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These are a few of the Marvelous Things: Eisley inspires new work at the Blue Theatre

Austin photo: Contributor_Michael Graupmann
Austin Photo Set: News_Mike_Marvelous things_September 2011_poster
Austin Photo Set: News_Mike_Marvelous things_September 2011_rehearsal
Rehearsal for Marvelous Things Courtesy of Marvelous Things: a new story for the stage
Austin Photo Set: News_Mike_Marvelous things_September 2011_rehearsal2
Rehearsal for Marvelous Things Courtesy of Marvelous Things: a new story for the stage

It seems you can’t swing a dead cat by the tail in this town without hitting an independent theater or some kind of musician. But to find a theater artist who really appreciates music and knows how to transform it into the language of the theater is a new breed altogether.

Lindsey Greer Sikes, a member of Poison Apple Initiative, is just one such hybrid. Like the main character in her new show, Marvelous Things, which opens at The Blue Theatre this Thursday, Sikes is a person that lives amongst the creatures of her imagination. Inspired by the music of rising Texas-based indie folk band Eisley, Sikes wrote Marvelous Things to translate a story she noticed lurking in the background of their second album of the same name.

“I’ve loved Eisley for a very long time,” explains Sikes. “About a year and a half ago I began listening to Room Noises nearly non-stop again. I knew there were characters and stories living within the music, waiting for me to conjure them up. From there I started to add additional characters, complications—but I’d always return back to Eisley whenever I got stuck.”

The dreamy, whimsical nature of the music is the perfect backdrop for a play about a young woman caught between the gritty real world and her own fanciful imagination. The title of Sikes’ show was originally Brightly Wound, which is the name of the Eisley song that inspired Sikes’ romantic main character, Winnie. Next, Sikes tried the title The Humming Woods to indicate the place within the play where Winnie visits and encounters the creatures of her imagination.

Eventually, Sikes settled on the title Marvelous Things, as over the course of rehearsals and revisions, she realized the project of the play was larger than just the fictional story of Winnie. The play was really a larger study on storytelling and the form and conventions of “the theater” in general.

This meta treatment of the script allows the audience to experience the “marvelous things” of the play at the Blue in a fashion similar to how Winnie perceives her magical creatures and memories in The Humming Woods. Without giving too much away, Sikes reveals the fourth wall is compromised several times throughout the show and participation is highly encouraged by the eight actors who helped devise the script through improvisational exercises in rehearsal.

The show also features new musical work on the part of talented Austin composer Paul Marbach, last heard from at the performance of the astounding Requiem: an Embrace at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in May.

According to Sikes, Marbach has been the perfect musical partner due to his flexibility in the new script development process. (“He’s just magic,” she says.) The resulting blend of Marbach’s new acapella music with Eisley’s aged ethereal pop adds a beautiful, complicated layer to the show’s already complex mix of meanings, forms and styles.

Combining “a slew of broken theatrical conventions,” a new original score and plenty of strong visual elements, Sikes’ ultimate goal is to inspire thoughtfulness long after the show is over. “As audience members, we usually walk into a show, take our seats and suspend our imaginations completely. But I want the audience to consider that the stage goes beyond the show, and that the experience is as much about the observer and their existence in the theater as it about the actual show itself.” 

Theater with a thought process is something we’re always excited about in town. Throw in some well thought out musical accompaniment and a shrewdly chosen cast, and we’re all about these marvelous things, indeed.

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Marvelous Things runs Oct 6 - 23 at the Blue Theatre. Thursdays and Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 5 pm. Tickets are available in advance online.

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