For 25 years and counting (1982-2007), Alan Dehmer has photographed over 75 plays produced by Manbites Dog Theater Company in Durham, NC. His 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 his 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.
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.”