FIT Festival Series #6: Very Good Dance Theatre presents ‘Plant Mom’
By Cristee Cook
For the first time in Dallas’ Festival of Independent Theatres' 22 years of operation, the FIT Festival is being offered on a virtual platform. Streaming on-demand October 8 – 31, this year’s program includes 6 performance companies with new works in dance, comedy, drama, and more. Dallas Art Beat is excited to offer “get-to-know-you" featurettes with each company in a 6-part series throughout the month of October.
Part 6 of our series highlights the Very Good Dance Theatre ensemble, who will be presenting the devised piece, Plant Mom. Created by Colby Calhoun, William Acker, Danielle Georgiou, and Elaina Alspach, Plant Mom focuses on a woman at home alone with her plants. The story explores feelings of isolation, distance, loneliness and the human longing for connection. During a global pandemic, these questions have grown more acute. Plant Mom asks: are these new feelings, or have we just been avoiding what was already there?
For our final submission in our FIT Festival series, Dallas Art Beat spoke with the collaborating ensemble of Plant Mom: Colby Calhoun (Founder/Collaborator), William Acker (Collaborator), Danielle Georgiou (Collaborator), and Elaina Alspach (Collaborator).
Can you give us some background on your project for FIT?
Colby Calhoun: Originally for FIT, before COVID hit, we had proposed a show about fairy tales and childhood stories in an attempt to ask: What would it be like if marginalized people, specifically queer people of color, could have a show about them, but it's centered on their dreams as people and not the traumas and triumphs of their marginalized identity. So, [when Covid happened], I thought: What am I doing right now? What are we experiencing now? Sitting at home going crazy and buying a bunch of plants! So, I asked the people in my social distance bubble if they would make it with me.
Danielle Georgiou: For FIT, Colby brought us all together to collaboratively create the premise and design of Plant Mom. The inspiration really came from our experiences during this pandemic and our personal reactions to the feelings of isolation that we were going through. But we are in an interesting place because 4 out of the 5 cast members have been quarantining together so while we have felt alone, we have been “alone together,” and able to grow "together. Also, Colby, Will, and I are big time Plant Moms!
What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?
Colby Calhoun: Having an audience is really ideal for me. I really like seeing people's faces respond, or hearing reactions and laughs. I am lucky to live with people that I collaborate with regularly, so we are able to do contact work safely, but I miss being in large groups of people face-to-face. However, there is something really beautiful about how present we all are right now. Every time we're in the room creating now everyone seems really grateful for the opportunity, which I know I took for granted sometimes before. I also really appreciate how specifically you can craft an aesthetic for something filmed or for a virtual piece, because you can really get people to see what you see in your head.
Will Acker: I feel what we have created is more grounded and centered. We made this piece for us rather than for an audience.
Why do you want to tell this story now?
Colby Calhoun: Plant Mom is a piece about distance, loneliness, heartbreak, and fear - and feeling on the brink of total breakdown. I think all of us can connect to those feelings in some way or another, especially right now. I also think I would be remiss if I didn't state that these feelings are not new for a lot of us, especially queer people of color. This story features a trans black woman, and the idea of going outside as dangerous, harmful, or unhealthy is not new for trans black women. This piece is not about her transness, but I do want people to think about how long she's felt this way, and/or how long we've all felt this way, and why. The answer is different for all of us, but I think we all might find that being stuck at home has brought more hidden issues to light.
Elaina Alspach: I think this story could be appropriate and effective at any point in time. Loneliness, isolation, and distance is something we have all felt and dealt with, and it can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions. This show takes you through the happy, content, sad, confused – and the raw emotions we experience when these feelings arise.
What’s sustaining you right now in this time of uncertainty?
Colby Calhoun: I watch a lot of YouTube tutorials. Over the past 6 months I have learned a lot about sewing, plant care, macrame, painting, film making, makeup, rug making, pottery, and other various crafts and skills. I also eat a lot of comfort food.
Will Acker: What is sustaining me now are hobbies that I enjoy: cooking, walking the dogs, biking, online shopping, Animal Crossing.
Danielle Georgiou: My cats. My plants. Baking. Reading. The time to play with my cats. The time to garden. The time to bake as much bread as I want and not feel bad about it. To read anything I can. So far, I’ve read 27 books in 2020 and I’m not stopping any time soon, so send me your recommendations!
Elaina Alspach: Teaching. I’m glad I am still able to connect with my students during this time whether it be virtual or in person. I genuinely enjoy my time with them, and they are constantly challenging and teaching me about my own work. In addition to this, I would say Tik Tok and YouTube. I’m really interested in the use of social media (it’s growing impact on art, ways of virtual connections, etc.) as well as just being a fan of certain platforms, which are constantly boosting my energy and bringing me laughs.
Very Good Dance Company presents Plant Mom, created by Colby Calhoun, William Acker, Danielle Georgiou, and Elaina Alspach, as part of the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres, available for streaming (on-demand) October 8-31, 2020. Purchase a two-show block for $12, or a festival pass with access to all shows for $30. Find the complete program listing, tickets, and more at: festivalofindependenttheatres.org. Catch up on all 6 parts of our #fitfeaturette series on Dallas Art Beat.