Most performers will agree that a show never really feels like it is complete until close to the closing night of a run. This sentiment was true for Teo Castellanos when he premiered Fat Boy at Miami Light Project's Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in 2011. He's back with a tweaked, revised version this week at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Set to a soundtrack by DJ le Spam of the Spam Allstars, Fat Boy explores the juxtaposition of consumerism and poverty in the modern world through text and movement that borrow from contemporary and ancient rituals.
Although performed to sold out audiences, to Castellanos and his company, it didn't quite feel finished. "We knew it needed a lot more work; we didn't feel like the show was done," recalls writer/director and performer Castellanos. [Note: the writer once worked with Miami Light Project.]
With help from a grant from the National Theater Project, he was able to re-workshop the show six months following its Miami premiere during a two-week residency at 7 Stages Theater in Atlanta. "When you are away -- that's all you're doing, working on your show," Castellanos explains. "We were strictly focused on the work at hand, and we had access to the theater all day long, so we really worked it."
The "we" he refers to are members of his dance theater company D-Projects, which he founded in 2005. Fat Boy features memorable performances from Castellanos himself, as well as company members, actor/writer/dancer Rudi Goblin, Alfredo "Lego" Sotelo, and Miami-born, LA-based dancer/choreographer Teresa Barceló, who was a late addition to Fat Boy before the show's 2011 premiere, and who brought a new dramatic energy and cohesion to the work.
The additional residency time in Atlanta allowed the group to gel and focus 100 percent on Fat Boy, mining both its strength and weaknesses. "We were able to create a relationship between Teresa and myself -- our characters. We made hard decisions on who Teresa represents," Castellanos says. "I always knew who I represented, a character called Makyo in Zen Buddhism who is the devil -- the devil in our head. It's the archetype of our own shadow side of our psychology. So I decided to make Teresa the opposite of that, and therefore we had conflict in the piece, whereas before, the piece was really influenced by German expressionism, meaning that it was flung into time and space, but it wasn't really plot driven."
"This change and decision kind of gave it a plot," he adds with a laugh, "The simple archaic plot of Good versus Evil, this situation being that it's the good and the evil in our heads. So at that point, it had some kind of dramatic arc. We got a little happy with the show at that point."
They continued making changes, Castellanos says of the subsequent touring opportunities of Fat Boy. "Every time we were on the road, we would make a change there, a change here, and it got tighter and tighter each time. The more changes we made, the more we liked it." This week, after two years crisscrossing the United States on tour, Fat Boy returns to Miami in its latest incarnation with three performances at the Arsht Center.
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"I'm so happy to have this opportunity, after Fat Boy's further development, to bring it back home, and perform it for our hometown audiences, which I love dearly. Hometown audiences are always the best. I'm happy that we can do that, close it out here."
"Fat Boy" will be performed by Teo Castellanos D-Projects Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Carnival Studio Theater, Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami; tickets $40; artshtcenter.org or 305-949-6722.
-Rebekah Lanae Lengel, artburstmiami.com