April 27. . . Trio in Austin, and Perception Shift

This week we head to Austin for Trio’s premiere at The Filigree Theatre. Early in the week, director Elizabeth V. Newman asks me to write the playwright’s notes for the show, the first time anyone’s asked me to do that. There are more people to thank for helping with Trio’s development than I can fit. The cast appears on Austin TV, and gets a couple nice mentions in the local papers.

photo by Steve Rogers

Before we go, Alex Jones and I get together to talk about Perception Shift, the dance-theatre piece he’s commissioned me to write for a Collective Soles performance next year. Four choreographers will work on the piece from different angles, and Alex and I talk about the heart of the play, the last images the audience will see.

It’s a helpful conversation, our first time looking at my first rough draft and wrangling over the complex structure he’s asked me to work with. Once again, my script is filled with notes. And through talking over the scene I’ve written, we catch a glimpse of how things might look and sound, with actors’ voices and dancers’ bodies mingling. For Alex, it’s not just verbs, but painting a picture.

He says, “I like that it’s funny and it’s not,” and I’m very to hear it, because I do, too.

We talk about creating all the roles as gender-neutral, race-neutral and age-neutral, which is important to both of us. And Alex explains the concept of “retrograding,” dancing a move backwards, to help with foreshadowing.

I’m still rewriting The Burlesque Astronomy Play. Amid that, I get a lovely email that Flying is one of five finalists out of 500 submissions for the David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, at Marin Theatre Company in California.

photo by Steve Rogers

In Austin, it’s Trio’s opening night at a lovely arts space The Filigree Theatre is renting, that’s not unlike The Studio@620, The Santa Cruz Theatre. The theatre was built for dance, with a stage high enough that you can see the dancers’ feet.

In a wonderful surprise, the play starts in the dark, with the Trio of silent clowns approaching from the side, with lanterns. It’s a magical moment, and a beautiful production.

photo by Steve Rogers

I get to watch the play on Friday night, amid a warm welcome from the cast and creative team. It’s a potent thing to see words that have been on a page for years come to life.

On Saturday night, we have a burst of serendipity when Matt sees a poster at Book People for the Texas Burlesque Festival. It’s a wild, bold and classy performance in a beautiful historic theatre, and we go and do some research.

I come back to Trio on Sunday with my notebook, to see it again and make notes of where I can tighten things up. We have a vibrant talkback with the audience, who share a lot of helpful thoughts about what they enjoyed and where I still need to clarify the shifts between real and surreal.

And I find out that actor Eva McQuade’s next project is a riff on Carmen with an all-Latinx cast performing a devised theatre piece exploring borders, labor, gender and love. It’s billed as, “Love! Passion! Telenovela Drag Queens!”

It’s just too bad we have to leave before it opens.

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