Mark Pickell, the artistic director of Capital T Theatre company, has long been a fan of Chicago-based playwright Mickle Maher, so he was eager to produce Maher’s new work here in Austin.
“He wrote this new one – it just premiered in Chicago this summer – and he sent it [to me], and it was brilliant,” Pickell says.
That “new one” is the dark comedy It Is Magic, which, like many of Maher’s works, combines elements and styles in an unexpected way to create a sort of heightened reality onstage.
“Mickle always mashes all these worlds together,” Pickell says. “I’d say it’s about the curse of the audition, Macbeth, and The Three Little Pigs. But it’s mostly about a community theater auditon for a new adult adaptation of The Three Little Pigs that a playwright has written, and she’s trying to cast her wolf.”
The playwright-within-a-play is played by Katherine Catmull; as a veteran writer, performer, and actor in Austin’s theater scene, she immediately identified with her character in It Is Magic.
“And she works for a guy named Ken, just like I do at Hyde Park Theatre,” Catmull says with a laugh. “My husband’s name is Ken [Webster] and he runs that theater.”
Though she’s careful to avoid any spoilers for the play, she mentions that “part of the energy is some middle aged women accessing their power … in a redacted-for-spoiler way. But it’s a very exciting way, I would say. It’s hugely cathartic.”
John Christopher, who plays Tim, the actor trapped in the seemingly endless audition process within It Is Magic, could also easily identify with his character in the play.
“When Mark sent me the script, I read it and I immediately sent him an email threatening him that if he didn’t cast me in this part, we were gonna have problems,” Christopher jokes. One key difference between the real-life Christopher and his on-stage counterpart is that Christopher’s’ audition process was much easier and more straightforward.
“I feel like I got everybody that I wanted in the show,” Pickell says. “I sought out each of these actors. It seems to have all come together really well as far as getting kind of the team assembled to knock this out.”