Newly created play by Meadows Prize winner Will Power reinterprets Lewis Carroll classic
The Division of Theatre at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts will present Alice Underground, a new play developed and directed by 2010 Meadows Prize winner Will Power, October 19-23 in the Margo Jones Theatre of the Owen Arts Center, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus.
Power, who has been hailed as “the best verse playwright in America” (New York Magazine) whose work “…combines the complexity of serious drama with the visual and sonic arsenal of MTV” (The New York Times), has spent the past month on the SMU campus creating the new work from the ground up with Meadows student actors and designers. Reflecting Power’s artistic interest in adapting an older work and giving it a modern spin, the group chose the classic tale Alice in Wonderland as a starting point. “One of the key questions we wanted to explore was, who are these characters today, in our world?” said Power. “For instance, who is the White Rabbit? Two of our participants said that in their neighborhood, the White Rabbit is the single mom working two jobs, always on the run – so that’s who the White Rabbit became in our play.”
The play also looks at the collision of cultures, and the idea that some subcultures are gradually becoming more mainstream. “What happens when you’re from one culture, like Alice, and you bump up against something entirely different?” said Power. “In today’s world the issues might be about politics, or race, or gender roles. What makes sense, and what doesn’t? It’s about challenging your assumptions, learning to deal with the world, and becoming richer for it – all ideas that are relevant not only for college students but, really, for all of us.”
Power is known for creating work that bridges the gap between the spoken word of hip-hop and traditional theatre, and brought that focus to his work at SMU. “The emphasis is on the craft of telling a story,” he says. “There’s no script for this show – the words come from the whole ensemble knowing the story deeply, and staying in the moment, in the rhythm.”
Power’s work in Dallas as winner of the Meadows Prize is a partnership between the Meadows School of the Arts and the Dallas Theater Center (DTC). During his residency over the past month he has also led workshops for high school students in West Dallas, and in December, he will return to Dallas to begin working with the DTC to write and develop a new theatre piece for their 2012-13 season.
“Will Power is giving us a terrific example of what the Meadows Prize can do,” said José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School. “He demonstrates that it is possible to work with a community, bring multiple art forms together, experiment and also produce great art. Will is helping students both at SMU and in his work in West Dallas understand that they can take risks and speak in their own voice.”
Show times for Alice Underground are 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sat. and Sun. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for SMU students, faculty and staff. Parking is available at Hillcrest and Binkley and in the garage beneath the Meadows Museum. For more information, call the Meadows Ticket Office at 214.768.2787 or visit the Meadows website at meadows.smu.edu. (NOTE: Alice Underground is suitable for middle-school aged children and older.)
About Will Power
A veteran of theatre, film and television, Will Power is an award-winning playwright and performer. His searing drama Fetch Clay, Make Man, starring Ben Vereen, had its world premiere at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J., in January 2010 under the direction of Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff. Power’s adaptation of the Greek tragedy Seven Against Thebes, retitled The Seven, enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2006 and The La Jolla Playhouse in 2008. His solo show FLOW was featured in New York’s Hip Hop Theater Festival before touring nationally and internationally to critical acclaim. Power is the 2010-2011 AETNA New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage, where he is also under commission. His numerous awards include a United States Artist Prudential Fellowship, a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical, the TCG Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, a Jury Award for Best Theatre Performance at the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival, a Drama Desk Award nomination, and the Trailblazer Award from The National Black Theater Network. Power’s numerous film and television appearances include The Steven Colbert Report (Comedy Central) and Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason (PBS). Originally from the Fillmore District in San Francisco, Will Power currently resides in Beacon, New York, with his wife Marla and their two children.
About the Meadows Prize
Inaugurated in October 2009, the Meadows Prize is presented by the Meadows School of the Arts each fall to up to two pioneering artists. It includes support for a four-to-eight-week residency in Dallas, in addition to a $25,000 stipend. In return, recipients are expected to interact in a substantive way with Meadows students and collaborating arts organizations, and to leave a lasting legacy in Dallas, such as a work of art that remains in the community, a composition or piece of dramatic writing that would be performed locally, or a new way of teaching in a particular discipline.
The Meadows Prize replaced the Meadows Award, which was given annually from 1981 to 2003 to honor the accomplishments of an artist at the pinnacle of a distinguished career. Meadows Prize recipients must be artists and scholars with an emerging international profile, active in a discipline represented by one of the academic units within the Meadows School: advertising, art, art history, arts administration, cinema-television, corporate communications, dance, journalism, music and theatre.
The first two winners of the Meadows Prize, announced in October 2009, were Grammy-winning contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird and New York-based public arts organization Creative Time. Eighth blackbird’s residency focused on developing new curriculum that will help musicians become more entrepreneurial and engaged in their own career plans. Creative Time’s residency took the form of three visits to Dallas to meet with a wide range of members of the art community, and culminated in spring 2011 with a report presenting their recommendations for growing and nurturing the arts in Dallas.
The next two winners of the Prize, announced in December 2010, were Power and Shen Wei, an acclaimed choreographer, director, dancer, painter and designer whose many honors include the MacArthur “Genius” Award. Shen Wei’s residency in Dallas will take place over winter-spring 2012. It will include a new work choreographed for SMU dance students, to be presented at their 2012 Spring Dance Concert. In addition, the Meadows School has partnered with TITAS, which plans to present Shen Wei Dance Arts in concert at the Winspear Opera House in early 2012.
The Meadows Prize is sponsored by the Meadows School and The Meadows Foundation, in partnership with the new AT&T Center for the Performing Arts and local Dallas arts organizations.