The West. The 1920s. Mabel’s had a hard few weeks. A dynamite accident at a gold mine has left her wealthy but orphaned, and she’s shipped off to a calculating aunt whose nephew is charged with seducing her to control Mabel’s fortune. This hapless courtship reveals a shared love of silent movies and a plan for greater things. A story of mishaps and moxie, the romance of Hollywood and ultimately a Hollywood-caliber romance. A world-premiere slapstick comedy from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Crimes of the Heart.
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Physical comedy brilliance.
Decidedly and unreservedly silly.
Studio is premiering Beth Henley’s latest play, Laugh. She took some time out of the beginning of rehearsals to talk with Literary Director Adrien-Alice Hansel about her inspiration, the joys and perils of writing slapstick (“the audience can always refuse your invitation to laugh”), and the kind of physical and emotional stamina all this comedy requires of its performers.Read More
In Laugh, Mabel and Roscoe share a formidable love of silent films. The relationship between U.S. theatre and film is distinct. Learn more about how silent film infiltrated the popular live entertainment acts (vaudeville) of the day and how silent film rose to prominence over its theatrical forerunner.Read More
Laugh actors Helen Cespedes and Creed Garnick sat down with Assistant Director Nathan Norcross to discuss the physical demands of the slapstick world premiere comedy and reflect on what they’ve learned in their first few weeks of pratfalls, mud fights, and disguises.Read More
The world of Laugh is one of spontaneity, eccentricity, and lunacy, but what are its realities and politics? Learn about the origin and inner workings of the corporate machines that made up Hollywood’s studio system of the 1920s, which set the terms for the film industry Beth Henley’s characters end up facing.Read More
“I wanted to laugh,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley about the genesis of her latest play. She’d been working on The Jacksonian, a very dark comedy set in Civil Rights-era Mississippi, and decided she could do with a change of pace.Read More
Beth Henley, one of the most acclaimed Southern writers living today, was born in 1952 in Jackson, Mississippi, the daughter of an attorney and an actress. Her hometown presented Henley with unsolvable contradictions; it was a hub of Southern hospitality, while it simultaneously promoted racism and violence. “I was around when things were about to change, but all this violence was going on in reaction to the change,” Henley recalls. Finding her environment often perplexing, Henley was struck by an African-American sense of humor that to her stems from the South’s tumultuous history. “I think there’s something interesting about the notion that the South was defeated, and in the face of defeat, humor is often the best defense for humiliation.” In 1970, she left Jackson to attend Southern Methodist University, where she wrote her first play, the one-act Am I Blue.
Movement Consultant Elena Day has an essential role in developing the characters, world, and tone of Laugh. Literary Intern Jen Gushue sat down with Elena to hear her insights on physical comedy, 1920s slapstick, and her favorite parts of the job.Read More
Artistic Director David Muse started the First Rehearsal presentation by recounting his first interaction with the play. “Sometimes a play arrives on your desk, and you read it, and you feel like it’s all worked out, and you can picture the production really clearly in your head…and then sometimes you read a play like Laugh. It amazes you, it fascinates you, and it makes you laugh, and yet you have no idea what a production of that play is going to look like.”Read More