Not many people outside of the theatre world know who Paula Vogel is. Therefore, very few people know her piece “Hot ‘n’ Throbbing.” It’s okay if you’ve never heard of it. All you need to know in this moment is that few people produce it, and it is an examination of domestic violence and pornography. Simply put, it’s a rough one. Who in their right mind would produce this play as their first ever production? An Akron based theatre company named Dunamis.
Dunamis (pronounced Doo-nuh-miss) is derived from a Greek rooted word that means explosion and refers to the “philosophical concept of potentiality and actuality.” It makes sense why Dumanis started their company with an emotionally “explosive” play like “Hot ‘n’ Throbbing.” The company produced the play at the Rialto in Kenmore in November of 2016, and they continue pushing and producing challenging work.
“Theatre should leave you changed, [different] from when you walked in,” says Managing Artistic Director, Nicole “Nici” Romo.
Their current season reflects this belief. They started off the year with a workshop showing of “Yellow” by Del Shores, a play that explores how the Westmoreland family works to maintain its structure and love in the face of betrayal and tragedy.
Dunamis’ new home is Summit Artspace. They transformed the second floor performance space into the intimate, Westmoreland home. It was so intimate, in fact, that at times the realness of the performance made it feel as if the audience was eavesdropping on the family. Dunamis created an opportunity for the audience to connect emotionally and empathetically to each of the characters. From Gracie—the Westmoreland daughter whose dreams of being on Broadway take precedence over her manners—to Sister Timothea Parker—the very conservative and religious town woman, each of the characters became someone the audience knows and cares for, even if only for a moment.
The production also provided a space to come face to face with very difficult realities, and it interwove the realities of navigating family dynamics, addressing sexuality, the power of spirituality, dealing with the mortality of loved ones and even the pain of betrayal. The actors asked the audience to address those feelings head-on. The audience investment was so strong that a toast made over a bowl of mac n’ cheese caused some tears to fall. It was a powerful night of theatre.
Romo aims to create theatre that speaks to us all and feels that “Yellow” is a play that will touch everyone. It’s easy to relate to and become emotionally invested in the piece because we all know the people in this play.
“We’ve seen these people before and it pulls you in. It’s funny. It’s sad. It rips your heart out at times.”
And that’s an understatement.
The rest of their season continues to explore their mission to cultivate new work and present published works in experimental form and/or challenging content. This Spring, they will produce a new piece called “Nasty Women and the Bad Hombres That Love Them,” written by Nici Romo after collecting stories from women. It addresses the things women are going through from different women’s perspectives. The project was started in 2015 and is finally almost complete.
In the Summer, Romo will work with Kyle Jozsa of Wandering Aesthetics to produce a children’s show. In the Fall, Dunamis will produce two different pieces. The first is a reading of “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, with an African-American cast. This production will go through the same process as “Yellow” and continue to be developed through readings, workshops and eventually a full production. The second Fall production will be a really interesting piece called “4.48 Psychosis” by Sarah Kane that addresses depression. Their season is going to be amazing!
Although Dunamis is new, they have snuggled comfortably into the theatre scene in Akron. Nici has blossomed from theatrical child to actor to director to playwright and now artistic director of a theatre company. Romo stepped away from her love of theatre for a while and somehow found her way back with confidence and ambition. She’s been able to accomplish her dreams, even with the struggles of being a single mother. With help from her partner and business manager, Tyson Sebree, Dunamis is claiming its spot in Downtown Akron and they’re doing one hell of a job.
The Dunamis website is currently under construction.
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