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Poor Herman

a new play by Elizabeth Doss

Join us at the Off Center May 12-28, 2016

as 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. What is known about Melville in those years depicts a man suffering from mania and the curse of outrageous ambition. While hindsight now celebrates his achievements, paper chairs will investigate what it cost him to make history.

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. The ensemble features five women, who play every character in Melville’s life including Melville himself and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Additionally, composer Henna Chou will perform a live original score. By rendering this American icon through the female form, we see the overtly masculine Melville in a whole new light.

Written by a direct descendant of Melville 125 years after his death, Poor Herman invites a dialogue between America’s past and present. What connects one generation to the next? What lingers in the bloodline? What’s bred in the bone?

paper chairs generates this new work from the ground up, exploring Melville’s legacy through the singular possibilities of live performance. Melville himself loathed “well-made” works of literature, so paper chairs will embrace a Melvillian aesthetic by wildly interpreting “the facts” and adapting his “worst” book for the stage.


at The Off Center
2211-A Hidalgo St. Austin, TX 78702
May 12-28, 2016:  Thurs, Fri, & Sat
Performances at 8pm (Doors open at 7:30pm.)
$15-$25 Sliding Scale General Admission. $10 Thursdays!

Also, Please Join Us for a Free Post-Show Talk-Back on Saturday May 21st:
a casual conversation about the experimental nature of investigating history and making stories theatrical, hosted by Poor Herman playwright Elizabeth Doss, with UT Professor & Senior Associate Chair Dr. Martin Kevorkian.

Get Tickets Here!
Follow our Facebook Event!
Info: info@paperchairs.com Or call: 512-686-6621

Written by: Elizabeth Doss
Co-Directors: Elizabeth Doss and Lisa Laratta
Dramaturg: Diana Lynn Small
Performers: Courtney Hopkin, Alexis Scott, Diana Lynn Small, Megan Tabaque, and Rama Tchuente
Composer: Henna Chou
Costume Design: E.L. Hone
Lighting Design: Kate Ducey
Set Design: Lisa Laratta
Stage Manager: Courtney Cales
Co-Producers: Elizabeth Doss, Lisa Laratta, and Spring Karlo

Can’t catch a performance but still want to support the production?
To make a Tax-Deductible Donation, please give through our fiscal sponsor
the Austin Creative Alliance


Developed with support from the ScriptWorks Seed Support Fund. Find more information about ScriptWorks at www.scriptworks.org

This production has been generously funded by The Creative Fund’s Q Rental Subsidy Grant program. The Creative Fund is a funding mechanism that provides much-needed support to local performing artists enabling them to further their creative endeavors.