during a really challenging time. It taught me humans are amazing! We’re incredible! We can take blow, after blow, after blow and still persevere. It made me that much stronger to see that in everyone. It made me feel in community with other people to know that we went through a really hard thing, we’re still going through something that is uber challenging. And yet, we can come together and create work and find joy and be a little less lonely even amongst the sadness and the loss of all of these things.
NBC DFW: While you were filming in Dallas, what did you discover about the city?
TMC: Before coming to Dallas, I found this amazing photographer, Cin Photos. I found her on TikTok, she does all types of photography. I made an appointment to get my headshots taken. She was wonderful and such a resource for me! She gave all the greatest spots.
Xaman Cafe - they make this horchata and espresso. If you have not had horchata and espresso, I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your life! It creates a brilliant iced coffee situation.
Trompo - they make their corn, but instead of hot Cheeto dust, they use Taki dust. That’s revolutionary! It was so good.
Yolk - it’s a breakfast spot right across from the Dallas Theater Center. They were the nicest people! I wanted to try different restaurants, but I went back to Yolk three times! The food was so amazing, and the people were incredible.
I got my first tattoo! I found an amazing tattoo artist through Instagram. He goes by Ham’s Tattoos. I got it in memory of my abuelita who we lost on November 16, 2020. He was so kind. He literally held my hand.
I really tried to explore as much of Dallas as possible. I even drove to Austin. I got to see the bats. And I had kolaches for the first time on the way to Austin.
Learn more: https://www.dallastheatercenter.org/