In 'PLANO,' Three Texas Sisters Come Unstuck In Time

Sep 12, 2019

“Paper chairs [is] always interested in making the pedestrian – the familiar – feel strange,” says paper chairs co-artistic director Elizabeth Doss. “And this play sort of delivers that in spades.”

The play, PLANO, is written by Texas-born-but-New-York-based playwright Will Abery. The work debuted. recently in New York, and paper chairs is excited to bring now bring the Dallas-set play to Austin for its Texas debut. This production is directed by Dustin Wills, a paper chairs co-founder who, like Arbery, is from Texas but now lives in New York. “Will Arbery is a friend of mine,” Wills says. “I encountered his writing about three years ago and directed a play of his last summer called Evanston Salt Costs Climbing. And there is something about his writing that is so strange and uncanny and surreal, but also light and funny and whimsical.”

Doss and Wills were both drawn to the way Arbery’s script plays with theatrical convention. “He plays with theatricality in a way that’s really surprising and subtle,” Wills says. “So he’s never hitting you over the head with anything. Well, sometimes he is, but in a good way.” 

“Paper chairs is always interested, I think, in plays that are design-forward and language-forward, that are trying to sort of disorient our audience a little bit,” says Doss, who in addition to being paper chairs co-artistic director is also acting in PLANO. “So that we can lean forward and pay attention to new things, different things.”

PLANO centers around three sisters, and takes place on the Dallas porch of one of them. That’s a pretty straight-forward setup, but the play’s decidedly non-linear. “They are existing in the past and the future and in the present moment at all time,” says Wills. “And so it feels like this forever porch – every location and every experience that they’re having is occurring in this exact moment.”

It all makes for a play that moves at a breakneck pace. “The play has very few stage directions,” Wills notes. “But the first stage direction isn’t until page eighteen, and it’s ‘first pause.’”

Doss says the pace makes acting in PLANO  feel more athletic than most performances. “If some plays are like playing golf, this is like playing basketball,” she says. “It’s just so fast. And that speed requires you to be present and alert and listening in a way that’s just really exciting.”

'PLANO' is onstage at the Ground Floor Theatre through September 28.