Prism Movement Theater returns to the Elevator Project with new work 'Lucha Teotl'
By Cristee Cook
Dallas’ Prism Movement Theater returns to the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project as part of the 2021 season with a new high-concept story: Lucha Teotl. Written and Directed by Chris Ramirez and Jeffrey Colangelo, the bilingual story (presented in English and Spanish) centers around two Aztec gods: Huitzi (short for Huītzilōpōchtli), and Coyol (short for Coyolxauhqui). Audiences will enter a genuine wrestling ring as the plot unfolds in traditional lucha style, where the two main characters aim to become top luchadores in the Lucha Teotl Alliance. Ancient family rivalries prove challenging and threaten to upend their potential championship.
Colangelo shared that when he and Ramirez set out to create this project, the goal was: “to respect wrestling enough that we trusted the storytelling format of wrestling as the vehicle of the story. So this isn't really a show like Glow or The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, which are really excellent works, but those are more theater shows that happen to have wrestling around them. So, there’s some wrestling and then people talk about the wrestling when the wrestling isn’t happening. This is a show that uses the format and vehicle and conventions of wrestling to tell the story.”
He continued and said, “The idea to play with this Aztec mythology as an experience of the gods, and to give our audiences a chance to see these ancient Aztec names in the flesh and used just as colloquially as any other name. We wanted to make sure that we didn't try to say that these wrestlers are the gods themselves, but they're representing the gods because for a lot of people who know this mythology, these gods are still very real in their own way.”
An unexpected benefit that comes from the production of Lucha Teotl is that it brings awareness to a wider audience about Dallas’ rich wrestling history. Many remember Dallas Sportatorium, a wrestling arena and training center run by the famous wrestling family - The Von Erichs. The Sportatorium paved the way for many famous wrestlers, including The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Bruiser Brody.
Colangelo added, “Lucha is an art form that has had a history in Dallas. And Dallas has a history with wrestling in general, but Lucha specially is something that used to have a bit of life here. And it's something that we want to bring back to the forefront, triumphantly.”
For this project, lead actors Tiffany Lang (Coyol) and Dylan Cantu (Huitzi) bring part of this history and inspiration to their performances. Each have a background in both wrestling and theatrical stage work, and agree that the two artforms feed and enrich each other.
Lang was introduced to wresting as a child by her grandfather, who would often wake her up in the middle of the night shouting or cheering at the wrestling match on the screen. However, she didn’t see herself represented on the screen. She said, “Later on, we watched WWE. And at the time, WWE had these women that weren't really wrestlers and certainly didn’t look like wrestlers. They looked like bikini models. And I was not interested in bikini models. I'm not the target demographic. And I thought, “well, if they can do it then I can do it.’ So I started training myself and fell in love with it.” For this reason, the experience to combine her theatrical work (primarily screen work in commercials and music videos) and wrestling experience is both exciting and poignant.
After many roles in area musicals, Cantu was introduced to wrestling by his brother. After a few months of watching, he started training, eventually had his own practice match, when, he said, it “all just clicked.” He fell in love with what he described as “one big stage fight.”.
Lang said she enjoys the similarities between theatre and wrestling because, “It's all about emotions. It's all about telling a story. It's all about getting the crowd to feel something.”
Many fans of wrestling see the sport as an art. The storylines, rivalries, costumes, and characters are exhilarating and addictive. Fans fall in love not just with the sport aspect of wrestling, but the characters and stories that play out in the ring.
As Colangelo said, “There are so many people who believe in wrestling as a high art form, with its own unique style of narrative delivery. We’ve been running into a lot of people who are impressed and extremely excited of the idea of presenting wrestling right next to arts like the opera and the symphony. It’s kind of a huge statement and it means a lot to wrestling fans, and I hope that's going to translate to theater folks too. So that they can look at this art form and contextualize it. And maybe realize that [wrestlers] are delivering something not immediately considered a ‘high art’,’ but it is, in fact, a high art.”
See for yourself. Lucha Teotl by Jeffrey Colangelo and Chris Ramirez, presented by Prism Movement Theater, is showing Thursdays-Sundays, July 15-24, 2021, at the Wyly Theatre in Dallas. Lucha Teotl is part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Elevator Project 2021 season. For tickets and showtimes, please visit: www.attpac.org/on-sale/2021/lucha-teotl.