Actor Spotlight

Dallas theatermaker straddles the stage and page for her latest project

Dallas theatermaker straddles the stage and page for latest project

Where Earth Meets the Sky at Cara Mia Theatre in Dallas
Ariana Cook plays Abeni in the world premiere of Where Earth Meets the Sky. Photo by Linda Blase
Dallas theatermaker Ariana Cook
Cook is managing director of Cara Mia Theatre Co. Courtesy photo
Where Earth Meets the Sky at Cara Mia Theatre in Dallas
Dallas theatermaker Ariana Cook

Many may know Ariana Cook primarily as Cara Mía Theatre Co.'s managing director, but she actually has several other credits to add. Not only will Cook be appearing onstage in Cara Mía's latest world premiere, Where Earth Meets the Sky, she also co-wrote it with poet Edyka Chilomé and resident ensemble member Vanessa Mercado Taylor (who's also directing).

Described as an "Afro/Indigenous sci-fi" work, the play tells the story of Anghared262 from Omnivessel, which left the Earth in the year 2050. She is sent to the once-dying planet with a mission of scouting for food samples, but when she encounters Earthroot, she enters her ancestral past and questions her allegiance to Omnivessel. The peaceful, global matriarchy Earthroot must face the impending colonization as they lose two of their own to Anghared's arrival.

The exploration of socialization and environmental destruction imagines a world where decolonization, healing, and a reclaiming of our ancestral knowledge is not only possible but intentionally created.

Before the show opens on April 14 (it runs through April 29 at the Latino Cultural Center), Cook took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.

Name: Ariana Cook

Role in Where Earth Meets the Sky: Abeni

Previous work in the DFW area: Abby in the world premiere of Port Twilight or the History of Science; Pianist in the regional premiere of The Black Monk; Michelle in Unit Cohesion; the title role in Ebony Scrooge. Selected regional directing credits include Where Earth Meets the Sky (workshop) Zoot Suit; and readings of Color Struck, Sacrifice, Assistance, and The Ballad of George Zimmerman.

Hometown: Midland, Texas

Where you currently reside: Dallas

First theater role: The Witch in The Little Witch when I was six years old. I thought I got the role because I was a great young actress, but turns out that I got the role because my mother was one of the only parents who would take the time to sit with me so I could memorize the lines. 

First stage show you ever saw: Snoopy at Midland Community Theater presented by the teenage acting troupe Pickwick Players.

Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: It sounds kinda cheesy, but it's true — I saw The Phantom of the Opera at age 12 in San Francisco and it blew my mind. I had never been swept away in a theater like that. It was really epic. That night was truly magical and I knew that I had to be a part of making that magic for the rest of my life.

Most challenging role you’ve played: I think this one, Abeni in Where Earth Meets the Sky. I finally get to play the role of a complex woman of color that isn't a stereotype. It's exciting and I feel I have a lot of responsibility to do it right.

Special skills: Horse trainers have told me that I am a horse whisperer! I am not quite sure what that means exactly, but it sounds cool.

Something you’re REALLY bad at: First-person shooter video games. I get scared and close my eyes, and of course, that doesn't ensure my avatar's survival for very long. But I am still trying.

Current pop culture obsession: Cat videos. I know humans have been worshipping cats for centuries so perhaps it's more old fashioned that pop culture, but I can't help it. Watching funny or heartwarming cat videos is relaxing and de-stresses me. I love Cat Saturdays on Chive and any funny cat videos on Facebook or YouTube. Shout out to the Dallas Video Festival's CAT FEST!

Last book you read: As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem

Favorite movie(s): I LOVE documentaries. Some of my favorites right now are Mommy Dead and Dearest and Going Clear, both on HBO. I am especially obsessed with Mount Everest — PBS's Storm Over Everest is great. However, one of my favorite documentaries of all time is Titanic: The Final Mystery. I love how science and research can uncover truths from the past.

Favorite musician(s): I am not much of a music person, which is odd considering my musical theater background. Right now I am listening to a lot of Rihanna and old-school Erykah Badu.

Favorite song: Right now, I am really into "He Lives in You" from the Broadway stage version of The Lion King.

Dream role: Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar

Favorite play(s): I am really into immersive theater right now. I really enjoyed Sleep No More and And Then She Fell [in New York]. I also got to see The Man From Beyond recently in Houston, which was wonderfully put together.

Favorite musical(s): Robert Wilson's The Black Rider. It's kind of a musical and kind of not, but I love it.

Favorite actors/actresses: I am living for Issa Rae right now

Favorite food: Whole Foods salad bar — it's not a specific food, but I love that salad bar. Perfect for the actor/playwright/director on the go!

Must-see TV show(s): Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Insecure

Something most people don't know about you: I used to live in Thailand. My family moved there when I was in middle school and it was some of the best years of my life.

Place in the world you'd most like to visit: South Korea

Pre-show warm-up: I love packing for a show. Before I leave the house, I pack my bag of cough drops, water, make up, etc. There is something about that ritual that really gets me in the zone.

Favorite part about your current role: I love the fight choreography. There is something so awesome about showing that power on stage.

Most challenging part about your current project: The most challenging part is also the most fun part. As a playwright, I have an idea of how I would like the play to look and how it should flow, but when you put it in the hands of designers, you have to let go of your vision. This is scary, but it is also exciting. Designers will bring your play to life and come up with things that you would have never thought of.

Most embarrassing onstage mishap: Many years ago as a teenager, I was in a production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I played Mr. Tumnus and had two very similar lines: "The White Witch is coming!" and "The White Stag is coming!"

One night, I accidentally switched the lines and said, "The White Witch is coming!" in the scene directly following the defeat of the witch by the main characters. I didn't even realize what I did until everyone on stage just stared at me for a minute. I caught myself and blurted out, "Just kidding!" Needless to say, since that time I am very particular about making sure I know my lines.

Career you'd have if you weren't in theater: Astrophysicist or OBGYN

Favorite post-show spot: St. Pete's Dancing Marlin. Great vibe, really good food, and super close to the Latino Cultural Center.

Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: I moved to Dallas about 10 years ago with the intention of it being a pit stop to a larger city like Chicago, L.A., or New York, but I fell in love with the city. I feel like I am part of the hustle and bustle, but can also easily get away if I need to.

I was surprised at the vibrant art scene that is here as well. I feel like the work needs to be done here and that we, as an arts community, are really moving and shaking. I like being a part of that. The artists in Dallas are unique; they are fearless in a "Texan" kind of way.

Most memorable theater moment: I was so nervous the moment before I walked out on stage for my first college production. I had been in many shows before that, but I had never felt my stomach flip the way it did that night. It was so memorable because, in a way, it represented the beginning of my professional career. Theater was no longer a hobby, afterschool activity, or summer program; theater was now a life choice.

I was scared in the moment, because I thought that sick-to-my-stomach feeling was a warning that I had made the wrong decision, but once I got on stage, it all melted away. That is when I knew I was on the right path.