Theatre Alumni Perform Original Work at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Two recent alumni from the Meadows’ Division of Theatre have been selected to perform an original work at the prestigious international arts showcase, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Recent theatre graduates Mace Cowart (B.F.A. ’23) and Bailey Hacker (B.F.A. ’23) will be hopping across the pond next month to stage their show LINO at the notorious Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Fringe, which will take place from August 4-28, is one of the world's largest performing arts festivals and host to hundreds of shows and performances each year.
The show, written and performed by Cowart and produced and directed by Hacker, was originally conceived in 2022 while Cowart was studying in Tel Aviv, Israel as part of their Engaged Learning Fellowship research on the Gaga Movement Language as a tool for actors. Upon observing that Gaga connects actors to physical identity by embracing conflict, Cowart began writing a script in lieu of a traditional research paper. This script became LINO: a one-person, movement-heavy show about the love, hurt and sacrifice demanded from us when seeking our true identity.
Once the script was finalized and Hacker had signed on as the producer, production was underway and the first run of the show was eventually staged in the basement of SMU’s Owen Arts Center for a two-night run.
“Bailey and I both studied under a wide umbrella of theatre while at Meadows and LINO has really tested the value of our degree,” says Cowart. “You can direct, but can you produce and stage manage? You can act, but can you handle PR and design sound?”
Recent alumni and artists behind "LINO," Mace Cowart (left) and Bailey Hacker.
With only Cowart and Hacker at the helm, each of them had to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities for all aspects of the show. From rehearsing and marketing the show to staging and navigating technical difficulties, the process was not without its share of challenges; the biggest of which happened on opening night when the speakers went out and left a sound-heavy production with no means of amplifying the necessary recordings. But with some quick thinking and technical adaptations, they were able to continue with the show and give the audience a spectacular performance. It is this flexibility and perseverance which no doubt helped land them a spot at The Fringe.
“It is a huge triumph for Mace and Bailey to be accepted into the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I have no doubt that this is the first step on the path to exciting careers for both of them,” says Kara-Lynn Vaeni, assistant professor of theatre. “They really utilized every resource SMU could offer them to experiment with and create art that redefines what theatre can do and be.”
Photo by current SMU Meadows student, Jenna Davis.
With influences drawn from playwright Jen Silverman, musician Jack White, the Batsheva Dance Company, and even Netflix shows Black Mirror and Feel Good, at its base LINO is about an experimental trial that effects people's memories in hopes to improve their quality of life. And while not entirely autobiographical, Cowart pulled heavily from their personal life experiences when writing the show. During their time at SMU, they were coming to terms with some self-described “life changing parts” of their gender identity and found it difficult to converse with people on the subject here in Texas.
“As an artist, I'm interested in creating spaces where people who don't typically attend theatre feel welcomed,” explains Cowart of the driving force behind their show. “I want those spaces to do more than provide community, escapism and comfort.”
The festival maintains a similar ethos: The Fringe is for everyone. It is this shared philosophy that makes the festival a perfect place to stage the first run of LINO outside of SMU. The show will run from August 4-19 at the Greenside at Infirmary Street, and you can learn more about the show here.
Poster and photo by SMU alum Ash Thye.