"The project started in Austin, TX..."
Occasionally you have the opportunity to work on a dream project. Deep South proved to be this kind of project for me. The No Hero Trilogy was started because I was worried that the dances I was making were being performed only for a small section of society, and that somehow because of that my understanding of my own work would become limited. As the project expanded, I realized that I worry about people in this world who are given no broader voice artistically - and that something in their stories is inherently beautiful.
Deep South was researched primarily in collaboration with Miguel Gutierrez in the rural South, a part of the country neither of us had had much exposure to. It is also a part of the country with a history of violence and bigotry, so it made for traveling that at times felt tense. We were joined later in the South by Michelle Boule and Sarah Woods-Ladue, and what we all found was a place that was rich, fascinating, and riddled with contradictions. I found being lost in this world scary and absolutely captivating. There is so much research to be had in the South.
We premiered a derivation of Deep South in the fall of 2015. For a number of different reasons I found this first draft unsuccessful. When I look back at it I can see myself just trying to wrestle with and flesh out ideas. I wanted the piece to be a reflection of the complexities we experienced in the South, and I knew to do this I would need to develop new tools as to how the piece could be realized. In the first draft these new tools were still very rusty and misunderstood (by me).
Through generous funding and support form the Rainin Foundation and ODC Theater, I had the unique chance to revisit and excavate the piece. I did this with the absolutely stellar cast pictured above: Aline Wachsmuth, Manuelito Biag, Maurya Kerr, David Maurice, Robyn Gerbaz, Katie Meyers, Natalie Grant, and Katie Faulkner. I also worked closely with my long time collaborator Carol Snow who served as a writer for the project as well as a crucial dramaturge.
What I emerged is a piece I feel really proud of. It's the most complex work I have made to date, but after much nuancing I think comes across as spacious. (My goal). The diversity of how every performer approached each performance really moved me, and I think somehow the world of the South we experienced infused the final theater piece.
I want to thank everyone who made this project come to be, and I look forward to more to come.
- Alex Ketley