Dallas — Local writer and performer Brigham Mosley presents a solo piece that connects Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara with his experiences living in New York City as a struggling artist. Be prepared for laughter, tears, and, of course, a large hoop skirt. It opens in the 10:30 p.m. slot on Thursday in the third annual Dallas Solo Fest.
What is Scarlett O’Hara and the War on Tara about, is this a brand new piece?
I wrote it my last year in New York when I was desperately poor. I had maxed out my credit cards, and I felt like I could never financially leave the city. I felt very stuck. At the same time I was on the trajectory and making the connections to have a career on this downtown off-off-off-off Broadway scene. There was this awful conflict in me, that this is such an exciting time for me as an artist, but I can’t financially live this life any more. This isn’t sustainable for me. And then on top of that, the ethics of what it is to be an artist, and especially as a solo performer. The self interest in it, like what am I doing? Am I doing any good in this world? So Scarlett became this vehicle for that idea: being sieged in Atlanta, you’re stuck in this place that’s burning, you don’t know how to get out, and yet in the midst of all that you’re only thinking about yourself.
I think Scarlett is just the best written character ever. She’s just a monster, but you love her so much. So with that I think I was able to be super critical about the world around me and about my experience. Around that time, there were a few hate crimes done in the communities I worked in. Where gay men were shot in the face, just a few very publicized events—in the midst of that my selfish thoughts of “but what about my career?” [This piece acknowledges] how monstrous my ambition was making me.
What made you interested in solo performance? You’ve written quite a few of these pieces.
I went to school at SMU [Southern Methodist University]. Every year Rhonda Blair teaches an incredible solo performance class, and she brings in Tim Miller, an incredible solo performer. I really connected with his work, which was very queer and very autobiographical. Around that time, my theater education was telling me to butch up. Like, I played Agamemnon, which is just a joke. I hope I did it justice, but I should be Clytemnestra or Helen of Troy. Those are the characters I want to be. That was a huge frustration in college for me. Because of the way I look—I have broad shoulders and I’m tall—I should be a leading man, a romantic interest, and very straight. It felt like cutting the flowers off my plant. I couldn’t tap into all the theatricality about myself, my hands my voice. Solo performance was an outlet for me to feel like myself on stage. I think it’s incredible because it allows you to be immediate and confrontational. Putting up a play with other people takes months, but a solo show you can write it in a week and then perform it.
Since you’ve done the Solo Fest before, how does your experience compare with other festivals as an artist?
I’ve done a million festivals and Dallas Solo Fest has the most care, respect, time, energy that I’ve seen in a solo performance setting. Brad McEntire is amazing and he is just so lovely. The work is really eclectic, people from all over the place but there are also Dallas artists. It feels like they’re investing in the community and then challenging the community with outside perspectives that aren’t just New York or LA.
What has your experience been like since you moved back to Dallas?
Moving here from New York was the best financial move I have ever made. I have never had so much more time to create. I have never written more than I have in the past two years. There’s so much space to be a writer here, but then no one to see it. I just wish we had more festivals and writer’s workshops that lasted years, that culminated in like a yearly viewing of a work in progress. I wish that the actual institutions and the tastemakers and artistic directors would come in and see the work that’s happening And they’re busy, and I get that.
Recently, I’ve been hearing many 20-30 something artists who are talking about moving to a bigger city or going to graduate school elsewhere, are you on the same trajectory?
I would love go to grad school to and it’s hard in Texas though. I want to go for playwriting, I want to focus on being a writer first and foremost and in Dallas what do you do? I’m obviously biased, as I hope you are to, in order to have a specific voice and be a cultural touchstone, you have to support your writers. And it has to be new work. You can’t be a voice in the national conversation if you’re just an echo of New York’s last hot play from last year. I hope and Texas and Dallas specifically invest more in their playwrights. This is where I want to be, this is where I want to live for the rest of my life, this is where I want to make my work. As I’m sure you know it’s hard to find opportunities and relationships and investment from other people, it’s lonely for other writers here.
What do you see as some of the challenges for new work in Dallas?
This community is also too nice, they come in and see things and say, “It’s all great.” Everything’s not all great. We have to start being honest with each other and actually being critical and that’s the only way we’re going to elevate our art form and our voice and actually hone in and create a point of view as Texas theater. I believe in this community, that’s why I’m here. It’s just going to take a while.
I think we’re just a few decisions away from being a very powerful theater community. But if those decisions aren’t made, we’re going to keep losing those young, emerging artists who have the potential of being the future of this community. It’s a little frightening.
It’s terrifying. I hope you’re here. Are you here? Because I’m here.
Oh, I’m here. There’s no plan to move at the moment.
We have to be honest about what’s not working, we can all lament about how we’re losing young artists, but we also have to acknowledge that these artists see the opportunity in this community and they spend 3-4 years and then they’re having to go elsewhere. How can we remedy that? Instead of being upset about that or say that people are just using Dallas, no people are coming to invest in Dallas and they’re not seeing the return. I think this is a very fecund moment. There’s so much work happening. But I just hope that it’s allowed to mature, have roots and be sustainable, but as a writer, as you know, you have to be so selfish with your time and your resources in order to make work.
The excitement is really happening outside of traditional spaces or smaller theater houses, specifically with the Tribe. There are so many of these shows that are drawing a non-traditional theater demographic.
Really we’re seeing appreciation from places like Wild Detectives, where we are now. Those are people who are making investments and they’re like how often can you do this, how can we accommodate you, how can we help you out. The people who are building the audiences and building the scene are not the theatre institutions, it’s the bars, it’s the warehouses, the landowners of unconventional spaces who think it’s fun that young artists are making work. We shouldn’t leave these unconventional spaces, but it would be nice to graduate on to something where you can sit back, or you can focus on the one thing you want to focus on—in my case being a writer.
» Scarlett O'Hara and the War on Tara will be performed on the following days:
- 10:30pm | Thursday, June 2
- 7:30pm | Saturday, June 4
- 7pm | Sunday, June 12
» Click here to see our listing for Scarlett O'Hara and the War on Tara
» To see a full schedule of shows, go here
» See our DSF special section for more interviews, reviews and more