Jess Hutchinson

Joanna Garner, a Master of Fine Arts graduate student, rehearses for “100 Heartbreaks” on Friday evening in the Laboratory Theater. Garner started writing the play in 2006 and performed it in 2008 as a one-woman show.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Charlane Tucker, the protagonist of Joanna Garner’s latest play, thought it would take 100 broken hearts to write the perfect country ballad. It only took 43.

Garner’s new show tells the story of aspiring country star, Charlane Tucker, who tours dive-bars around the country with her band in pursuit of enough heartbreak to write authentic country music. 

Inspired by her own series of unsuccessful first-dates and her love for old-school country music, the Master of Fine Arts graduate student began writing the country musical “100 Heartbreaks” in 2006.

“I started writing it at a time in my life when I was going on a lot of unsuccessful dates,” Garner said. “A lot of artists write from that place of heartbreak. Country music, especially, is all about taking that pain and suffering and channeling it into music. So I was thinking about – if I was going to go on all these dates – how I could put them to use.” 

Tuesday at Sahara Lounge, Garner will star as Charlane Tucker, with fellow Master of Fine Arts student Jess Hutchinson in the director’s seat.

Garner decided to write the role of Charlane Tucker for herself after frustrations she faced while auditioning for other people’s shows.  

“I was thinking, ‘What should I do with my life, and how can I be artistically satisfied?’ so I decided to write a play for myself to perform – sort of selfishly,” Garner said. “I decided that if no one’s going to give me the parts I want, I’ll just create them for myself.”

Originally, Garner performed the musical in 2008 as an hour-long, one-woman show. After a successful three-week run at the Capitol Hill Arts Center in Seattle, she chose to adapt the show to feature more actors and songs. She then decided to go to graduate school and brought “100 Heartbreaks” to Austin, where she thought the show would be well-received. 

“It’s non-traditional and site-specific, so the audience in the bar is like the audience at this country show,” Garner said. “I think that’s very ‘Austin.’ It’s such a city about music, so to do it here makes a lot of sense.” 

Hutchinson said she developed interest in the production after hearing Garner perform one of the songs from the show in a class. The two decided to collaborate to bring the show to Austin stages. 

“[Garner] said something about this honky-tonk musical she had written, and I was immediately intrigued,” Hutchinson said. “Then I heard her play ‘One Man Closer to Nashville,’ which is one of the big cornerstone songs in the play. I was hooked by the song, by the quality of it, by her playing it.”

The Austin-version of the show features a group of actors and musicians from UT and Austin, including theatre and dance senior Alexander Villarreal, who plays the band’s bass player. He said working on the show combines his passion for music with his passion for theater. 

“I love the authenticity that is portrayed in the story,” Villarreal said. “The fact that music is so vital to the show is wonderful to me. Music is a huge part of my life, and getting to use that to tell stories is amazing.”

After the Austin run closes Feb. 14, Garner hopes to tour “100 Heartbreaks” nationwide and showcase the play in New York. The ultimate goal: to produce a movie.

“I’ve had so much fun with this rehearsal process,” Garner said. “I feel so artistically satisfied and so excited every night to be working on it.”

What: “100 Heartbreaks” written by Joanna Garner, directed by Jessica Hutchinson

Where: Sahara Lounge

When: Tuesday - Feb. 14 

Cost: $15.00

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the UT Department of Theatre and Dance | Daily Texan Staff

For theatre graduate student and director Jess Hutchinson, Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is about what it means to know another person. Although the play is performed and dissected time after time in American theater, Hutchinson and her actors hope to reach their audience on a personal level.

The UT Department of Theatre & Dance will host “A Streetcar Named Desire” in the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre from Oct. 10 to Oct. 19. The play examines the relationship between aging widow Blanche DuBois, her sister Stella and her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, as she visits their home in 1947. Since its first production, the play has become a classic in popular culture, garnering the most attention after the 1951 movie adaptation starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando.

Hutchinson decided to direct “A Streetcar Named Desire” for her MFA thesis production in part because of its level of familiarity and iconic status.

“We’re around this play quite a bit as we study theater,” Hutchinson said. “I think one of the reasons is because it’s a great play. There’s a reason this play is a major part of the canon.”

Production members spent hours interpreting the text during the first week of the semester.

“We spent about a week around the table just unpacking the script and talking about it,” Hutchinson said. “We use everything we discover around the table and through really analyzing the script to start putting the play on its feet.”

Acting sophomore Keith Machekanyanga, who plays the lead role of Stanley, said the table reading was a great way to connect with the other actors.

“When it came to rehearsal, it was awesome,” Machekanyanga said. “Hearing everybody’s intelligence, everybody’s creativity and realizing how smart everyone was, I was like, ‘This is going to be awesome.’”

During the table work, the actors found that Williams’ play was a great showcase of their abilities.

“The depth of the script was any actor’s dream to do,” Machekanyanga said. “There’s still some stuff that we haven’t uncovered yet, and that’s what makes it so enticing. We’ve memorized the entire play; we’ve ran through it several times, but there’s still more.”

Both Hutchinson and Machekanyanga avoided watching any film adaptations in order to make the performance their own.

“I’ve never seen [the 1951 film] before I started thinking about doing this play, and I made a conscious decision not to see that movie,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve been trying to really collaborate with the author and working with [his] words, as opposed to someone else’s interpretation.”

Hutchinson said the rehearsal process was made easier and more enjoyable because of her cast members’ work ethics. 

“I’m really lucky in my cast,” Hutchinson said. “They’re phenomenal; they’re 12 undergraduate actors, who are working so hard and are bringing such heart and intelligence and really thoughtful work.”

Hutchinson ultimately hopes that audiences will understand the many themes of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“I hope they go on the ride with us,” Hutchinson said. “It’s an incredible, emotional journey that Williams crafted.”