NACOGDOCHES, Texas – A dark comedy about love, desperation and visibility opens the 2022-23 season for the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre and Dance when playwright Jen Silverman’s “The Moors” runs Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 in Kennedy Auditorium on the SFA campus.
“The Moors” is about two sisters and a dog who live out their lives on the bleak English moors, dreaming of love and power. The arrival of a hapless governess and a moor-hen set all three on a strange and dangerous path.
Described by New York Magazine as “a Brontë mashup swimming in whimsy,” “The Moors” is set in the same time period as “Jane Eyre” or “Wuthering Heights” and is a comedic take on those kinds of stories, according to Dr. Slade Billew, assistant professor of theatre and the play’s director.
“At the same time it is contemporary,” Billew said, adding there will be no British accents, and the play contains “a rock power ballad.”
The show follows two parallel plots. A young governess arrives at the home of two spinster sisters, and passion and intrigue unfolds. Simultaneously, the family dog, a Mastiff, meets a moor-hen on the moors, and they fall in love, but with tragic consequences, Billew explained.
“The show is great fun and, in addition to the power ballad, contains other songs,” he said. “It is hard to describe, because any description of the show makes it sound dark and depressing, but it is in fact quite funny.”
Billew selected “The Moors” for this year’s Mainstage Series for a couple of reasons. “I was looking for a small-cast comedy that would also explore theatrical form in interesting ways while engaging with contemporary social questions,” he said. With mature themes, the play explores “the darker sides of romantic and familial relationships and contains a fair amount of murder,” Billew said. “It explores themes related to queer relationships and feminism. Anyone who enjoys historical romance approached with a sense of humor will enjoy the show.”
In directing “The Moors,” Billew said “getting the tone right” will be a challenge, as will exploring how to engage with some of the sensitive material in the show in a way that is “honest, but also funny.”
“The characters are quite complex and keep a lot of emotion below the surface,” he said. “Exploring this tension will be challenging for the students.”
Blending humor with eerie storylines, the play also addresses human nature and social change, and Billew hopes audiences will view “The Moors” as an enriching theatre experience.
“First and foremost I hope they enjoy the ride,” he said. “Beyond that, I think the show encourages the audience to consider the way power dynamics play out in their own relationships, and I would hope it fosters some reflection on those dynamics.”
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2. General ticket prices are: adult, $15; senior (62+), $10; youth (high school and younger), $8; SFA faculty/staff, $8; non-SFA student, $8; and SFA student, $5. For ticketing information or to purchase tickets, call the Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS, or visit boxoffice.sfasu.edu.