It has been noted time and time again that Houston, Texas has one of the most impressive theatre scenes in the nation. Comparable to New York, one of the aspects that makes Houston's theatre scene so notorious, is the amount of talented playwrights premiering their work at local venues. Coupled with a buzzing experimental theatre scene, Houston is constantly producing new and innovative theatre. Celebrating its fifth season, The Houston Fringe Festival, kicks off on August 30, 2012 and offers a smorgasbord of plays written by experimental veterans and newbies until its closing weekend September 15, 2012.
Jim Tommaney, Artistic Director for Houston's own Edge Theatre, will be debuting two short plays during the first three nights of Houston Fringe (August 30 – September 1) that are sure to be just as entertaining as they are thought provoking. Written and directed by Jim Tommaney, THE GALILEO PRIZEand BEST SERVED COLD, are two post 9/11 plays that examine military involvement in Afghanistan after the unforgettable attacks on September 11, 2001, as well the effect such an event had on civil rights.
THE GALILEO PRIZE is a short play that follows a scientist, Lorenzo Rodriguez, who serves as the commencement speaker at his daughter's graduation from Yale. Upon delivering an improvised and brutally honest speech, he is accosted and interrogated by two strangers who accuse him of delivering a subversive and unpatriotic message. Also a matter of concern, Rodriguez is accused of passing his subversive message on to the younger and more impressionable generation. THE GALILEO PRIZE boldly examines the tangled web between the freedom of speech, race, and the silencing of opinion in post 9/11 society.
BEST SERVED COLD is a short play centering around four army clerks who are working in Kabul, and are responsible for tracking Afghan detainees. During a workday conversation, four army clerks explore the malleability of Afghan civil rights regarding unlawful enemy combatants. They also discuss the U.S. departure from Afghanistan and reflect on the 16,000 British military officials and supporting personnel that once occupied Afghanistan, noting that during their withdrawal only one person made it out alive. Framed around the Pashtun adage, "Revenge is a dish best served cold", BEST SERVED COLD is a play that ponders the darker side of human nature and the universal hope of getting home safely.
Neither of these plays are Jim Tommaney's first forays into creative writing. He won the Yale Creative Writing Prize for a collection of his short stories when he was a senior at Yale's Scholar of the House program. He wrote 12 one-person shows, 2 of which were performed in Manhattan. He has also published 5 books of poetry and 3 books of aphorisms. He has also spent time as a conceptual artist. Regardless of his medium and role in the production of art, Jim Tommaney and his artistic endeavors have been well received and lauded, whether on display in Manhattan, Miami Beach, or Houston.
Moreover, both THE GALILEO PRIZE and BEST SERVED COLD are trekking into rather new territory. There are not many pieces of modern theatre that explore the emotional, psychological, and political ramifications of 9/11. Jim Tommaney knows that it is important for audiences to be exposed to these concerns for cathartic reasons. In creating these pieces, dialogues that have been closed will have the chance to be opened. Undoubtedly there is a need for pieces like this to exist, especially after almost 11 years.
Houston's Fifth FRINGE Festival is offering many chances to enjoy some great live theatre, but you may be remiss if miss out on Jim Tommaney's new plays. You only have three chances to see these works, so be sure to drop by Bohemeo's and see THE GALILEO PRIZE and BEST SERVED COLD performed at 7:00pm on August 30, 31, and September 1, 2012.
For more information about THE GALILEO PRIZE and BEST SERVED COLD, please visit http://www.houstonfringefestival.org/ or call (832) 426 – 4624.
Pictured: Headshot of Jim Tommaney. Photos courtesy of Jim Tommaney and EDGE Theatre.