The Privilege (and Threat) of Isolation: Open Dance Project Presents All the Devils are Here: A Tempest in the Galapagos

Photo by Lynn Lane. Full Ensemble of Open Dance Project Dancers.

Power, death, intrigue, possession, revenge, empire. These are just a few of the themes that swirl around Open Dance Project’s All the Devils Are Here: A Tempest in the Galapagos, co-sponsored by DiverseWorks. The hour-long immersive production, choreographed by Annie Arnoult in collaboration with 11 ODP performers will be livestreamed from Midtown Arts & Theatre Center Houston on May 14 and 15, 2021. Filmmakers will simulate the immersive experience of the production through the use of a mobile (gimbal mount) camera for the livestream production that features live music performed and composed by Kirk Suddreath.

At the heart of the production is a post-colonial read of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Open Dance Project will use four central characters from that work: Prospero (who is reimagined as Prospera), Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban. Crashing into the narrative and themes of Shakespeare’s classic are a group of historical figures from the 1920s and 1930s who decided to escape the world of man, industry, and civilization by traveling to the (as-yet) uninhabited island of Floreana: a nihilist couple, a conservative family, and a baroness and her two gay lovers. 

Photo by Lynn Lane. Joseph Stevens pictured.

“The story of the real events of the Galapagos Affair came to me first through our set designer Ryan McGettigan,” explains choreographer Annie Arnoult. “It was immediately intriguing and full of so much rich potential for theatrical expansion, but I knew that I needed some kind of framework that helped us highlight the most important social/political/human themes in the story. Shakespeare’s The Tempest is grand and mythic and larger than life. It uses archetypes and forces of nature that supplied, for our purposes, a sense of something greater than the individual.”

Ryan McGettigan created an immersive set design out of mostly reusable and/or recycled materials, such as overhanging foliage made out of water bottles, rising water walls created from blue plastic and vinyl flooring. Many of the elements of the set design also are repurposed as canvases that display projections designed by David Deveau, the production designer for the piece. As McGettigan states, “The design is melded out of historical and conceptual elements that can be built upon and altered by the performers and audience, creating a sense of discovery and adventure in exploring the eutopian island and morphing the story as the tensions rise towards that inevitable tipping point.”

Underpinning these themes of power, dominance, and privilege is inevitably a discussion surrounding climate change. “We could not entertain the idea of making a show about the Galapagos islands without taking the serious effects of climate change as studied on those islands into account. In our work, the tempest that surrounds the performance through the vehicle of Shakespeare’s play stands in for the social and political tempest that the Galapagos Affair characters were running away from but also emulating in their own tiny community on the island. The storm also represents the ongoing crisis of nature that we now see so clearly as rooted in the industrial boom and transportation boom that allowed these Europeans to come and make a home on Floreana,” says Arnoult.

Photo by Lynn Lane. Joshua de Alba (left), Stacy Skolink (center) and Taylor McAnulty (right) pictured.

The costumes were designed by Ashley Horn, and are made out of repurposed/resale pieces, which fits both the intent of the production as well as the set design. For those who appreciate the era in which the Galapagos Affair takes place, the end of the 1920 and early 1930s, audience members will find an elegant blend of historical nods with a contemporary flair.

It’s hard not to think about the timely nature of a production that investigates the privileged position of individuals intending to inhabit an uninhabited island and believing it is theirs, and theirs alone, to conquer during a moment in which so many of us are isolated, and also the world is suffering from climate change and the consequence of industrialization. Arnoult’s hope is that “our performances are an opportunity for people to see things in a way that they recognize we’re all implicated in but without feeling accused or preached to. That idea of co-making is key.” 

Tickets to view All the Devils Are Here: A Tempest in the Galapagos livestreamed performances can be purchased at matchouston.org.

About the Author

Addie Tsai teaches courses in literature, creative writing, humanities, and dance at Houston Community College. She collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. Addie holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College and a doctorate in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. Her queer Asian young adult novel, Dear Twin, is forthcoming from Metonymy Press. Her writing has been published in Banango Street, The Offing, The Collagist, Nat. Brut, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. She is the Nonfiction Editor at The Grief Diaries, and Senior Associate Editor in Poetry at The Flexible Persona.

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