'The Dudleys!: A Family Game'

Game play begins ... with vodka

'The Dudleys!: A Family Game'

Safe to say that Tutto Theatre Company is not the first group of dudes who have thought about combining vodka and video games. They are the first to have figured out this particular combination, however.

On May 6, Tutto opens The Dudleys!: A Family Game, a new play about a family in crisis from New York-based writer Leegrid Stevens, with financial support from the Tito's Handmade Vodka Arts Exchange Program. The Dudleys! is a play that embraces video gaming on many levels: Characters interact with projections on a screen, they encounter replay upon replay, a series of throwback video consoles including Ataris and Gameboys provides the soundtrack, and, of course, games are played within the play.

So where's the connection between vodka and gaming and theatre (assuming you need one)? It appears to be Southern Methodist University – specifically, the Austin theatre scene has enough SMU grads to make plays happen. In fact, following the chain of connections is sort of like sending Mario through a level, minus the scary turtles and such. Playwright Stevens, a graduate of the SMU theatre program, visited Austin in 2010 for a production of his play Post-Oedipus (produced under the name Steven Gridley) from the Getalong Gang Performance Group, whose founders Zenobia Taylor and Spencer Driggers attended SMU. Fellow SMU grad Nicole Portwood performed in the show in the evenings while working by day as the brand manager for Tito's Handmade Vodka, which led to the Arts Exchange Program connection. Tutto Theatre Company stepped in to produce The Dudleys!, led in part by Matt Ervin, a graduate of you-know-where.

Tutto has used the grant to host Stevens for a three-month residency in Austin to allow him to develop the script more fully. Stevens began working with the idea of a video-game-based play after seeing performances in New York of chiptune, a recent genre of music created using the chips of hacked video game consoles, and the film work of digital artist Cory Arcangel, whose works include installations built from hacked elements of Super Mario Bros.

Says Stevens: "Normally I'm not a fan of video in the theatre, because it's unnecessary. Somebody says, 'It's hot! It's on fire!' and then they show a picture of a fire." To make The Dudleys! work, he says, the video must function as an integrated element of the set.

While Stevens brought much of the A/V component of the show to rehearsals already prepared, the process remained fluid. Music and visual effects are cued from the actors, meaning that humans rather than computers remain in control of the show. "If anything," says director Gary Jaffe, "I just looked at it as part of the script."

Jaffe, who was recently named Tutto's new artistic director, says the challenge of incorporating a two-dimensional, digital genre into a three-dimensional performance piece was part of the appeal to Tutto, whose motto of "Impossible Theatre" has served as a catch-all of sorts for a variety of productions. "We're living in an age in which theatre is almost impossible to make," says Jaffe. "How do we make this thing that is important to us happen in a difficult time?"

The Dudleys!: A Family Game runs May 6-22, Wednesday-Saturday, 8pm, and Sunday, 7pm, at the Blue Theatre, 916 Springdale. For more information, call 522-4045 or visit www.tuttotheatre.org.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 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  

More The Dudleys!: A Family Game
All Over Creation: Award Fever
All Over Creation: Award Fever
Whenever you feel like throwing a pillow over the Payne Awards, consider this

Robert Faires, Nov. 4, 2011

Arts Review
The Dudleys!: A Family Game
This ambitious new play imagines a family crisis as an 8-bit video game

Avimaan Syam, May 20, 2011

More Tutto Theatre Company
'I Witness'
'I Witness'
I see, therefore I am

Katherine Catmull, Aug. 20, 2010

Tutto Theatre Company
Tutto Theatre Company
If it's Tuesday, this must be Bomarzo

Robert Faires, July 17, 2009

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Book Review: <i>Network Effect</i> by Martha Wells
Book Review: Network Effect by Martha Wells
In this first full-length novel featuring Murderbot, the violent but endearing rogue AI is back for more adventures to delight "all the stupid humans"

July 31, 2020

Sad Girls Productions’ <i>So Lucky</i>
Sad Girls Productions' So Lucky
This world premiere from a brand-new company lacks polish, but it does honor its community’s stories

March 20, 2020


The Dudleys!: A Family Game, Tutto Theatre Company, Leegrid Stevens, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Gary Jaffe, Matt Ervin, Getalong Gang Performance Group, Zenobia Taylor, Spencer Driggers, Nicole Portwood

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

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