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BWW Review: Festival of New Texas Plays at Austin Playhouse

BWW Review: Festival of New Texas Plays at Austin Playhouse

Austin Playhouse recently produced staged readings of the three winning plays from their Festival of New Texas Plays. EIDOPHUSIKON by Reina Hardy kicked off the festival on Friday, April 27, NUTSHELL by C. Denby Swanson was on Saturday, April 28, and MONROE by Lisa B. Thompson concluded the lineup on Sunday, April 29. Along with the professional staged reading, which featured Austin Playhouse directors and company members, each of the winning playwrights received a $500 prize.

"For the second year of the festival, we decided to narrow the focus to Texas playwrights," sais Artistic Director Lara Toner Haddock, "By highlighting the incredible voices of local playwrights, we feel the contest has a more meaningful and direct impact on our community. The ten finalists represent a diverse range of voices in Texas theatre, and the three winning plays are relevant and compelling new works that reflect current societal interests and offer boundary-pushing theatricality. We look forward to sharing these new works with Austin."

EIDOPHUSIKON by Reina Hardy was directed by Cyndi Williams and the cast included Jess Hughes, Christopher Loveless, Sarah Fleming Walker, Shanon Weaver, and Ken Webster. The play was about a mysterious man and a tiny scrappy girl building a new machine inspired by a legendary creation out of scavenged materials in a tiny underground bunker. The machine, called an Eidophusikon, had the ability to transcend time. When their work is interrupted by a man who needs part of the Eidophusikon to heal his own grief, the fantastic machine and everyone who works on it is in danger. The piece was a theatrical fable designed to challenge audiences and performers to expand the limits of the stage and their imaginations.

NUTSHELL by C. Denby Swanson was directed by Elissa Goetschius and featured Mary Agen Cox, Ricker Roemer, and Estrella Saldaña. NUTSHELL, which was the only one of the three plays I was able to attend, told the story of Frances Glessner Lee, the mother of forensic science, who used her inheritance in the 1930's and 1940's to make miniatures of crime scenes, which are still used today to train investigators. In the play, she conducted a seminar, even though she is dead herself, in an attempt to understand the physical evidence of her own life and build the legacy that even today continues to help solve violent crimes. This production suffered from volume issues that rendered large portions of the script simply impossible to even hear making the one hour and forty minute intermission free performance mostly bewildering.

MONROE by Lisa B. Thompson was directed by Lara Toner Haddock and featured Crystal Bird Caviel, Huck Huckaby, Delanté Keys, Carla Nickerson, Marc Pouhé, and Taji Senior. Thompson's play was about a mysterious pregnancy, a lynching, and the dreams of California that haunted Cherry, a domestic who believes that God is telling her to leave the south. Although her family tolerates her eccentric ways, her friend Clyde takes her visions and dreams seriously. When Clyde invites her to go along with him to California, Cherry must decide whether being the keeper of her family's roots and cultural traditions justifies living under Jim Crow. Set in rural Louisiana during the Great Migration, Monroe reveals how the threat and aftermath of racial terror dominates the psyches of young African Americans.

2018 Finalists

Birthrights by Kira Rockwell
Dirty Dirty by Amy Gijsbers van Wijk
Eidophusikon by Reina Hardy
Homeland by Michael Parsons
Monroe by Lisa B. Thompson
Nutshell by C. Denby Swanson
Shekinah by Blake Hackler
Small Steps by Briandaniel Oglesby
Tail End Charlie by Joey Banks
The Lady Demands Satisfaction by Arthur M. Jolly

Austin Playhouse's Festival of New Texas Plays ran April 27 - 29, 2018 at Austin Playhouse on ACC's Highland Campus, 6001 Airport Blvd., Austin, TX 78752

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From This Author Frank Benge