Matt Tourney’s Prufrock

January 3, 2019

Blog written by Alix McDonough

Matt Tourney is the Artistic Director with Studio Theatre.  He and Diane Coburn Bruning, Artistic Director with Chamber Dance Project, will collaborate on the creation of their upcoming ballet based upon T.S. Elliot’s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, premiering in the June 2019 Season.

I met with Matt at the Studio Theatre to ask him how he and Diane would work together to translate this disquieting poem into ballet.

As he began to explain, I imagined Matt taking my hand saying, “Let us go then, you and I” ……through certain half-deserted streets…”* I felt like I was walking those same deserted streets with Matt to guide me.

To me, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is nothing but bleak, dismal and depressing.  But reading between the lines as directors do, Matt acknowledged that, yes, the poem is all of that.  But there is more.  There’s irony, humor, and unrequited love.

Having been a young dancer himself, he understood the language of dance.  But he wanted to do more.  He became interested in working with text, actors, and stagecraft.  He earned a degree in performance.  With that background, he moved from dancing to directing.  And he was “hooked”.  He would dedicate the rest of his career to directing.

When Diane began developing her dream of producing a ballet around her favorite poem, T. S. Elliott’s, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, she wanted to work with a theater director who could infuse text and theatricality into the making of this ballet.  Having worked with Matt in the past, Diane knew that they would form a perfect team in bringing this evocative ballet to the stage.

Matt and Diane will combine his perspective and interpretation of the poem as a director and Diane’s passion and curiosity as an artist. Together they will create a ballet about a lonely man obsessed with feelings of alienation, inadequacy, and despair in a modern world fraught with anxiety and tension.

Just as Prufrock’s world is fragmented and broken, Matt and Diane will break the poem apart and remake it in a different way.

How will light, music and staging all blend with text and motion?  At this point, neither Matt nor Diane knows what this ballet is going to look like.  How it’s all going to be woven together.   “What’s important is to create a performance which connects with the audience.”

As they leave the theater, what do you and Diane want the audience to take away with them?

“Whoever comes to see this performance will understand the poem in a new way.”


*Excerpt from the poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot.

(1) Matt Torney | Photo by Teddy Wolff

(2) Diane Coburn Bruning | Photo by Emmanuel Williams

(3) T.S. Eliot | Photo by E.O. Hopp/Corbin Images