"It's about motherhood, it is about female sexuality and the veneration of women... particularly looking at how women are shaped and formed in patriarchal, hierarchal institutional environments, says Tryouts director Diana Lynn Small, who goes on to say that "it's totally unconventional and it breaks almost all the rules. And in many ways it's more of like a play poem... we looked at it like it's a theatrical painting." Then she adds, "It's so wild and bonkers."
So it's safe say that there's a lot going on in Tryouts, which is written by Boston-based playwright Adara Meyers and is having its world premiere this month thanks to Austin's Salvage Vanguard Theater. It's a play that defies easy explanation; it's by turns satirical, comedic, and tragicomic, it's inspired in part by Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and by Sigmund Freud's dubious psychoanalysis of that painting, and it's addressing the question (in Small's words) "what is the impact that [the] dominant culture of misogyny is having on teenage women as they're growing up and then how do they carry that baggage as adult women, particularly as mothers?"
Luxy Banner, who's playing one of the teenage women in the show, says she identified more deeply with the young character the more she got to know her. "As we all came together as a cast to kind of uncover this play in general, there was so much that I realized about myself that was similar," she says. "Day by day, it was like bits and pieces were uncovered that were like, 'Oh my God, yeah, of course I felt like that!'"
Paige Tautz, who is not a mother herself but is playing one in Tryouts, has drawn a bit from her own mother for inspiration. "There is a true, genuine hunger of this mother's love that can be even claustrophobic at times, even though it is coming from this truest, deepest, most generous place," she says.
For Small, tackling a difficult new work is exactly what Salvage Vanguard is meant to be doing. "I like doing new work and I like doing experimental work that I don't totally understand," she says. "And then the development process is a lot like a treasure hunt. So a lot of the pleasure is discovering what emerges."