Over the past two years, my creative partner, Robb Lewis, and I have seen many of our friends and fellow students come out as queer. Of course, we’re young. We’re at the age where people come out. We’re at the age where people both discover and question their identities, but these past few years it has seemed to become a more common occurrence. Solitude gives way to self knowledge and self revelation, and if this pandemic has given us nothing else, it has given us solitude. In these pockets of forced isolation, we looked in the mirrors and windows of our phones. We’ve met many a person whose first inkling of queerness was served to them on a Tik-Tok “For You” tray. And so, for our queer peers, we began writing a fable.
It was important that this fable be specific, but embodying contradiction the way that queerness often does, it had to be broad as well. It had to be relatable, not just to the trans folks our titular shapeshifter is inspired by, but to anyone who chooses to defy the rigidity of society. To those who remake themselves, retaining and repelling the old and embracing the growing pains of renewal.
We tied our tale to a place, to Slippery Rock Creek in rural Western Pennsylvania. An hour outside Pittsburgh, knee-deep in water, weeks of hand sewing now at the current’s mercy, we trudged. We were committed to the idea of carving out a space for possibility within communities that believe that tradition and progress are mutually exclusive. The creek became a haven for us. Conservative banks could not contain the creativity being crafted among the creeping crayfish and crawling crabs. The naysayers didn’t bargain for the fact that gays can swim.
We didn’t aim to subvert the classic fairytale, we aimed to achieve it. Fairytales have grit and horror, blood and bodies, luster and lust. We wanted to create in the same vein as the Grimms and Andersen, but in another direction, to be an artery instead. The Slipping Nymph functions outside binaries, outside structures, and outside convention, unfurling one vertebrae at a time.
Playwrights – Julie Scharf and Robb Lewis
Director – Julie Scharf
Director – Robert Scott Lewis
Costume Design – Julie Scharf
Media Design – Robert Scott Lewis
Actors featured in Photos