It would make comfy, if unremarkable, prose to say that, after 20 years, pulling the shows together is no sweat, easy as pie, etc. Not so much. Every July contains one or two moments where I ask, “Is this really coming together, will it happen?” Experience tells me it will. Just relax. And get it done.
It’s mid-July once again, and another buildup to SceneShop’s annual showcase of original scenes and monologues, centered around a unifying theme. For summer 2016, SceneShop debuts “Turn and Face the Strange” on Saturday August 6, with additional shows the following weekend, August 12 and 13.
“Turn and Face the Strange” (from David Bowie’s great “Changes”) is the umbrella title for SceneShop’s assembly of short works about misfits, outsiders and those who don’t quite fit in. Following tradition, the show offers brief new works, ranging from comic to serious to seriously weird. Audiences seem to enjoy the variety, and the shows’ fast pace keeps us on our toes.
Nobody gets into theater to be egoless, and I’m no exception.
I look forward to seeing the scripts I’ve written come to life. “About Aunt Sylvie” depicts a niece’s wary reunion with her eccentric aunt, while “negative space” details a combative painter’s antipathy toward the genteel art world. A pair of scenes offer different takes on homeless persons, while in two more, one young man wrestles with life’s meaning, and another laments his non-starter of a sex-life.
All of these will feature solid writing and acting, including performers new to SceneShop. But the star of the summer may turn out to be actor/playwright Michael Carver-Simmons. He’s young, only turning 22 later in August, but this edition marks his ninth appearance with us, since his freshman year of college. We met in the fall of 2012 when he became involved in a project I helped develop with UT Arlington’s Maverick Theatre Company, and I knew quickly his talent and work ethic were remarkable. He’s distinguished himself as a gifted, inventive performer in works both comic and serious. Earlier this year, Michael and I collaborated on a script titled, “Every November,” which debuted in the inaugural edition of the Fort Worth Fringe Festival. Michael brought keen storytelling skill to the process, which complemented his sensitive performance.
Now, Michael steps forward as a writer on his own, penning two very different pieces about unusual individuals. In the manic monologue, “The Most Magical Night of My Life,” Stacy Hernandez is a young woman with a plan. At the end of the evening, Michael will take the stage as the lone performer in his “Cold Feet.” In the piece, Michael will play 18-year-old Sawyer, a young man marking not only a family milestone but a signpost to his increasing independence as an adult. The script has autobiographical elements, but Michael has done far more than simply mine his own life. Sawyer is a genuine character, and one I predict audiences will take to their hearts.
Before that moment, however, much work remains. Gathering costumes and props, nailing down light and sound cues, and more desperately, finding a live, sane human to operate lights and sound in the shows. Ahead of me, I anticipate anxious moments, perhaps some troubled sleep. That comes with the territory, as does SceneShop dress rehearsal, or as we affectionately term it, “The Longest Night of the Year.” No matter, it will be worth it. It always is.
by Steven Alan McGaw, co-founder, Artistic Director