'I am madly in love with the play': UT Theatre and Dance's 'The Smartest Girl in the World'
“I am madly in love with the play,” says director Roxanne Schroeder-Arce about The Smartest Girl in the World. “I think [playwright] Miriam Gonzalez's work is extraordinary. She is an incredible artist and human being and her capacity for helping people really dig into humanity is so entrenched in this work. So I, I love this play.”
The Smartest Girl in the World, produced by UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance, centers around brother and sister Leo and Lizzy Martinez, children of immigrants who attempt to become the smartest kids in the world to win a local TV kids’ quiz show. For the past few months, the play has been touring local schools.
“We've been all over Central Texas, really, touring this piece. So we pack it all up into a U-Haul and we pack all of our students into vans and cars and we wake up really early and go set up in the school — in a cafeteria or a gym, or a theater if they have it,” says dramaturge Mateo Hernandez, who’s also the head of the education team for the play. “As we've been touring, [I] and the other folks in the education team have been able to chat with some of the young people after the show and ask them what their favorite characters are, what their favorite moments were. They love the spectacle in the play too, right? I mean, we're bringing a whole play into their cafeteria – that's wild!”
“They love it!” Schroeder-Arce says. “They're all in it. There's live music and they're clapping. In fact, sometimes we can't get them to stop.”
Schroeder-Arce says the play’s message of love and support is important for everyone to hear. “I feel that that question of how do we support someone else's dreams is really critical,” she says. “And then also… without offering any spoilers, it's really essential to the play, this idea of supporting someone else and doing that by helping them think about how they can move through the world and solve their own challenges.”
After a couple months performing just for schoolkids, The Smartest Girl in the World will soon move to UT’s Oscar G. Brockett Theatre; Schroeder-Arce hopes the play will be attended by full families. “We're really excited about families coming and seeing this play together,” she says. “We're excited about the questions that the play asks families to talk about together. And by families, we mean that really broadly – if you know a young person, we want all of the young people there with people who want to talk to them about the themes in the play and learn from them.”