The Austin Chronicle

Sister of Shattering Glass

By Wayne Alan Brenner, February 8, 2017, 4:15pm, All Over Creation

Listen: Two girls are trapped in a great secret maze that links all the mirrors of the world. Deep in this surreal place, a being born from reflections and fractures threatens to devour the maze from within – including those two sisters and every bird on Earth.

That sounds like, what? Like some intriguing YA novel you might pick up at the library or a bookstore somewhere?

And so, okay, you’re gonna give it a little look-see, maybe read just the first paragraph or so, see what it’s like … but the thing turns out to be so well-written, so immediately gripping and vivid, that you take it home and spend hour after pleasurable hour thrilling in the arcane circuitry of its plot and characters and setting.

What an excellent thing to stumble upon!

But what if it wasn’t a book?

What if it was a small and glittering part of your life, among all the dull routines and vagaries of the workaday world, for five whole months?

What if the weird story unfolded exclusively through messages – mostly texts, but also images and sounds – sent directly to your phone by those two trapped girls?

Sister of Shattering Glass from Austin’s Physical Plant Theater, written by the acclaimed novelist Katherine Catmull and enhanced with images by Annie Gunn and sound design by Buzz Moran, is what we’re telling you about here – and it’s available now.

That is, the adventure begins on Feb. 17 and continues through July … but you have to sign up by Feb. 13, right here via Kickstarter.

Now, Physical Plant has produced such phone-based diversions before – the whimsical Dreams of Riley’s Friends, in collaboration with playwright Kirk Lynn, and that enjoyably unnerving Computer Simulation of the Ocean the company started off with a couple of years ago – but never something as ambitious and immersive as this.

And the evocative storytelling skill of Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird and The Radiant Road, provides the power of it?

“Kathy has deep instincts for pulling the audience forward from moment to moment, especially through unfamiliar terrain,” says Physical Plant’s Artistic Director Steve Moore. “She's a phenomenal writer – especially of sentences that capture a character's spirit, circumstances, and point of view – and that's really important when we limit ourselves to just a few texts each day, each of which can include no more than 160 characters. She’s also one of the hardest working writers I've ever met, a generous collaborator, and – just infinitely imaginative.”

And yet, that talent alone isn’t sufficient for this tale of what terrors lie behind a glass darkly? There’s … a bit more than just text?

“The elements that Annie and Buzz have created,” says Moore, “they don't just put you into the eerie world of the story, they provide aspects of it that aren’t possible to tell with only words. Also, we wanted to keep current with how text messaging is actually used – more and more, pictures and audio are aspects of what we send each other over the phone. Ignoring that trend would make the story feel out-of-step with its moment.”

Oh, hell yes.

And we reckon you won’t feel at all out-of-step with the moments of Sister of Shattering Glass, reader. We reckon you’ll be right there with us, on the edge of some metaphorical seat, waiting to know what happens next in that embattled maze behind the mirrors of this world.

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