Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Work in Progress: GIANT at Dallas Theater Center

As Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson's Giant prepares for its co-production in Dallas and New York, we thought it would be a good time to chat with Dallas Theater Center's Artistic Director Kevin Moriarity about Giant (recipient of a National Fund for New Musicals production grant). Giant will be presented at Dallas Theater Center (DTC) this January-February and will then at The Public Theater in their next season.

How did Giant find its way to DTC?
In 2009, I went to Signature Theatre in Washington DC to see their premiere of Giant. Despite being three acts and four hours long, it was one of the most thrilling scores and moving stories I had experienced in years. I immediately reached out to the musical's writers, Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson, to learn what future they envisioned for their show. Simultaneously, I mentioned to Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, how much I loved the material. He had also seen it and shared my passion for the piece. We decided to propose to Michael John and Sybille a collaboration between our two theaters, which would provide them with time and resources to continue to develop the material, leading to full productions in Dallas and New York.

Other than the obvious Texan connection, why is Giant a good fit for DTC at this time?
First and foremost, it's a sweeping, emotionally moving story, filled with passionate characters and a breathtaking score. Equally importantly, it directly addresses themes that have been at the heart of our identities as Texans, and, by extension, the fundamental challenges and hopes for all of us in America today. The musical depicts the sweeping power of history, as men transition from cattle ranchers to oil barons, the powerful changes in relationships that people experience within their families over the course of their lives, and the blending of many distinct cultures that is at the center of our American identity. It's a large, epic story, with a big heart and clear eyes—that sounds like Texas to me!

You will be presenting this as a co-production with The Public Theater. How has this enhanced the experience of working on the show knowing that it will have that crucial next step after the DTC run?
This collaboration has been essential for the development of this piece. By combining our resources, we have been able to provide the writers with an extended period of time to continue to develop their work, a unified producerial vision, and a consistent dramaturgical response. Over time, and with a deep commitment to the work that extends from Dallas to New York, you build a deeper, more meaningful artistic dialogue and a greater sense of honesty and trust for everyone involved. It's also important for us, as we develop new plays and musicals at DTC, that the work we believe in so passionately is able to continue to engage with audiences beyond our community. Being able to work toward a culminating vision that extends even past the run of the show in Dallas has been wonderful for everyone.

Giant very much lived up to its name when in DC. What have the writers done since DC to the show to prepare it for its next steps?
It's still giant - but it's now shorter than it was in DC (in Dallas the show will be 2 acts and 3 hours long). When the Public and DTC began the process two years ago, we reached out to Michael Greif to join the project as the director. He's been a vital collaborator, bringing his fresh insights and clear vision to the process. Michael John and Sybille have added and changed elements of the score and the script, ranging from deepening their explorations of some of the characters to new ideas about structure. The piece has more clarity and speed, but still retains its gloriously epic, romantic quality.

How will the show change from DTC to the Public Theater?
The writers and creative team will continue to develop the piece, not just until opening night in Dallas, but then in the months afterwards before the production in New York. Though the physical production, orchestrations, story and characters will remain consistent, the creators will be able to continue to refine and explore their vision in between the two productions. Even after months of workshops and readings, nothing is more clarifying and inspiring than experiencing a new musical with an audience. All of us will learn a great deal from the audiences in Dallas, which will then continue to inspire the creative team when they move on to the next leg of the journey at the Public.

What can people expect to experience when they come down to see Giant at DTC?
A large cast, a beautiful physical production, a ravishing score, and a musical that is grappling with large themes and ideas. It's an important piece with a big heart.

For more information about Giant at Dallas Theater Center, please visit

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