Unleashed: 25 Years of Manbites Dog Theater

For 25 years and counting, I’ve photographed over 75 plays produced by Manbites Dog Theater Company in Durham, NC. My methodology has changed over the years: black and white to color, film to digital, two fixed lens cameras to one camera with a single zoom lens, but my goal has remained constant: treat productions as participatory events rather than as stage productions to be photographed. An eye witness to real life. Unleashed: 25 Years of Manbites Dog Theater is a record of those interactions, published in 2012. The 220+ photographs selected, represent live theater: no posing, no stopping for do-overs. First time, only time.

Unleashed-the book

More than a year in the making, Unleashed is a both a record and a celebration of 25 years of successful regional theater.

Until 2007, I photographed plays using black and white film and on occasion, a few rolls of color film. More than 300 select negatives had to be scanned and made into digital files before structuring the book itself. Then came the fun part — Making sense of several hundred photographs. Ultimately, the collection took the shape of 15 visual themes: Isolation, Defining Family, Intimacy, Violence, and so on.

Artistic Director Jeff Storer and I culled through thousands of images taken during dress rehearsals over a 25 year period. More than a year in the making, the images represent live theater: no posing, no stopping for do-overs. First time, only time.

Publishing the book in 2012, Artistic Director Jeff Storer and I culled through thousands of images taken over the 25 year span.

In his forward to the book, writer and playwright Allan Gurganus wrote:

Alan Dehmer’s visceral photographs chart the genesis and evolution of how one huge idea became a weekly troupe. Dehmer chanced upon this infant company while on assignment for a now-extinct weekly. He clearly felt implicated. Dehmer kept coming back and, fortunate for us, kept bringing his camera. What an overview he offers. How rarely does any theatrical company get a lifelong family portrait by a single loyal artist. Dehmer’s point of view is that of both an on-stage actor and one clear-eyed observer stepping back with admiration. We see political truth-telling supercharging theatrical risk-taking. We see brilliant recurring performers—changed first by wigs and makeup—then by time itself.  Dehmer explores art’s own in-house dynamics. We sample many of ManBites Dog’s hundred and fifty shows, through their two thousand performances, before an audience of over one hundred and twenty thousand.”

You can read more about the book here.