Past Passion

Austin Shakespeare revisits Tom Stoppard in Hades for The Invention of Love

(l-r) Erik Mathew and André Martin, with Philip Goodwin in the background
(l-r) Erik Mathew and André Martin, with Philip Goodwin in the background (Courtesy of Bret Brookshire)

Would you care to meet your younger self, the person you were at, say, half your current age? Would you want to talk about what you did or didn't do, what you read or didn't read, whom you should or should not have loved? Playwright Tom Stoppard may not, but he gives that rather Twilight Zone-ish opportunity to English poet A.E. Housman – he of A Shropshire Lad fame and one of the foremost classical scholars of the Victorian era – in order to explore Housman's intellectual development; the history, art, and mores of his time; and, perhaps most movingly, the love that Housman felt but did not express for a student he knew in his days at Oxford, Moses Jackson.

With the nimble inventiveness for which he's become known, Stoppard capers from the river Styx, where the aged Housman is preparing to be ferried to the afterlife by the underworld's favorite boatman, Charon, through his time at university, with an array of disputative dons arguing over Latinate tenses, to his encounter with Oscar Wilde, a figure whose flamboyance and openness about his feelings for men contrasted sharply with the repressed Housman's. The elder poet – is he truly dead or merely in a dream? – must face the choices he has made throughout his life and whether he can claim the path he traveled truly served him well. Austin Shakespeare, which enjoyed considerable success with its production of Stoppard's Arcadia in 2012, returns to the playwright for a second helping, and Artistic Director Ann Ciccolella uses the occasion to bring guest artist Philip Goodwin back to Austin. He played George to Fran Dorn's Martha in the production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? that Ciccolella staged at Zach Theatre in 2003. The "younger Housman" will be played by visiting Equity guest artist André Martin. Filling out the cast are Erik Mathew (as Moses Jackson), Nick Stevenson, Austin Shakespeare veteran actors Keith Paxton, Michael Miller, David Boss, Robert Stevens, Reginald Brown, Alison Stebbins, Brian Coughlin, and Chase Brewer.

The production also inaugurates a new initiative for the company. In tribute to a trio of notable activists who championed LGBT causes, Austin Shakespeare will launch the BCK Fund, honoring Bettie Naylor, Charles Gentry, and Karen Kuykendall, all of whom worked tirelessly for inclusivity on and off the stage. The fund will support theatrical productions with LGBT themes. A reception to raise funds for this project will take place Sunday, March 1, 1:45pm, in the AT&T Rooms at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside.

The Invention of Love runs Feb. 18-March 8 at the Rollins Studio Theatre, 701 W. Riverside. For more information, call 512/474-5664 or visit

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  

More Austin Shakespeare
Austin Shakespeare's <i>As You Like It</i>
Austin Shakespeare's As You Like It
An Austin-infused Arden is more poetic license than artistic alchemy

Bob Abelman, Nov. 29, 2019

Austin Shakespeare’s <i>Cat on a Hot Tin Roof</i>
Austin Shakespeare’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
This production is everything but sultry, which is the very thing the Tennessee Williams drama needs most

Bob Abelman, Nov. 23, 2018

More by Robert Faires
Tony Hinchcliffe's Stand-up Racism
Tony Hinchcliffe's Stand-up Racism
Kill Tony host spews slurs at fellow comic Peng Dang

May 13, 2021

Austin Opera Races Back Into Live Performance With <i>Tosca</i> at Circuit of the Americas
Austin Opera Races Back Into Live Performance With Tosca at Circuit of the Americas
The company brings grand opera to the Grand Prix with an outdoor staging of Puccini's powerhouse

April 30, 2021


Austin Shakespeare, A.E. Housman, Tom Stoppard, The Invention of Love, Ann Ciccolella, Philip Goodwin, Fran Dorn, Zach Theatre, BCK Fund, Bettie Naylor, Charles Gentry, Karen Kuykendall

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

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

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