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Making IRIS & THE AXE

Turnkey Theatre was founded and has flourished by making creative theatrical productions that go beyond the stage. Their newest production that they describe as ” a gothic choose-your-own-adventure play” is called IRIS & THE AXE is no different and running from Oct 1 – 31st is a perfect Halloween season show. Director and writer Katie Turner, actress Marisa Taylor Scott, and sound designer Andrew Gutierrez all talk about how they went about creating this show.

Katie Turner wears many hats in this production, having conceived of it, then write, directed, and even performs as the Narrator, Constance, in it. Partially inspired by the Victorian language of flowers, and having done her doctoral research on strong female characters in 19th-century melodrama, Katie felt this was the perfect play to create for the fall season.

I also play the narrator, Constance. The feel of this piece is of a book come to life, so there is a lot that is heard rather than shown. The narrator helps fill in the visual gaps for the viewers. Her other function is to guide them through the choose-your-own-adventure aspect of the story,

providing instructions whenever it’s time to make a choice, and also providing information about Iris’s thoughts and feelings so that viewers can better act as they think she would.

Having first learned about communicating with flowers about a decade ago, Katie says this proved to be the ideal opportunity to incorporate it into the play. The book Floriography by Jessica Roux also proved to be a key piece in creating the show. The author even gave TurnKey permission to use bits of text throughout the play. The Victorian language of flowers became a key part of the plot and informs the viewers how to make their choices

I knew there was something inherently theatrical about this mode of communicating

through floral symbolism but didn’t know what. Last year I came across a new book on the

subject, Floriography by Jessica Roux, which is a beautifully illustrated dictionary of flower

meanings.

It came to me there that maybe the play could be a mystery, and that the heroine used floriography to solve it. Since Turnkey Theatre does interactive plays, I wondered how to add that element. Then it hit me like a thunderbolt that floriography could be part of the plot and also help make this a choose-your-own-adventure play. -century melodrama, and IRIS & THE AXE was born!

Another important part of the play for Turner was to subvert some of the typical tropes that people may think of when picturing a Victorian, gothic, and female-focused play.

It was important to me in writing this piece was subverting some old melodramatic tropes.

That’s why women are the agents of action in this play, and in this play, the villain’s motive is more having to do more with the power of femininity itself than just basic sexual allure.

Marisa Taylor Scot was excited to provide the voice to the title heroine of the piece. Scot says that playing Iris was a wonderful challenge and a lot of fun as well!

In more traditional forms of theatre, you can tell the story with facial expressions, physical movements, AND your voice – but this time it’s hyper-focused only on your cadence, tone, and delivery which was a great challenge and lots of fun!

The process of this piece, for me, was really fun and inspiring! It felt like all of my training coming together and really helping me. I really had to think of the emotion and be incredibly present with the character and live with her every second. This was great because in typical theatre our minds are so busy multitasking (blocking, props, timing, staying in your light, delivery, etc.) that it’s hard to remain present at times.

We know all of the possible outcomes, so I’m excited to see the response and what everyone hears – or doesn’t hear. I love the idea of choosing your own adventure, and I don’t think the audience will be disappointed in the brilliant story and storytelling that Katie has provided us with!

Creating this inclusive sound experience was the main goal of the show’s sound designer Andrew Gutierrez.

The immersive nature of this project is a Sound Designer’s dream! I was so excited to be given the opportunity to build the world of 1870 with spatial elements, underscoring, and audio recordings of Katie Turner’s play. It has been marvelous being able to watch Iris & the Axe come to life. Each and every hand that has touched this project has been dedicated to making it as interactive and immersive as it can be for our listeners. It is my hope that this project’s audio will transport you right into the shoes of our dear heroine and away from her dreadful fate!

IRIS & THE AXE, a choose your own adventure theatre experience from Turnkey Theatre is playing virtually from October 1 -31st. For ticket and showtimes go to https://www.turnkeytheatre.com

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