As he is preparing to star as Dorian Gray at Synetic Theater, Dallas Tolentino takes us behind the scenes of preparing for his role.
Joel: Why did you want to play the role of Dorian Gray?
Dallas: The biggest draw to Dorian Gray was that it was going to be a challenge. The play and the character are a huge undertaking. This play has the most text I’ve ever experienced Synetic tackle, and the text is very poetic and philosophical with rich images and symbols that Oscar Wilde lends us. Bringing those images to life in our style of movement and acting is what really got me excited about Dorian.
How do you relate to him?
I think Dorian and I are actually very different, but we both love life and have a passion for experiencing as much as we can. I’d say we share a deep curiosity for everything in life. What we do with that curiosity is where we differ, which is why I’m glad I have the stage and theater as an outlet to explore all those curiosities and extremes of human existence without repercussions.
How did you prepare for this very physically demanding role and what will you do during the run to keep your energy up?
I’d say this role is actually more psychologically and emotionally draining than it is physically draining. The Three Musketeers was a good warm up leading to this show to get me in shape but when it comes down to it the emotional journey in this show carries my movement and the fuel to sustain energy. It’s funny, with this show it isn’t so much a matter of keeping energy up but containing it, or rather redirecting it. When it comes to energy, Dallas, the actor is like a bumblebee, where as Dorian is more of a flower.
What have been the greatest challenges for you in rehearsals and how have you resolved them?
The greatest challenge in this show in particular is finding truth in such a surreal world. In the book, Dorian is used more as a symbol and is not the most well rounded character. To give him flesh and bones and a soul is challenging, but it also allows me a world of opportunity and liberty to create a very unique Dorian Gray. The greatest path to find the truth in all the chaos is trusting Paata and his creative eye, as well as having a great team to bounce ideas off.
What was the best advice Director Paata Tsikurishvili and Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili have given you in preparing your role?
I can’t recall a singular piece of advice, more so in the time I’ve been working with the Tsikurishvili’s, Paata has taught me to think big and be bold, whereas Irina has taught me to free myself with regard to movement and beyond. They’ve given me much more than advice, more like life lessons.
Which scene that you are not in really moves you?
There are not many scenes that I am not in, but in the play Lord Henry brings me to watch Macbeth, which is rather haunting and the ensemble has done a great job fusing together and becoming a cohesive force in the show.
How does the design of the show add to the excitement of the production? Is there a moment or a scene when the design or special effects makes you say, “Wow! This is amazing!” every time you see it?
One of the most exciting design elements are the different screens we have which all react with light and projections in a different way. Going back to the scene where Lord Henry and Dorian go to see Macbeth, it is beautifully haunting. The action all happens upstage of us but I can see the reflections in the screens in front of us. I’ll just say it’s easy to reach a place of fear when I watch this scene.
How can audiences in 2013 relate to The Picture of Dorian Gray?
A major theme of Dorian Gray is the purpose of art and the philosophy that art may have no other purpose than being aesthetically pleasing. The book and the play question whether art is a reflection of the artists or the spectator, as well as questioning the true potency of art. Audiences, being patrons to the arts, should be able to address these questions and tell me whether if what we do has intellectual value or is just beautiful, or hopefully both.
What do you admire most about the performances of your cast mates and Paata’s direction and Irina’s choreography?
I have the best cast and crew anyone could ask for and they are definitely my support system. We keep each other in check and push each other to work hard. We sweat, bleed, scream, laugh, and cry together. Synetic works with a very specific vocabulary of movement and theater; when you start speaking our language you become family. Paata is awesome because he is a visionary. He thinks big and has great ideas; he gets us to jump fearlessly with him into any concept. Irina is incredible because she is a workhorse and I admire her perseverance and also her ability to improvise and create brilliant pieces in relatively short amounts of time. Our shows constantly change and evolve up until we have an audience in front of us and sometimes even after, and Irina is flexible enough to make changes on the fly.
If you could stay young forever like Dorian Gray – what age would you like to be forever?
So… forever is a really long time. I wouldn’t want to do or be anything forever, but If I could go back to any age having the experience I have now, I’d go back to 6 yrs. old because I’d be a better break dancer, lower center of gravity.
You have appeared in other Synetic productions. What new elements in this production will thrill audiences?
Synetic has been known to be a sexy company, but this one may raise the bar. I’ll just leave at that. If you want to know what I’m talking about, you gotta come see it.
What’s next for you on the stage after this production?
Hopefully Twelfth Night or Hamlet, but I will be in Chicago working on an original show, Haymaker with The Neo-Futurists in the spring.
Photos by Johnny Shyrock.