The University of Memphis Department of Theatre & Dance will produce the critically acclaimed Small Mouth Sounds by Beth Wohl as its first production of the 2019-2020 season.
“I came across Small Mouth Sounds in 2016,” said Triston Pullen, director of the UofM production of Small Mouth Sounds and second-year graduate assistant with the Department of Theatre & Dance. “I was working an off-Broadway internship at the time and I ended up going to see it at the Signature Theatre. It was a profound experience for me.”
Small Mouth Sounds takes place in the overwhelming quiet of the woods and focuses on six New Yorkers who flee city life to embark on a silent yoga retreat. As these strangers confront internal demons both profound and absurd, their vows of silence collide with the achingly human need to connect.
“It’s been a show that I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s always scared me a little bit since large portions of the play take place in complete silence,” said Pullen. “There’s no dialogue for most of the show.”
For Pullen, a native of Sulphur Springs, Texas, the play struck a unique chord.
“New York culture was so different from Southern culture and at the time, I didn’t have a lot of friends outside of work,” said Pullen. “The play has this big message of ‘Even when you feel like you’re alone, you’re not. Everyone is going through their own form of emotional agony.'”
According to Pullen, one of the deciding factors behind his choice to produce Small Mouth Sounds was the structural break from more traditional forms of theatre.
“It definitely doesn’t follow the traditional protagonist-antagonist model,” he said. “It’s seven characters, all on their own journey, intermingling in these episodic scenarios where the action happens simultaneously. It’s really an exploration and study of human nature.”
Some of the issues tackled in Small Mouth Sounds include mortality, morality, mental health and spiritual healing.
“We took a lot of simplified, minimalistic stage directions and built upon them,” said Pullen. “For all these characters who have so much to say, how do you get the point across when you’ve lost the ability to speak?
Small Mouth Sounds will show in the Studio Theatre from Sept. 26-29. at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with additional showings at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for this event are $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens and non-U of M students, $5 for high school students; U of M students receive a complimentary ticket.
Cast & Production:
Director: TRISTON PULLEN
Scenic Designer: KENTON JONES
Lighting Designer: JAMES BAKER
Costume Designer: KAREN ARREDONDO
Sound Designer: JAMESON GRESENS
Technical Director: MICHAEL O’NELE
Stage Manager: MARY GRACE SLONECKER
Property Artisan: HATTIE FANN
Ned: ELI RAGLAND
Jan: MATTHEW HAWKINS
Rodney: LEVARIOUS GOODS
Judy: ASHLEY CLINTON
Joan: NIKKI MONSON
Alicia: EBONI CAIN
Teacher: THOMAS KING