For this Michener Playwriting Fellow, autumn brings local premieres of two of her plays
It's either feast or famine. Most playwrights are more familiar with the latter – i.e., no one is staging the scripts they keep penning – but this fall, Reina Hardy will be enjoying the former, with two of her plays premiering on local stages. This week, Shrewd Productions opens Glassheart, Hardy's irreverent update of Beauty and the Beast, in which its cursed monster, having never met Beauty, is still shaggy but has been reduced to sharing a one-bedroom flat near a 7-Eleven with his last magical servant, the lamp. In October, the Vortex will open Stars and Barmen, in which a similarly hapless astrophysicist is frustrated in both his search for a meaningful astronomical discovery and a date for his sister's wedding. The Chronicle emailed Hardy, a Chicago playwright who's in Austin studying at the Michener Center for Writers, to find out how this happened.
Austin Chronicle: You really seem to have gotten tossed in the deep end this semester: two plays premiering as well as a Michener Center fellowship. Was this what you expected when you came to Austin?
Reina Hardy: Well, luckily, this is my third year as a Michener Fellow! So at the moment, I actually feel on top of things. (We'll see if I still think that once classes start.)
But no, I didn't expect this at all! It's a delightful surprise. I've had a few shows in Chicago and elsewhere, but I thought by the time I could infiltrate the scene in Austin, I would have graduated. I thought I'd get one production through school, at the outside. Having two on this fall is pretty wild!
AC: How did the two local premieres come about?
RH: Two words: Rudy Ramirez. Rudy, in addition to being a sort of duke of theatre here, is a Ph.D. student at UT-Austin, and he really does a lot to help connect the out-of-state academics with the local theatre in the wild. Rudy was my dramaturg for a development workshop of Stars and Barmen at UT, and we really fell in love with each other's work. He immediately started working on getting Stars and Barmen at the Vortex, and he had me send some of my other work to Shannon Grounds at Shrewd. Shannon was originally just going to do a reading and look at producing Glassheart next year, but a lot of circumstances came together, and she ended up doing it this fall.
AC: What different sides of you as a writer will people see in Glassheart and Stars and Barmen?
RH: Well, they're both funny and magical and a bit romantic and at times a bit sad, but Stars and Barmen is much dirtier and sexier. Glassheart is about broken, scared people trying to be human, and Stars and Barmen is about restless people trying to find transcendence and get laid.
AC: Regarding Glassheart: What made you want to bring those Beauty and the Beast characters into our reality?
RH: It's just one of those things that gets into your head and stays there, worrying you until it turns into a play. I was very taken with the idea of the Beast's reduced circumstances, and of making the magical servant the main character, and I tend to write a lot of plays that imply there's a lot more to the world than what most people notice.
AC: What should fans of the Disney musical know not to expect from your variation on the story?
RH: A totally happy ending. Sorry!
AC: Are there any curses you need lifted from your life?
RH: Yes! Do you know any witches?
Glassheart runs Aug. 30-Sept. 14, Thursday-Saturday & Wednesday, Sept. 11, 8pm, Sunday Sept 1 & 8, 6pm at Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd. For more information, visit www.salvagevanguard.org.