By Andronica Owens
Web Content Contributor
Faith, love, and acceptance are some of the themes to be explored during Texas State’s newest production, What We Scream Underwater When No One Can Hear Us. Directed by Allison Price, the show runs Feb. 21-24.
Playwright Caitlin Turnage got the inspiration for the production from past experiences during her time in high school. Coming from a staunchly conservative background and upbringing, Turnage was able to take her experiences and write a story surrounding the main character, Savannah, who must choose her between her faith and her love.
“She’s in a world where she doesn’t want to choose and doesn’t feel as if she must choose,” Turnage said. “It’s her breaking the system and basically saying ‘that’s ridiculous, why do I have to choose at all?’”
Savannah, played by Morgen Amalbert, is thrown into a situation where she must deal with the conflicting aspects of her sexuality and the religion she practices. Through all of this, she is forced to face the judgment of her peers and family while striving to live a life walking in her faith.
The idea has been turning in Turnage’s head for a long time. She has gone through many rewrites and revisions to get the production to where it is now. With no set, minimal props, and multiple timelines occurring at the same time, What We Scream serves as a magnifying glass to some of society’s struggles.
“I’ve been writing this play over and over since the minute I decided I wanted to be a playwright,” Turnage said. “I’ve been working towards this specific story and I just didn’t know it until I finished this play.”
While there were many comedic moments between the characters, one cannot overlook the heartfelt and sometimes gut-wrenching scenes between the characters. Savannah is the honest and open extrovert trying to live in a way she’s been taught is “right”, while Georgia, played by Payton Bioletto, is a pessimistic cynic who sees the world as it is and isn’t one to condone the injustices in society. These two immerse you into their world and take you on a journey filled with pain, love, healing and finally, acceptance.
“There was a moment where I realized I was finally done with this narrative,” Turnage said. “I finally figured out why I’ve been writing the same kind of thought for so long.”
While working closely with Price, Turnage was able to bring her vision to fruition. Working together as both friends and partners on this project helped them turn What We Scream into a piece of art both creators can be proud of. With the help of monologues, breaking the fourth wall, the ongoing sound of windchimes in the background, and the lighting giving the illusion of a pool, the production was nothing short of captivating. There was not a moment where I wasn’t enthralled in what was happening between these two people and the open floor.
Even after the lights fade to black and the final bows of the night were given, there were so many thoughts running through my head. Thoughts about how complicated life can be and what we as people need to do to better understand others, or how people’s needs are different from others to heal and be at peace. While all of this was running through my head, I realized it was impossible for me to settle on one overarching theme of the story due to the many questions the dialogue raised.
“There are so many things I want the audience to get from it,” Turnage said. “At the end of the day, I can’t make up anybody’s mind for them- as much as I wish I could- and preaching to them doesn’t do any good.”
All in all, there will not be the right words to describe my feelings while watching this play. The actresses conveyed every emotion perfectly and tied with the dialogue, it made it feel not as if it was a production but as if I was watching two friends try to navigate their way in the world. There were no props or costume changes or any of the things associated with big productions, which made it more real for me as an audience member. It made me laugh, tear up, and truly understand the concept of rejection, unconditional love, and healing after times of pain.
“The biggest thing I want people to take away is: whether or not they finally accept or don’t accept; they have to listen,” Turnage said. “We are at a point in the world where we can no longer not listen.”
What We Scream Underwater When No One Can Hear Us will have its opening night Thursday, Feb. 21, and will have shows through Feb. 24. The show is currently sold out, but standby tickets may become available. For more information regarding the show, please call (512)-245-6500.
Featured image courtesy of Jessica Graham.