FIT Festival Series, Part 1: Audacity Theatre Lab presents "Daylan Hillis in Space"
Updated: Oct 10
By Cristee Cook
For the first time in Dallas’ Festival of Independent Theatres' 22 years of operation, the FIT Festival will be virtual. Streaming on-demand October 8 – 31, this year’s program offers 6 performance companies in a variety of genres including dance, comedy, drama, and new work.
Dallas Art Beat was approached about a media partnership for the festival, and we were excited for the opportunity to highlight new, independent works in Dallas. We’ll be offering short, get-to-know-you featurettes with each company in the festival in a 6-part series throughout the month of October.
First up, here's a fun chat with Brad McEntire from Audacity Theatre Lab. Co-written by McEntire and Jeff Hernandez, Daylan Hillis in Space is about a security guard who feels underappreciated in his job at a top-secret government facility. When a normal, mundane shift is interrupted with strange intruders, Daylan Hillis gets a chance to prove what he’s really capable of. Directed by McEntire, this “digital theatre” piece features Jeff Swearingen.
Can you give us some background on your project for the FIT Festival?
We were approached by [FIT Festival Producer] David Meglino about the idea of a Virtual FIT. I suggested we'd be interested, but only if we could create a purpose-built project - essentially, online and recorded. He agreed, and we started brainstorming ideas. I came up with an idea involving a security guard with insecurity who is leaving webcam reports for his boss. The idea kind of grew from there. I brought in co-writer Jeff Hernandez and we fleshed out a script. The idea was to use the limitations of the webcam approach and see how far out we could push it. That idea finally became Daylan Hillis in Space.
What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?
This has been tricky. First, we had to acknowledge that we are, technically, no longer doing theatre. Without a live audience watching live actors onstage in real time in the same location, it is, by definition, no longer theatre. But if that is the case, what is it? It isn't necessarily film or video. It is not simply a recording of a stage performance (thank goodness). It was interesting to work in this new space, creating this weird little hybrid project. I mean, it kind of oozes through the cracks of any easy categorization. Then actor Jeff Swearingen came on board, and suddenly it was like getting the old band back together, which has been positive in this time of social distancing. We did a lot of catching up before we got down to work.
Why do you want to tell this story now?
The silver lining of the current situation is that it offers different opportunities, like FIT. During normal times we would be working onstage, with the usual hustle. Now, we have a chance to question the form and break out of old patterns. We have a chance to engage audiences in new ways, even if it is only temporary. If it wasn't for the hot mess that the world has become recently, I doubt this project or anything like it would have even been on the creative radar here at Audacity. In a way, we are creating art that speaks to the times we are living in.
I know watching "theatre" online is not for everyone. There will, however, be those that dig this sort of thing and will like our show. For those that watch and this show blows their hair back, I say thank you. And your hair looks better now anyway.
How are you keeping yourself sustained during this time of uncertainty?
As far as day to day living, I am an adjunct college teacher. I teach theatre and cinema classes. Everything has moved online and looks like it will stay that way until at least next summer. Working from home is a mixed bag of pros and cons. The teaching is not quite as fun, but the commute is better. Now that the weather has stopped being so oppressive, I have returned to my budding midlife crisis activity of hiking and camping. I try to get outdoors as much as I can. That is keeping me sane.
Audacity Theatre Lab’s Daylan Hillis in Space by Brad McEntire and Jeff Hernandez is available for streaming (on-demand) October 8-31, 2020 as part of the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres.
Purchase a two-show block for $12, or a festival pass with access to all shows for $30. Find the complete program listing, tickets, and more visit: festivalofindependenttheatres.org.
Get to know Audacity Theatre Lab at AudacityTheatreLab.com.