An interview with . . . me!

My graduate school alma mater – the Department of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin – just posted an interview with me on the department blog, AMS::ATX.

Check it out and get a bit more information about my book, plus learn my advice to current grad students!

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Review: The Mamalogues

Today I’m excited to start a brand new feature on this blog! Because there’s so much amazing, dynamic theater out there in Austin, and understandably the Austin American-Statesman can only send me to cover so much, I’m going to be doing some occasional theater reviews that are unique to this site!

The first of these is the world premiere of a brand new play by “the play doctor,” Austin’s own Lisa B. Thompson, called The Mamalogues.

Photo by Steve Rogers Photography

Co-produced by Color Arc Productions and The VORTEX (and playing through September 7th at the VORTEX), The Mamalogues is a moving, funny, inspiring exploration of black motherhood in today’s America.

Unlike some of Thompson’s recent work to grace the Austin stage, The Mamalogues is not a straight-forward realist drama, but rather (as the title might suggest) a series of deep dives into varying aspects of motherhood. While some of these are universal (like the physical nature of labor pains), others are specific to single black mothers, such as how to talk to their children about racism or what it’s like developing friendships with white mothers who can never fully understand their experience.

The moral force of the play, then, is aimed in two directions. First, Thompson clearly wants to create a work that sees and is seen by black women, representing their experiences and struggles in a way that we don’t often find in our mainstream art and media. She mines equally the moments of joy, wonder, heartbreak, and sorrow that are a part of being a mother (or even a parent in general), but then ties those specifically into experiences that are unique to black women, finding the universal in both the quotidian and the particular.

In doing so, though, the secondary power of the text shines through, creating a vehicle for non-black audiences to understand just how difficult and worrisome it is to be the parent of a black child in today’s America. After all, as Thompson reminds us, the paranoia that every parent feels about the world wanting to hurt their child is natural; but for black parents, that paranoia is real and justified.

Of course, this message wouldn’t land were it not for powerful performances by the three leading ladies–Yvonne Oaks, Valoneecia Tolbert, and Melody Ann Fullylove. Representing motherhood in three different stages, each woman speaks to the specific experiences of her character while at the same time transforming into a variety of roles as called for by the melange of memory and fantasy. They work remarkably well as an ensemble, with director Rudy Ramirez helping them create a full world on the stage with no more than their bodies and three chairs. Tolbert, especially, excels at tapping into the play’s most heartbreaking moments, and delivering some of its most hilarious witticisms.

The Mamalogues is a vibrant and vital piece of theater that will speak to all audience members, whether they are mothers or not, and serves as a potent reminder–just when we need it the most–that sometimes the most heroic thing we can do as humans is to stand up to a cruel world and protect those around us.

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Late August Updates

It’s been a busy, busy summer in my day job as a copywriter, so I’ve had to go a little light on the reviewing. Fortunately, the summer tends to be a slower time, so I haven’t completely abandoned my duties!

Here’s a quick round-up of my last few reviews and preview stories of Austin theater:

Q&A: Trans and nonbinary lives take center stage in ‘Transom’

Review: ‘Ann’ at Zach Theatre is a moving antidote to political despair

‘American Blood Song’ tells the story of the Donner Party with puppets and song

Summer Stock Austin finds the fun in a not-quite-timeless story

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Reviews/Previews Catch-Up!

It’s been a busy kick-off to the summer, so I’ve once more gotten lax about posting updates.

Better late than never, here’s a complete list of all the reviews (and a few preview interviews!) I’ve written for the Austin American-Statesman since my last post:

Terrence McNally’s ‘Immortal Longings’ dances with beauty and agony

Talking ‘Lady Macbeth and Her Pal, Megan,’ female anger and comedy

On prophetic lines, power of money in Hyde Park Theatre’s ‘Death Tax’

‘Dry Land’ takes on the issue of abortion with nuance and sympathy

GenEnCo’s ‘Black Girl Love’ is about seeing, being seen

‘The Book of Will’ is a charming historical love letter

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At last—Hamilton!

The national tour Hamilton has finally made its way to Austin, and I have two pieces up about it.

First, here’s an interview with this production’s Alexander Hamilton, Joseph Morales:

‘Hamilton’ in Austin: What’s it like to fill Lin-Manuel Miranda’s shoes on tour?

Shoba Narayan and Joseph Morales in Hamilton.

And second, here’s my review of the show itself:

‘Hamilton’ in Austin review: It’s as good as you’ve heard

Enjoy, and be sure not to throw away your shot!

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I am excited to announce the release of The World of DC Comics!

My second book–The World of DC Comics–has just been released today from one of my favorite academic publishers, Routledge!

I’m very excited to have this out there, as I’ve spent the last couple of years (and roughly the last couple decades prior to that) thinking about the DC Comics multiverse and its implications for long-form narratives of imaginary worlds. Now you can finally read the fruits of that labor!

Additionally, this seems like a good opportunity for a roundup of recent theater reviews that I’ve been lax about posting:

Austin Playhouse’s ‘Copenhagen’ brings specificity to uncertainty

Step into an intense, post-truth world in Street Corner Arts’ ‘The Letters’

Kids will love the ‘Treasure Island in the Bay of Bengal,’ a family-friendly, multicultural adventure

‘Severe Weather Warning’ celebrates — and tests — female friendship, with wine

‘The Children’ asks what we’d sacrifice in disaster-bound world

‘Cats’ in Austin review: It doesn’t make sense, but they sure can dance

‘The Ballad of Klook and Vinette’ is a sexy new musical at Zach

Finally, check out this video of my recent Nerd Nite Austin talk all about my first book, Retcon Game: Retroactive Continuity and the Hyperlinking of America.

Most importantly, though, buy my new book!

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‘Matilda the Musical’ at Zach is a confused, energetic fairy tale

I’ll have three more reviews this weekend that should hopefully go up early next week, but for now here’s just one new review, Matilda the Musical at ZACH Theatre.

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One touring show, one local show

I’m actually keeping up with posting all of my publications for once, so here’s two more recent shows I reviewed, one a national tour and one a very local, home-grown affair.

‘Last: An Extinction Comedy’ at the Vortex is a fun romp with a message

The national tour of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is more timely than ever

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Salvage Vanguard’s Greek tragedy adaptation is bizarre, baffling and beautiful

As I try to keep up with posting my reviews as they’re actually published, here’s just one new review, of Salvage Vanguard’s strange and exciting new version of the Antigone story, titled Antigonick.

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Two New Reviews

Hey, that rhymes! Sort of.

In any case, it’s been a busy few weeks, so here’s two reviews with a few more to come soon.

Cast shines in Penfold Theatre’s compressed ‘Crime and Punishment’

Charming ‘The Book Club Play’ cracks open its characters

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