'The Virgin w/ 10,000 Arrows'
The artist who wasn't but is
Debutantes & Vagabonds, one of Austin's newest theatre companies, made a theatrical splash with its very first effort when its full-length play Hubris won the 2007 HBMG Foundation ArtSpark Festival. Composed of Artistic Director Amanda Lee Garfield and Managing Director Francisco Rodriguez, D&V focused on producing its own original work until Rodriguez found that school was interfering with his writing process. So, with the help of Austin Script Works, D&V put out a call for new plays and got swamped with scripts. But one in particular stood out: Jason Tremblay's The Virgin w/ 10,000 Arrows. Tremblay had made more than a bit of a theatrical splash himself, and not just locally but nationally: His Katrina: The Girl Who Wanted Her Name Back, which premiered at the University of Texas Department of Theatre & Dance, won three national awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence Award in 2009 and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Playwriting for Young Audiences Award in 2007.
For Virgin, Garfield and Rodriguez switched roles, with Garfield taking on the producing responsibilities and Rodriguez handling the artistic direction. And his excitement is palpable. Virgin focuses on the story of Andres Marca Relli, a 27-year-old artistic savant who made millions of dollars from his original expressionistic art, stole seven of his own canvases from a gallery in New York, traveled to San Francisco, and committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.
None of which actually happened. "When I first read the play," says Rodriguez, "I thought: 'Why haven't I heard of this guy? Who is this Andres Marca Relli? I want to see his artwork.' So I went online and couldn't find anything about him. And when I discovered he never existed, I thought: 'This play has a life beyond the text, beyond the theatre, and it's making me react to it right now, in my room, in front of my computer. I love it!'"
Tremblay achieved this effect by writing the first draft using words from extant periodicals. "He didn't shape the words," says Rodriguez. "He only shaped the work. So when it was first written, it seemed very much like this was all being pulled from an actual, real-life experience." Which it is, in a sense, as the material reflects the lives of a number of artistic luminaries, from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jackson Pollock to Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. "The play reflects Japanese Noh theatre," says Rodriguez. "It tells you at the very beginning exactly what's going to happen, so you already have the facts in the back of your mind and are able to simply take it all in, without worrying about every little detail."
Not only does the play reflect Noh, it actualizes its own expressionism by creating a canvas onstage as the story is told – a canvas which, at the end of the play, is offered to the audience. Says Rodriguez: "Oftentimes people don't really own themselves. By the time Andres jumps off the bridge, in a lot of ways he's already dead. So we present the audience with the opportunity to own the work and, in the act of owning it, destroy it. I want the audience to go home with that lesson in their heart and that painting in their hand.
"It's their choice, though."
The Virgin w/ 10,000 Arrows continues through Aug. 1, Thursday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2 & 8pm, at the Larry L. King Theatre at Austin Playhouse, 3601 S. Congress. For more information, call 361/648-1504 or visit www.bohemianblitz.com.