Friday, April 5, 2019

A Satirical Spin on a Dino-size Hit Film - talking with TRIASSIC PARQ director Toby Yatso

the cast of Triassic Parq
photo by Tim Trumble
by Julia Bashaw

You may not have heard of the musical Triassic Parq but you can probably guess what hit movie is being satirically referenced in its title. However, there is a twist to whose point of view this story is told from. Written by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Steve Wargo, Triassic Parq is about dinosaurs who have been genetically engineered after extinction and it is told from the perspective of the dinosaurs.

ASU Music Theatre and Opera presents the Phoenix premiere of the musical, which opens tonight and runs through April 14th

“It is a ruckus satire, that is very hilarious and very smart. It’s for fans of fun and creative musical theatre,” stated Toby Yatso, the director of this musical. “It has the feel of a revisionist story. It takes something that we assume we are all familiar with but then flips it on its side and explores it from a previously uninvestigated angle.”

The plot follows six dinosaurs, who are all female and do not know why they are on an island. Chaos begins when one of the female dinosaurs turns male, ensuing an identity crisis surrounded by science, love, and faith.

“So the dinosaurs are on this island but they don’t really know why. They are all female,” Yatso paused and laughed, “until they are not. From their point of view, it is a very confusing and eye-opening time to be alive. The themes are surprisingly rich. You come in very silly with the satire but you leave thinking deeply about themes of science versus religion and where belief plays through in our lives. Ideas about gender identity and how obsessed we get with that and then how those two things make or break a community. That’s what it all boils down to which is surprisingly relatable since the story is about dinosaurs.”

Yatso has been Arizona State University’s Music Theatre Coordinator for about four years and he has been on the faculty since 2011. Yatso is also one of The Phoenix Theatre Company’s artists in residence and has been acting for them throughout the past 10 years. ASU has a partnership with The Phoenix Theatre Company and the production of Triassic Parq will actually be performed at the Phoenix Theatre Company instead of the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre on the Tempe ASU campus.

“We thought this would be a special piece to do in a smaller black box type space that could be more deliciously in your face and fringe downtown feeling,” Yatso explained. “It’s in their smallest of three spaces called the Hardes Theatre. It’s a co-productive effort between ASU Music Theatre and Opera with The Phoenix Theatre Company. We do have a longstanding educational partnership now between the two institutions which is a beautiful thing for us professionally and educationally! It gives the students a chance to have a cool hip new venue to continue their creativity and training.”

Triassic Parq is not a musical people typically have heard of, but it did win ‘Best Overall Musical/Production’ where it was first produced at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2010. According to Yatso, this show has been on his wish list for a while.

“I did a hard pitch to our fantastic leader at ASU Music Theatre and Opera, our department chair is Brian DeMaris,” Yatso illustrated. “He has taken us in some really cool directions in the last couple of years since he joined our faculty in the fall of 2015. And he looked at Triassic Parq and thought it was something unique. It fit a very nice contrasting line up with the rest of the season and provided a great sense of diversity and programming that we always strive for every season. He green-lit it and we put it on our season!”

Yatso finally had the opportunity to put together this unique show. The cast has only six onstage characters, a music director and understudy. Yatso had 28 students audition.

“Our students are so talented, and the collective caliber, standard, and bar where it has been set in the past couple of years are deliciously high now in our program. It was a very positive and enjoyable auditioning experience, it was just high caliber! There were tough decisions to make, but I believe I found a delightful cast that has been nothing but fun, creative, spirited, and heart all throughout this rehearsal process and it has actually been a dream come true. Especially since I had been keeping that piece on my wish list for so long, to finally be able to do it has been quite euphoric.”

When it comes to creating dinosaurs on stage, Yatso didn’t want it to be tacky and Maci Hosler didn’t let that happen. She costumed designed for the musical and drew inspiration from Burning Man. Triassic Parq is sure to be a visually stimulating show.

“She is brilliant and wonderfully creative,” Yatso stated. “It was her idea to take inspiration from Burning Man, to make these surviving in nature, industrial, hardcore hip looking, humanoid creatures. There is a lot of leather, harnesses, feathers, and Mohocks.”

Being a part of something new has its ups and downs. You never know how the audience is going to take to a musical they don’t know. That is something Yatso and the cast have faced as well, they also have never seen a production of it either. However, they are facing the challenges head-on and creating their own perspective.

“We have no preconceived notions or concepts of knowing for sure what will work and doesn’t work. The question marks of what it is going to be like once we get an audience. But I think everyone is so excited to do something that hasn’t been done in our community! To know that it is smart, snappy, clever and that the music cool, groovy, and catchy, everyone is just digging it! This is a good celebration of women, and we were all so very excited to share female authorship in our programming.”

Triassic Parq will be performed the first two weekends of April, with an evening and matinee each weekend. Find out how the story resolves and ponder this question from Toby Yatso as you leave, “Why isn’t this done more often in more places?”.

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