Arts Fort Worth’s Original Works Series has brought emerging playwright Jeff Irvin’s production, “The Texas Book of Beasts,” to life. Irvin, a civil engineer from Austin, initially submitted his script without any expectation of being selected for a full-stage production. The play features a cast of eight and is composed of approximately 30 scenes, with each depicting a separate fable. The production is running at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre until March 26.
Despite the play’s dense subject matter, “The Texas Book of Beasts” is anything but dry. The story follows a proposed housing development, as it makes its way through the cogs of city government, from the perspectives of several characters. These include a college student working to protect an endangered toad habitat while pursuing her crush, a developer making her pitch at public meetings, and city clerks sifting through regulations and paperwork.
Irvin said that he wrote the script without a single stage direction, but granted several opportunities for audience participation, including sing-a-longs and encouragement to move and cheer. The production itself elicited a fantastic response from the playwright, citing the cast and crew for taking his idea and making their own creative choreography. One scene included a dance depicting a raindrop, while another scene showed minnows.
In one particular scene where a city clerk is defending the permitting process, actress Amanda Reyes performed it with exceptional energy and passion. Irvin praised her for making the scene coherent and impacting the audience. Jason Leyva, the Production Manager at Arts Fort Worth, shared that the Original Works Series was born out of the need to engage more people in the art community who typically do not attend art events. The program allowed anyone to submit their play, and this year, the series had 88 entries from across the globe.
With help from local theatre groups, a subset of plays was selected for live readings, and this year “The Texas Book of Beasts” was chosen for a full-stage production. Irvin has worked with other organizations in Austin to hold informal readings of his scripts and hone his craft. “The staging of his first full-length play is a new and incredible experience,” he shared.
“The Texas Book of Beasts” is a great example of Arts Fort Worth’s mission to platform emerging playwrights. The organization’s Original Works Series provides a platform for new storytellers and allows diverse stories to emerge. Irvin expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to work with Arts Fort Worth and praised them for their incredible support. The event’s success represents a growing hunger for new great stories and the necessity to bring them to the stage in front of audiences.