AMERICA IS HARD TO SEE Comes to Underbelly Cowgate

AMERICA IS HARD TO SEE Comes to Underbelly Cowgate

Described by the New York Times as 'Our Town with sex offenders', this daring play with music is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with the inhabitants of Miracle Village, a rural American community of sex offenders. America is Hard to See blends verbatim text with Methodist hymns and original folk music to tell the stories of the villagers in their own - not necessarily 100% true - words. The show explores the lives of individual members of the community as they try to lead normal lives, forming a band at their local church under the Pastor Patti, a cleric who is determined to give the men a second chance. Focusing on the consequences rather than the transgression, the show asks if redemption is possible, and takes an uncomfortable look on what it means to put forgiveness into practice.

In America, registered sex offenders are not allowed to live near schools, parks or anywhere where children might congregate, necessitating the need for their own villages. Life Jacket Theatre Company spent a year visiting and living in one such village in Florida to gather over 400 hours of interviews, uncover over 300 pages of archival documents, and record over 500 pages of field notes before taking the next three years to transform the material into a play. America is Hard to See premiered in New York at HERE Arts Center in 2018, and this will be their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut.

Director and writer Travis Russ said, "For me, this has been an extremely difficult and challenging play to research and write. I constantly catch myself wanting to empathize with the criminals in this play - hoping they will finally heal and find a dose of redemption - but then I stop and remember the details of their heinous crimes - and then I'm torn and conflicted about how I should feel. And that constant tug-of-war and emotional confusion is what makes this play so endlessly fascinating. It's why I keep coming back to it. It's why it keeps haunting me. I like that this play challenges me to think about my personal limits of forgiveness, about who gets to be redeemed and why. I like that it challenges my belief in God and grace and redemption. I like that this play forces me to take a deeper, more complex, and uncomfortable look at myself, at humanity, and how we treat our social outcasts."

Life Jacket Theatre Company is a New York City based company whose work is created through in-depth field interviews and deep archival research to produce untold stories about people who live on the margins. Their research process is rigorous, meticulous and often lasts several years.

Travis Russ is the Artistic Director of Life Jacket Theatre Company. Travis has helmed multiple world premieres including Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, which was selected as a Critic's Pick by the New York Times and Time Out New York and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, seven New York Innovative Theatre Awards, and two Henry Hewes Design Awards. Travis was nominated for three 2016 New York Innovative Theatre Awards and was a 2017 Director in Residence at the Drama League. He is a professor at Fordham University in New York City where he teaches communication and performance.

Priscilla Holbrook is a composer, lyricist, and actress. After studying music and then acting, she fell into '90s experimental theatre, touring Europe with legendary director Reza Abdoh in The Law of Remains, and performing in NYC with the likes of Pavol Liska, Tony Torn, and 3LD, at La MaMa, The Kitchen, and P.S. 122. She then joined forces with playwright/director Cara Scarmack to start their own play-in-a-suitcase company. Their multi-media operetta, the turtle pond was a fail, is in development for a 2020 production. Priscilla is also an award-winning audiobook narrator, most recently heard on Wally Lamb's bestseller I'll Take You There, alongside Kathleen Turner and Jeremy Sisto. Her band Susan Jane (named after the protagonist in the 1951 12-minute mental hygiene film The Outsider) recently released its debut album, Growing Wild.

Running Time: 1hr 15 mins | Suitable for ages 18+

Big Belly, Underbelly Cowgate Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1(Venue 61)

1 - 25 Aug (not 12), 19.45 - 21.00

1 - 25 Aug: £12.80 - 7.30 | 0131 510 0395

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