'No political agendas': 'The Outsider' is a political farce that's not really about politics.
This October, Beyond August Productions, in collaboration with The Stage Austin, will present the local premiere of The Outsider, by Paul Slade Smith. Co-star and Beyond August president Jill Klopp Turner says the show is a political farce that’s not really about politics. “It’s similar to the show Veep on HBO,” she says. “The set is a political environment, but it has very little to do with actual politics. Ultimately, it’s a character-driven comedy where each character has their own intense agenda and the hilarity that ensues as they each try to painstakingly accomplish it, and all the roadblocks that they run into. And ultimately, the show is really heartfelt and delivers a universal, beautiful message at the end.”
We live in an era that seems perpetually focused on politics, but Turner says the timing of this production wasn’t intentional. “It was sort of accidental that we’re doing this political comedy right before an election,” she says. “But we decided, well, now’s as good a time as ever. And especially since the theme of the show does end up being so universally human. We thought, well, what a good time to put that message out into the world – before people go to the polls.”
The story of The Outsider unfolds on the day a lieutenant governor assumes the role of governor following a scandal; Turner plays Rachel Parsons, a reporter trying to uncover the truth behind the story and Patrick Wheeler plays Dave Riley, an in-over-his-head chief-of-staff trying to hold things together on this very stressful day. “[Dave] has no staff, I have no teammates, the governor has no team, we are sent into an empty office because everyone had to quit because of a scandal,” Wheeler says. “And, you know, hilarity ensues.”
Wheeler says that, while he doesn’t have a background in politics himself, he can easier identify with the put-upon Riley. “Yes, I know him very well, because he cares for the man he works for immensely,” Wheeler says. “And there’s times where he feels like his caretaker, and other times where the man he works for is also his mentor. And I feel like we’ve had relationships like that all the time.”
“I really tapped into Rachel’s inner dilemma,” Turner says of her Outsider character. “Because I have, actually, many times been kind of thrust into situations where I don’t know anyone and I have to figure everything out.”
Turner says the main appeal of The Outsider for Beyond August Productions was in the characters. “There are seven characters in the show and each character does represent a certain aspect of the everyman, which is most of us,” Turner says. “A certain way that they’re feeling, or a certain way they’ve been treated, or how they’re treating others. You really do find a human connection to each of the characters, which was the main thing that attracted us to the show.”
“What’s great about this show,” Wheeler says, “is that it’s less about politics… no specific references are made, we don’t talk about the different political races. No political agendas are ever brought up. But it is about politics a little bit in [the] sense [that] we kind of start to tell the audience who belongs in office and who doesn’t. It’s done very softly but it’s still beautiful and poignant and I think there’s a message. Between the laughs, there definitely is a message that I believe. And I’m proud of it.”