The play is an original work written and directed by Chris Fontanes, who also formed the theatre company. Revealing its characters and story in a non-linear fashion, Fontanes described the play as one where the past and present intertwine seamlessly throughout. The players deliver a series of monologues, dialogues and interactions about everything from pregnancies to fierce breakups to accidents revealed to be suicide to feelings of abandonment and despair
There isn’t anything in the play that comes across as knowingly autobiographical, but the script was very much birthed from a place of personal struggle. Although Fontanes stressed that the writer who put those emotions onto the page “ceased to exist” once the script was finished, and said that he found it liberating to, in some ways, reveal his vulnerabilities on the page as such and that many good things have come of it.
I find it redeeming,” Fontanes said. “I could have realistically spent that time laying on the couch, watching TV, eating junk food and moping around. Which I do a lot of. But I also came up with this play, and if it hadn’t have been for that time, this play would have never been written and if this play had never been written, I wouldn’t have met the three actors I met in open casting, we wouldn’t be going to Tyler, you and I wouldn’t be talking. So a lot of good came out of that isolated incident, and I feel that it’s that cliché saying, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Fontanes said the themes present in the play still resonate, even if the emotionally difficult parts that inspired it have passed.
“But it is personal. There are lines in the play that pertain specifically to very moments in my life, and to hear the actors deliver them with the kind of emotion that I could never convey is just wonderful, in an occasionally bittersweet way.”
The production made its debut in Austin on Feb. 25, but in the most unexpected of venues: a wood-frame, two-story house. Instead of fixed lights, a curtain and a stage, Fontanes had his cast perform in the various rooms of the house. Naturally, such a performance style and set up would not be possible in the small, 50-seat theater at Potter Place. However, Fontanes was undeterred and decided to rework the production, distilling it to its essence.
“We just decided we’re going to take a completely different show. What we have that works is the acting. We don’t have the money to do big sets or costumes, or fancy lights, anything like that. So what we put all of our (effort) into is the acting … and acting can travel anywhere. We can do this show in the parking lot of a Walmart, if we needed to, and the acting would still be there,” he said.
“We’re just going to strip it down and raw and make it very intimate. We’re going to change the layout of the space. We’re going to put the cast right there amongst the audience, so they can hopefully have the same level of intimacy. There’s no set, no lights, no props, no light cues. There are only six actors in one pool of light in rehearsal blacks with the audience close enough to touch.”
“The Ivy House” will be performed at 7:30 tonight and Saturday. The theater is located on the ground floor of the Energy Center Building, 719 W. Front Street in Tyler. To purchase tickets, visit theivyhouse.eventbrite.com.