In Fiction, or Wild Stories, local playwright Sasha Travis deals with difficult subject matter.
The main character, Laura, is dealing with mental illness and the play tells of her life experiences. Travis doesn’t sensationalize, but instead tells a modern horror story that is filled with moments that range from humorous to tragic.
“It’s about a girl who has wild hallucinations,” Travis says. “It’s the story of her struggle to connect her two worlds, to connect the two halves of her life. She makes the decision not to be sick for the rest of her life.”
The play has been under construction for some time. “I started writing it in 1999 as a one-woman show,” Travis says. “It’s been through many, many incarnations. Now, seven people play 20 some-odd roles.”
The idea for the play came from Travis’ own life experiences. “I lost some very, very good friends to chemical imbalances and mental instability,” she says.
In dealing with her emotions about her friends’ illnesses, Travis knew she had to understand why they happened. “I realized I had to understand why so many people are affected by chemical imbalances,” she says.
Travis began doing extensive research, which included talking to doctors. “The vast number of people in America are affected by chemical depression and don’t know it,” she says.
“It affects everyone at one time or another,” Travis says. “Everyone has the blues, but some people have more sad days than good days.
“I’ve become obsessed with knowing why some people are able to pull themselves out of it,” she says. “I really wanted to explain all the things that happen when someone suffers a chemical imbalance.”
In the production, Laura is portrayed by Travis. Her illness is never clearly defined, but Travis calls it “a hyperdramatic chemical imbalance” and refuses to spare her audience any of the anguish her character suffers.
The cast and crew includes members of the local community, the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Hinesville community. “We had a lot of people show up at the auditions,” Travis says. “At the first reading, I could tell by the looks on their faces that they wondered what they had gotten themselves into. I love watching their faces for that moment when they actually ‘get’ it.”
The play runs a little under an hour, which is intentional. “I wanted to keep it short because there is a lot of visual and sensory bombardment,” Travis says. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a play before.”
Travis has incorporated the play into her studies at SCAD by participating in the Senior Projects Class taught by Carla Knudsen. “To graduate, you have to do a senior show, and this is mine,” she says.
Knudsen has guided her through the process, Travis says, as have her fellow classmates. “We read each others’ scripts,” Travis says. “It’s been a very supportive class.”
But Travis’ senior show is different from most others. “It is not being done on SCAD property,” she says.
Instead, it will be presented at The Ark Theatre, which Travis co-founded with Ryan McCurdy. Many of the theater company’s regulars are helping out with the production.
“I’m so lucky to have the most wonderful people right here in this building,” Travis says. “They’re here at all hours of the night. Sometimes, I’ll come in at 2 a.m. and three to four people will be here working.”
Travis particularly gives credit to Danica Leigh and Andrew Arrasmith for helping her stage the play. She also praises the play’s director, McCurdy, who happens to be her husband.
“Being a playwright, there comes a day when you simply have to hand it over,” Travis says. “It’s been interesting and fun to see him really bring it to life.
“Ryan has given the play breadth and movement,” she says. “And I’m not just saying that because he’s my husband.”
McCurdy says Travis’ subjects aren’t always pleasant. “She doesn’t for a second cover up what she’s talking about,” he says. “This has been a very organic show for me.
“My goal has been to keep the show moving as fast as possible,” McCurdy says. “Once the audience gets involved in Laura’s story, they want it to come to a resolution and for everything to come out okay.”
Because of strong language and frightening images, the play is open only to ages 16 and above. “This is the most adult play we’ve ever done,” McCurdy says. “Something about the immediacy of theater makes parents feel their children are more exposed than when the story is on film.”
The Savannah Actor’s Theatre will present a world premiere of Fiction, or Wild Stories for three weekends on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays beginning Feb. 8. The play will close Feb. 24. All performances are at 8 p.m. at The Ark Theatre, 703D. Louisville Rd., in the old Seaboard Freight Station.
Seating is limited and reservations are encouraged. Tickets are $10 each and can be reserved by calling 232-6080. For more information, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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