Dallas — The Boxer returns for a tenth anniversary production at this year’s Festival of Independent Theatres. In 2007, Matt Lyle’s silent film-inspired play was a hit and received multiple productions elsewhere in places like Chicago and the New York Fringe Festival. Since then, Bootstraps Comedy Theater produced a radio show and monthly comedy show in Chicago for three years and this production marks their return to Dallas. TheaterJones caught up with playwright/director Lyle to get his thoughts on the return of The Boxer.
TheaterJones: Why did you decide to get the band back together and produce The Boxer again at The Festival of Independent Theatres?
Matt Lyle: We did the show at FIT in 2007 and then DCT opened their studio space to us so two months later. So we ran it again for about five weeks. In 2009, we took it with almost the same cast and crew to the NYC Fringe. This crew has been on again off again with this show quite a bit.
Kim, my wife, and Jeff Swearingen had the idea to remount it last summer. They were looking ahead and said, “Can you believe it’s going to be 10 years?” They pitched it to me and I said, “I don’t know.” My wife and I have a four-year-old daughter. And I was worried about rehearsing at the same time—I’ll be directing and my wife will be acting in it. I wondered how that would work logistically. We decided to throw caution to the wind and it’s worked out. If we could get everyone back together, we would do it.
It was one of those golden times in your career. Not only did it turn out well, but it was so much fun for them to perform and for us to rehearse. We made lifelong friends doing that show. It seems poetic to come back around after ten years.
What was the creative process initially?
I didn’t know going in exactly how it would work the first time, but it fell together pretty easily. I wrote about 17 pages worth of stage directions that read more like a scenario. And then in rehearsal for the first week, we came up with bits and blocking. We came up with ways to tell the story beyond what I wrote down. And then we added B. Wolf and Johnny Sequenzia to do the music, which is a pretty spectacular feat. Once we added them, that’s when everything really fell into place.
I go on “kicks” of genres, and I had discovered silent film about a year before. I had watched about 30 of these movies until my wife got tired of it. I also like silent film because it also relates to cartoons—Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny—which was also my first love. I had been through kicks of the Marx brothers and others before, but I had not been down all those roads.
Have you made many changes to the ten-year-old script as you’ve been in rehearsals?
We didn’t do a photocopy of the old one exactly. But we did reference the old one, by watching videos of the previous one production. Everything that wasn’t broke, we didn’t attempt to fix.
There’s been plenty of creativity along the process. I’ve also shaved about five minutes off of it. We lost bits that didn’t work so well and replaced some moments with better stuff. All that I perceived to be the “good stuff” in the original is still there.
What are you working on beyond this production of The Boxer?
Theatre Three is producing a play I wrote this last year called Cedar Springs or Big Scary Animals. Jeff Schmidt is directing that in [Theatre Three’s] Theatre Too space. So I have about a week’s vacation after The Boxer closes and jump right in to rehearsals for that. I also wrote a sketch show for the Dallas Comedy House that ran through June, and I’ll probably do something with them around the holidays.
» The Boxer opens FIT at 8 p.m. Friday, July 14, in a performance block with Sherry Jo Ward's Stiff from Risk Theater Initiative.
The Boxer is performed in the following blocks:
- 8 p.m. Friday, July 14
- 5 p.m. Saturday, July 15
- 5 p.m. Sunday, July 16
- 8 p.m. Thursday, July 20
- 8 p.m. Friday, July 28
- 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3
See more info about the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres here.