Originally posted on Dallas Morning News
Staging a play about “the ugliest woman in the world” in total darkness took the focus off her unusual looks and onto the price she paid for them. The Fort Worth company Amphibian Stage gave The True History of the Tragic Life & Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in the World, its American premiere in 2003 and revived it in 2012. Now the play is returning in a new audio production by the group that you can listen to at home.
It tells the story of a 19th-century woman with a beautiful singing voice and a kind heart who was exploited as a sideshow attraction because of genetic conditions that caused her to grow excessive body hair and enlarged her facial features. After Pastrana’s death in 1860 in childbirth, her body and that of her son were trotted around the world for more than a century. Recorded in Dolby Atmos surround-sound, the audio version is designed to be listened to on headphones. July 16-30. Details: amphibianstage.com.
Another new locally produced audio play is “a kind of mockumentary,” according to Dallas actor-writer Ruben Carrazana, who led the teens of Cry Havoc Theater Company in creating Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground. It imagines what aliens find when they crash on Earth in the year 4040. Conceived as a live show with an audience — remember those? — it has been adapted as a recorded piece for ears only.
Already known for their devised works about the Dallas police shootings and the hot-button topic of Mexican immigration, company members created mini-studios in their homes and collaborated remotely. “Audio plays are nothing new,” says Cry Havoc artistic director Mara Richards Bim. “So many of our grandparents used to listen to them on the radio.” July 13-19. Details: cryhavoctheater.org.
A wave of local streaming shows this summer also includes a new production of Dallas native Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife by Addison’s WaterTower Theatre. The one-man show is based on the true story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transgender woman and collector of antique household objects who survived both the Nazis and the Communists. Bob Hess, last seen in Stage West’s filmed production of The Children, plays von Mahlsdorf and more than 30 other characters. July 16-Aug. 2. Details: watertowertheatre.org.
Meanwhile, Ochre House Theater has added company member Justin Locklear’s 2017 Smile, Smile Again, an absurdist look at the consequences of war, to its online menu of past productions on YouTube. Free.
And Prism Movement Theater has extended the sold-out run of its pandemic-era love story Everything Will Be Fine for four more performances. The audience watches from their cars and listens to the pop score on the radio. July 17-18 and 24-25. Details: prismco.org.