Full Sail Ahead: Port Twilight premieres

Port Twilight - Pic 1

Mad Scientists in Port Twilight by Len Jenkin

Sci-fi thrillers make perfect viewing for autumn nights. Undermain Theatre sweeps into Fall 2009 with the world premiere of Port Twilight: or A History of Science (A Chronicle of Folly, Wisdom and Madness). It’s a sci-fi fantasy/ thriller by Len Jenkin, one of the nation’s most distinguished playwrights, directed by Lakewood resident and Undermain Theatre’s artistic director Katherine Owens. Owens met Jenkins while touring a production in New York more than a decade ago. In 2006, Undermain’s production of Jenkin’s Margo Veil: an entertainment, also directed by Owens, earned kudos from The Dallas Morning News as the number one pick of the seasons’ top ten productions. Jenkins’ credentials and awards are quite impressive: they include three Obie Awards for directing and playwriting, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, a nomination for an Emmy Award, four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a PhD in literature from Columbia University. His stage plays have been produced throughout the United States, as well as in England, Germany, France, Denmark, and Japan. Dallas is honored.

A member of a group of New York based writers known as “The Language Playwrights” with pronounced language-based, lyrical focus, Jenkin feels right at home in Undermain’s unique, always magical performing space under Main St. in Deep Ellum. Mel Gussow of the New York Times opines, “In his plays, Len Jenkin often takes us on dark midnight rides to mythic environments…he leads us through a stretch of the American landscape tantalizing our senses and creating a haunting world.” He could be describing the fantastical ambience of Undermain Theatre, as well.

In Port Twilight, the landscape plays a defining role. Owens brought in two leading Texas scenic painters and designers, Linda Noland and Terry Hays, to create a layered landscape effect in the performance space, like public murals. The designers worked furiously for over a month, using the same techniques to create the murals that Michelangelo used in decorating the Sistine Chapel. At completion, over two hundred feet of painted muslin in bright color schemes energizes and encases the whole underground space, including wrapping around the numerous columns that define the performance area.

Owens says working with Jenkin on his plays is inspirational as well as good fun. Jenkin came down from New York (he teaches at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts) in October to sit in on rehearsals. Both director and playwright felt the production was moving along so well, they decided to take time off and play one afternoon at the Texas State Fair. All Undermain designers involved with Port Twilight joined in on the outing. Owens laughs about the excursion:” Four and a half hours later we got back to the rehearsal space. I was so exhausted keeping up with the merriment, I fell sound asleep for three hours in the theatre, with people working all around me.”

When Port Twilight opens this Saturday night November 14th, all that imaginative exploration, lyrical writing, hard work painting and good times playing will come together. Like magic.

Undermain Theatre’s production of Port Twilight: or A History of Science runs through December 12 at their Deep Ellum location in the basement of a six-story red brick building at 3200 Main Street, Dallas, TX between Hall St. and Exposition Ave.

Plenty of FREE, well lit, accessible, cordially attended parking.

For tickets, call (214) 747-5515 or go to http://www.undermain.org

PHOTO: Danielle Piccard, Ariana  Cook, Josh Blann and Christian Taylor

Ashley Randall, photographer

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