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past productions

Poor Herman

Written by: Elizabeth Doss
Co-directors: Elizabeth Doss and Lisa Laratta
Dramaturg: Diana Lynn Small
Composer: Henna Chou
Costume Design: E.L. Hone
Lighting Design: Kate Ducey
Set Design: Lisa Laratta
Stage Manager: Courtney Cales
Technical Director: Mason Baker
Master Electrician: Eda Rodriguez
Follow Spot Operator: Vince Tomasino
Co-Producers: Elizabeth Doss, Lisa Laratta, and Spring Karlo

Herman Melville’s great-great-great granddaughter, Austin playwright Elizabeth Doss, uses the author as a subject to speculate on the line between utter genius and epic failure in us all. Poor Herman unearths the life of Herman Melville, who arguably wrote America’s best and worst novels back to back in the 1850 and 1851.  The production considers what compelled Melville, struggling to salvage his declining reputation while trying to feed a growing family, to write a virtually unreadable book, Pierre or the Ambiguities, in the aftermath of Moby Dick’s initial failure with critics and readers. The play gives voice to the unsung people in his life, chiefly his mother, wife, sisters, and daughters who each contributed to his fame and flourishing, and endured his decline and demise. While hindsight now celebrates his achievements, paper chairs will investigate what it cost him to make history.

Performed in May of 2016 at The Off Center, featuring: Courtney Hopkin, Alexis Scott, Diana Lynn Small, Megan Tabaque, and Rama Tchuente.

art/model show: subject

directed by Kelli Bland and Meghan Morongova
stage managed by Sadie Langenkamp
set design by Steven Shirey
media design by Eric Graham
video by Eric Graham, David Soto, Katie Nelson and Jessica Nichelle Deaver
original composition by Chris Owen
media programming by Eliot Haynes
technical direction by Cameron Allen
resident artist: Chris Chappell
production managed by Dani Pruitt
produced by Spring Karlo

The second installation in our performance series exploring the personal stories, cultural perceptions and creative queries surrounding art modeling and live figurative drawing sessions.

This multi-media production, devised by performers who model in Austin’s visual arts community, layers performance, recorded video interviews of local artists and models, and live figure drawing. By performing this documentary theatre experience in an intimate gallery space, we bring the audience even closer to the exchange between the artist and model and their exercise in expression, perspective and time.

Performed in the winter of 2016 at Art.Science.Gallery., featuring: Jen Brown, Michelle Keffer, Annie McCall, Brittany Anne Robertson, David G. Robinson.

murder ballad murder mystery - fall 2015

script and book by Elizabeth Doss
original score by Mark Stewart
directed by Natalie George and Keri Boyd
design by Lisa Laratta
costume design by Hope Bennett

For three nights only, our legendary outlaws were resurrected in east Austin for a lightning round of existential haunting. Local artist Ryan McKerley’s backyard studio was transformed into a ghost town where demons could wreck havoc ‘til no one was left standing.

This backwoods musical, written by local playwright and paper chair company member Elizabeth Doss, features live music, dance numbers, bawdy bad guys, and a lone sheriff aiming to catch the legendary criminals in their tracks. Part slapstick exorcism and part ramshackle hoedown, this play investigates the many ways and whys we carry out a death sentence. It’s “overwhelmingly entertaining… [with] many quirky, oddball moments that make the show great.” (Broadway World fall 2013 review.)

Performed in the fall of 2015 at Ryan McKerley’s backyard studio, featuring: Noel Gaulin as Stagger Lee, Kelli Bland as the Sheriff, April Perez Moore as Felicity, Laura Freeman as Tom’s Wife, Elizabeth Doss as Bea, Mark Stewart as Tom, Rachel Dendy as Sadie/The Harp, and introducing Patrick Shaw as Jay. Photography by Kenneth B. Gall.

mast

text by Elizabeth Doss
direction by Diana Lynn Small
scenic design by Lisa Laratta
lighting design by Natalie George
costume design by Mercedes O’Bannion
music by Mark Stewart
co-producers: Rachel Dendy and Spring Karlo

A new play by paper chairs co-founder and local playwright Elizabeth Doss that explores a nuclear family born of World War II as it blows apart over the globe. On an Air Force base outside Abilene, TX, Anne, a rancher’s daughter, and Walter, a globe-trotting journalist, conceive a child in the heat of wartime frenzy. The two recklessly elope to the Trujillo-oppressed Dominican Republic and face the edges and ends of themselves. Based on the legacy from Doss’s own mid-century Texan relatives, MAST is a photograph that spans the decades of Anne and Walter’s estranged lives, un-posed, only half-exposed and lost at sea.

Performed at Salvage Vanguard Theater in the summer of 2015, featuring: Katie Bender, Jesse Bertron, Noel Gaulin, Tiffany Nicely-Williams & Sean Moran. Photography by Erica Nix and Roxanne Mitchell.

murder ballad murder mystery - summer 2014 tour

script and book by Elizabeth Doss
original score by Mark Stewart
directed by Elizabeth Doss and Lisa Laratta
design by Lisa Laratta
costume design by Hope Bennett

Murder Ballad Murder Mystery’s legendary outlaws and their dastardly black hearts set out on the prowl again! paper chairs hit the road for a central Texas tour to San Antonio, Ft. Worth, and Strawn, with a stellar ensemble of returning and new cast members! After incredible success the previous fall with our tour to the New Orleans Fringe Festival and the Lost Horse Saloon in Marfa, TX, and our sold out performances across Austin, this show was ready for another round of existential haunting!

This backwoods musical, written by local playwright and paper chair company member Elizabeth Doss, features live music, dance numbers, and bawdy bad guys. It’s “overwhelmingly entertaining… [with] many quirky, oddball moments that make the show great.” (Broadway World fall 2013 review.)

Performed in the summer of 2014 at Cheer Up Charlie’s and The Longbranch Inn (Austin, TX), as well as tours to The Esquire (San Antonio, TX), The Grotto (Fort Worth, TX), and the Historic Zimm’s Building (Strawn, TX), featuring: Noel Gaulin as Stagger Lee, Kelli Bland as the Sheriff, April Perez Moore as Felicity, Laura Freeman as Tom’s Wife, Elizabeth Doss as Bea, Mark Stewart as Tom, and introducing David Higgins as Jay and Rachel Dendy as Sadie/The Harp. Photography by Ryan Martin.

the suicide

written by Nicolai Erdman
directed by Elizabeth Doss and Lisa Laratta
scenic design by Lisa Laratta
lighting design by Natalie George and Jen Rogers
costume design by Ashley Zeh
music by Laura Freeman
technical directors: Mason Baker and Simon Ghezzi
stage managed by Samantha Accettuli
producer: Spring Karlo
dramaturg: Mark Smith
props: Leilah Stewart
production assistant: Kalli Angel
scenic assistant: Kay McGuire

The Suicide follows an unemployed and dejected Semyon, living off his wife’s meager income, without penny or purpose to his name. After Semyon fails at his final hope of restoring meaning to his life (learning to play the tuba), Semyon believes himself better off dead. When his neighbour leaks news of his impending suicide to various societal factions, a myriad of strange visitors bombard Semyon’s apartment, demanding that he take his life for their cause. Thus ensues a sublimely ridiculous last supper and a funeral that illuminates the individual’s dogged desire to live even as society usurps the human spirit.

Originally written in 1928 for the Meyerhold Theatre in Moscow, Soviet authorities banned the play before it opened and banished Erdman to Siberia. Join paper chairs as we revamp this rare classic that employs absolute absurdity to earnestly consider what gives us the gumption to go on living.

Performed at the Off Center in the spring of 2014, featuring: Michael Joplin, Kelli Bland, Lana Dieterich, Nathan Brockett, Florinda Bryant, Frank Benge, Laura Freeman, Tony Salinas, Rachel Dendy, Steven Fay, Cassie Stewart, Jay Byrd, and Wesley Bryant. Photography by Chris Owen.

murder ballad murder mystery - fall 2013 tour

script and book by Elizabeth Doss
original score by Mark Stewart
directed by Keri Boyd
design by Lisa Laratta
costume design by Hope Bennett

Originally produced as a full length, two hour-long, site specific spectacle at the VORTEX Theatre in 2009, we work-shopped the piece in summer 2013 and condensed the play into an hour-long extravaganza ready for the open road. We premiered this new version with five Austin performances in three saloons across town and then hit trail to the New Orleans Fringe Festival and the Lost Horse Saloon in Marfa, Texas!

Murder Ballad Murder Mystery is a backwoods musical spun from the ghosts of legendary criminals caught on a killing spree. A lone sheriff aims to corral these demons as they sing, dance ‘til no one is left standing. Part existential whodunit, part slapstick haunting, and part ramshackle hoedown, this play investigates the many ways and whys we carry out a death sentence.

Performed in the fall of 2013 at The Buzz Mill, The Scoot Inn, and The Hole in the Wall (Austin, TX), as well as tours to the Hi Ho Lounge (New Orleans Fringe) and the Lost Horse Saloon (Marfa, TX), featuring: Mark Stewart, Laura Freeman, April Perez Moore, Kim Adams, Elizabeth Doss, Ben Ballinger, Noel Gaulin, and Kelli Bland. Photography by Tyson Heder.

art show / model show

devised by: Kelli Bland, Meghan Morongova, Michelle Keffer, Jorge Sermini and Jen Brown
directed by: Kelli Bland, Meghan Morongova
assistant director: Rachel Dendy
technical director/design By: Steven Shirey
video by: Eric Graham, Tag Simler, Eliot Haynes, Jorge Sermini

Most people can recognize the figure of the Venus de Milo, but we know little about the model behind the artwork. The same can be said of almost all figurative art models throughout history –and on both global and local levels. ART SHOW/ MODEL SHOW asks “who are these people?” and gives voice to the artist and model by investigating various folds of art modeling, including the physical experience, the contemporary and historical context, and the personal queries one can encounter.

ART SHOW/MODEL SHOW is a multi-media performance that has been in development over the past year, earning a listing as one of the “Six stops to make your 2012 East Austin Studio Tour extra special” from Austin Chronicle’s Robert Faires and running a workshop performance in FronteraFest’s Mi Casa es su Teatro. Devised by performers who work as models in Austin’s visual arts community, this collaborative performance is also an exploration in documentary theatre, with interviews of local artists and models as well as live drawing and painting. It will also include a gallery show, curated by the Austin artists who hire these models.

Performed at The Offshoot in the summer of 2013, features interviews and work of: Jennifer Balkan, Eve Larson, Dave Larson, Chris Chappell, David Ohlerking, Karen Maness, Matt Stavsrowsky, Pablo Taboada, George Anderson, Steve Dubov, and Heather Tolleson.

boom for real

written by Jason Tremblay
directed by Keri Boyd
scenic design by Lisa Laratta
costume design by Benjamin Taylor Ridgway
lighting design by Natalie George
choreography by Elizabeth Doss
original score by Mark Stewart

When the world’s greatest dancer is ghoulishly disfigured in a fire, she trades her heart to regain her physical beauty. But this shady deal robs her of her greatest gift: her ability to dance. So she sets a curse on the rest of the world, abolishing all dancing forever. Time passes and bleakness grows beneath a grey sky raining ash until a young spritely seamstress, Boom, unearths secrets to the past: Smoking rats in sewers, a seedy theatre with talking walls, and ghosts lurking in the mirror send Boom on a journey to lift the curse. What happens when the world is free to dance again? Just outside the spotlight, lies the dark side to ambition and the price we pay when following our hearts.

Performed at East Austin’s Museum of Human Achievement in the fall of 2012, featuring: Hugo Vargas-Zesati, Dallas Tate, Kelly Hasandras, Noel Gaulin, Jacob Trussell, Michelle Keffer, Letty Evans, Pilar Andujar and Ashley Rae Spillers as Boom. Featuring a live band including Christopher Johnson, KhattieQ, and Deb Norris. Photography by Erica Nix.

woodwork

written by Hank Schwemmer
co-directed by Kelli Bland, Keri Boyd, Elizabeth Doss, and Lisa Laratta
scenic design by Lisa Laratta
costume design by Georgia Young
lighting design by Natalie George

Long time favorite of Frontera Fest and Austin Script Works, local playwright Hank Schwemmer has devoted over fifteen years to crafting singular theatrical experiences that supersede most fringe theater’s penchant for experimentation. While Schwemmer may be a veritable master of self-producing, Paper Chairs unanimously agreed a fully realized production of his work was long overdue. Over several months, the company selected a handful of Schwemmer’s unique offerings that together create a surprising world filled with peculiar characters in far-out circumstances, but consistently hit staggeringly close to home. Suspense will build through dark revelations in The Oracle Game. Puzzles will fall like snowflakes in Ballet for Dog and Red-Haired Girl. Outlandish fantasies will entertain in My Dream Date with Laurie Anderson. In less than two hours, six plays by Hank Schwemmer promise a cohesive smattering of everything.

Breaking ground in a new performance space, Delta Millworks, on East Fifth across the street from Justine’s Brasserie. A carpenter by trade, Schemmer’s work will feel right at home in the evocatively vast and shadowy woodshop.

Performed at Delta Millworks in the winter of 2012, featuring: Sonnet Blanton, Zac Crofford, Chase Crossno, Mark Stewart, Emily Tindall-Burke, Hugo Vargas-Zesati, and Noel Gaulin. Photography by Erica Nix.

hillcountry underbelly

written by Elizabeth Doss
music by Mark Stewart
co-directed by Dustin Wills
co-directed by Keri Boyd
scenic design by Lisa Laratta
costume design by Dustin Wills
projection design by Noel Gaulin
sound design by Robert Pierson
lighting design by Natalie George
stage managed by Amber Loftis
asst. stage managed by Spring Karlo
technical direction by Tyson Estes

Pa’s fall down a deathtrap rattles through the land like thunder. His ghost appears in limestone, prophesying a great flood will take the hillcountry by storm. His six surviving orphans must head to higher ground to elude their demise. Watch the pack aim to outrun and outsmart every obstacle on the outskirts in the fierce pursuit of life. How do you survive a flood when you’ve lost your roots?

Performed in the VORTEX Yard in the summer of 2011, featuring: Robert Pierson, Caroline Reck, Mark Stewart, Jenn Hartmann, Kelli Bland, Noel Gaulin, Emily Tindall, and Jacob Trussell. Photography by Derric Fore.

baal

produced by Paper Chairs
written by Bertolt Brecht
directed by Dustin Wills
assistant directed by Keri Boyd
scenic design by Lisa Laratta
costumes by Benjamin Taylor Ridgway
lighting by Natalie George
technical direction by Mason Baker and Dorian Robison
original music by Rob Greenfield and Andy Tindall

Bertolt Brecht’s first play, Baal, drags its audience deep into a body of youthful desires and complete moral abandon. Written in 1918, when Brecht was 20 years old – Baal unfolds in fragments; like a piecemeal of the nearly forgotten events of a drunken evening. It tells the story of our poet-musician and title character, Baal, fleeing the civilized world to live the extreme life somewhere in the forest finding plenty of people and pursuits to indulge his insatiable appetite for experience. The themes coursing through this text are especially pressing today: emerging adulthood, substance abuse, nature’s destruction, homosexuality, and exploration of the body.

Performed at Salvage Vanguard Theater in the fall of 2010. Photography by Derric Fore.

 

machinal

written by Sophie Treadwell
produced by paper chairs
directed by Dustin Wills
assistant directed by Keri Boyd
scenic design by Lisa Laratta
costumes by Kim H Ngo
lighting by Megan M Reilly
original music by Justin Sherburn
sound design by Jeff Jones
technical directed by Dorian Robison
stage managed by Michael Caldwell

Machinal is Sophie Treadwell’s Prohibition-era sensation that stunned audiences in the early 1930’s and largely disappeared from theatres until recent years. This expressionist masterpiece is based on the real-life trial and conviction of Ruth Snyder imaginatively restructured and retold by Treadwell in nine episodes of a woman’s everyday life. It is a cacophonic machine of a play that asks us as much about our perceived human boundaries today as it did eighty years ago.

Performed at Salvage Vanguard Theater in the summer of 2010, featuring: Kimberly Adams, Andrew Dolan, Elizabeth Doss, Michael Joplin, Kyle Lagunas, Gabriel Luna, Robert Pierson, Tom Truss, Jennifer Underwood and Chase Crossno as the Young Woman. Photography by Russell Thomas Clayton.