Cyndi Williams

Down in the muck and up on the balcony

Liz Fisher and Jude Hickey in <i> Dug Up</i>
Liz Fisher and Jude Hickey in Dug Up

There is no better month than October to stage a "sultry modern ghost story," which is how Cyndi Williams describes her latest work, Dug Up. Set in an isolated inn, the play deals with bones, an impending storm, a dead twin sister, and Tennessee Williams. With the world premiere production opening Austin Playhouse's Larry L. King Theatre season, the Chronicle spoke with the celebrated local playwright to dig up some titillating tidbits about the script.


Austin Chronicle: What is the seed that planted itself in your head and led to the creation of Dug Up?

Cyndi Williams: A confluence of seeds came together: a sociopath girlfriend I had as a teenager, a crazy bed-and-breakfast host who told me he dug up his dead pets and reburied them when he moved from place to place, and my friends, the actors Jude Hickey and Jessie Tilton, asking me if I would write a play for them.

AC: The play is set in Louisiana's Bayou Country. Is that land familiar to you?

CW: On my single trip to New Orleans, we drove and ended up on that crazy highway over the swamp at twilight. I'm from East Texas and thought I knew swamps, but it dwarfed all the marshes of my memories. As it got darker and darker, the lights began twinkling, and I realized, people live down there! When we got to New Orleans, I saw all the balconies and was struck by the idea of the life in muck versus the life up on a balcony. I wanted to write a play like that ever since.

AC: How does Tennessee Williams get worked into the mix?

CW: Again, the whole idea of balconies and the earth has been rummaging about in my imagination for a while. It just says Tennessee Williams to me! I wanted this play to have a vague sense of time period, a vaguely Fifties quality. And I wanted to embrace the sort of language I grew up hearing in East Texas.

AC: How scared will we be? Is Dug Up super spooky?

CW: I think it has a more macabre, slightly humorous kind of spookiness. A sense of funny/sad/creepy that really appeals to me.

AC: You use real animal bones on stage. Were animals harmed in the making of this play?

CW: They came to us as bones. The entire production is manned by sentimental, animal-loving human beings who would probably drive off a cliff rather than hit a 'dillo in the road. You really haven't lived till you've watched our intrepid director, Lara Toner, getting the winning bid on eBay for a box of bones!

AC: The scariest ghost stories are the ones that are true. Is yours true?

CW: A lot of this play is based on things that really happened. The stories and lies that the character Dewitt tells are also mostly based on true stories. ... What is true? What is made up? I'm not telling!


Dug Up runs Oct. 10-Nov. 2, Thursday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5:30pm, at the Larry L. King Theatre at Austin Playhouse, 3601 S. Congress, Bldg. C. For more information, call 476-0084 or visit www.austinplayhouse.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Cyndi Williams
Austin Playhouse's <i>The Book of Will</i>
Austin Playhouse's The Book of Will
Playwright Lauren Gunderson shows how the Bard's works came to be collected in a story of devotion and loss

Trey Gutierrez, June 21, 2019

Hyde Park Theatre's <i>A Doll's House, Part 2</i>
Hyde Park Theatre's A Doll's House, Part 2
Like its source material, this sequel from another mother entertains and inspires on its own terms

Bob Abelman, March 8, 2019

More by Hannah Kenah
'bobrauschenbergamerica'
'bobrauschenbergamerica'
Road trip! (with a collage-crazy modern artist at the wheel)

Sept. 18, 2009

Arts Review
Tartuffe
City Theatre Company updates Molière's satire in a cheeky yet entertaining fashion

July 31, 2009

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Cyndi Williams, Dug Up, Austin Playhouse, Tennessee Williams, Lara Toner, Jude Hickey

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle