The Body’s Midnight: New Spring Play by Tira Palmquist Opens at Boston Court this April

By Hayden Dobb, Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer Apr 4, 2024

    The Body’s Midnight: New spring play opens at Boston Court this April
    “The Body’s Midnight” cast. (Makela Yepez/Submitted)

    A new play is coming to Boston Court this spring. “The Body’s Midnight,” written by playwright Tira Palmquist, is a co-production with IAMA Theatre Company. Directed by Jessica Kubzansky, “The Body’s Midnight” explores the idea of what it means to get lost in America — characters Anne and David are set to search for this meaning while they embark on their version of the perfect American road trip. With them is a map, a long list of sights to see and an itinerary that is planned to land them in St. Paul just in time for the birth of their first grandchild. Soon, however, their tidy plans are disrupted by a troubling diagnosis and the breathtaking, fleeting world around them. As the two are skewed from their initial path, they are met with an unavoidably messy and bewildering journey of their lives.

    “It’s beautiful and it’s incredibly funny,” Kubzansky said. “It’s a play about a rite of passage in some ways. It’s a play about different relationships regarding husbands and wives or parents and children. It covers the beautiful impermanence of our lives and the choices that we start to make when something in us feels threatened. I think everyone can relate to this, especially through what we all experienced with the pandemic — it’s really a play about what happens when something disrupts and limits your life.”

    The cast that will be acting out this grand story is Keliher Walsh, playing Anne; Jonathan Nichols-Navarro, playing David; Sonal Shah as Katie; and Ryan Garcia as Wolf. Before these characters were conceptualized, an acting friend of Palmquist noted that at the peak of her talent in her career, it was becoming harder for her to find roles in theater due to the lack of middle-aged and older women in plays.

    “I accepted the challenge, and know that there are things I’m really interested in as a playwright — one of those is the stories I choose to tell. I want to be mindful of the stories and represent all ages in theater, and to mostly represent women without the ties to being a mother or caregiver, showing that side of womanhood is important to me,” Palmquist said.

    Another aspect to “The Body’s Midnight” is Palmquist’s nod to the good, stable marriage that is showcased in the play, juxtaposing broken relationships that are usually told in the industry.

    From her home state of Minnesota, Palmquist also finds joy in writing stories involving the state, along with highlighting the sense of adventure shared throughout the country.

    “This intensely theatrical and wondrously strange piece leans into the visually arresting and textually rich — it’s what IAMA Theater Company and Boston Court values in new playwriting. ‘The Body’s Midnight’ shows the best and worst parts of a road trip experience, and the most interesting characters are met along the way. It’s a great performance on how vast and odd it can all be,” Kubzansky added.

    If Palmquist had to sum up “The Body’s Midnight” in three words, they would be “discovery, bravery, legacy.”

    Palmquist is known for her writing that merges the poetic, personal and political. Her most produced play, “Two Degrees,” was produced by places like the Tesseract Theater in St. Louis and Prime Productions at the Guthrie, after its premier at the Denver Center. As an established playwright, her work “The Way North” was a finalist for the O’Neill, an Honorable Mention for the 2019 Kilroys List and was featured in the 2019 Ashland New Plays Festival.

    Tickets for the preview shows from April 18 to April 26 cost between $19 to $39 as the play is honed, and tickets through opening night to the play’s close from April 27 to May 26 cost between $24 to $59. Please view the Boston Court website for ticket price details.

    With special events surrounding specific showings of “The Body’s Midnight,” guests can expect pre- and post-show illuminations following themes of the play or examining closely at how the play came to be. Special events include an art reception, playwriting conversations with Palmquist, ASL interpreted performances, Mother’s Day celebrations and more.

    For more information on show details, ticket prices and before and after show events, visit

    “The Body’s Midnight”
    WHEN: April 18 to May 26
    WHERE: Boston Court Pasadena, 70 N. Mentor Avenue, Pasadena
    COST: Tickets start at $19

    The Subtext: Mashuq Mushtaq Deen Befriends the Lion and the Rottweiler

    This month Brian talks to playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen about building a writing career, pushing audiences out of their comfort zone, and finding his place in the theatre.

    By American Theatre Editors

    Each month on The Subtext, Brian speaks with a playwright about life, writing, and whatever itches we are scratching.

    On this month’s episode, Brian speaks with playwright and essayist Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. They discuss his approach to staying ahead of the audience, the choice to remove the character of Deen from his autobiographical play (Draw the Circle), and his experience revisiting prose writing. Deen earned an MFA in theatre with a playwriting concentration from the now-separate Actors Studio Drama School/New School for Drama.

    Mashuq Mushtaq Deen is a CORE writer at the Playwrights’ Center, and winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Draw the Circle, which was produced at PlayMakers Rep, Mosaic Theatre, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre (published by Dramatists Play Service). His other full-length plays include: The Vessel, which was commissioned by the NYU graduate acting program); Flood, which had its world premiere at Kansas City Rep in 2023, and its Chicago premiere at Shattered Globe in 2024; The Betterment Society, which is published in The Methuen Drama Book of Trans PlaysThe Shaking Earth, which has won two 2nd place international playwriting awards (International Woodward Prize, and the India’s International Sulthan Padamsee Prize), and has been nominated for both a Weissberger Award and a Venturous Fund award; and The Telegram, a live-staged radio play which was commissioned and produced by Keen Company.

    This episode can also be found here.

    WINDOWS A New Play by Tawni O’Dell

    Tawni O’Dell‘s new play WINDOWS illuminates the changes that have washed over us these past three years. Starring Avantika, Craig Bierko, Tony Danza, Erin Darke, Jeffrey Donovan, Tovah Feldshuh, Adam Kantor, Carolyn McCormick, Jesse Nager, & Tonya Pinkins. FIVE PERFORMANCES ONLY at Town Hall. March 25-27. Who have you become? Learn more.

    11 lives, 8 stories, endless frustration.

    Fear, hilarity, anger, loss, and love unfolding behind curtains, blinds, broken glass, and bars. Whether navigating the self-reflection of isolation, or the unease of a chance meeting between strangers in need, or the simple realization of how much we value our most basic connection with others, Windows delves into the devastation and new beginnings found in a world forced to face an abyss together but alone. What we each endured as individuals when time suddenly stood still may have differed, but we were all changed by the experience. Our characters reshaped. For better or worse.

    HGO premieres a colorful children’s opera of cooperation with “The Big Swim”

    By Steven Brown for the Texas Classical Review February 17, 2024

    Houston Grand Opera presented the world premiere of The Big Swim at the Asia Society Texas Center Friday night. Photo: Lynn Lane

    As operagoers mingled in the lobby of Houston’s Asia Society Texas Center, two sturdy male voices suddenly rang out.

    “Come in! Come on in,” they sang, heartily and genially. “Take your seats! There’s excitement in the air.” 

    The voices’ owners, posted near the steps to the center’s theater, were all the more attention-getting thanks to their elaborate, colorful costumes—one dominated by an orange-and-black robe suggesting a tiger’s stripes.

    The duo’s invitation launched Friday’s world premiere of The Big Swim by composer Meilina Tsui and librettist Melisa Tien, commissioned by the Asia Society and Houston Grand Opera.

    The groups are billing the hour-long work as a family-friendly affair. With its high-spirited score, action-packed staging and vivid costumes, it easily lives up to the claim.

    The Big Swim was inspired by a Chinese folk tale that explains why the 12 creatures of the lunar zodiac appear in their specific order: They race down a river to earn their places in the sequence.

    Librettist Tien has added a twist of her own. As the race unfolds, the water grows deeper and more dangerous, and the animals save themselves by clinging to one another. Tien’s goal, she explains is a program note, is show the value of banding together in the face of adversity.

    “Side by side, competitors no more,” the animals declare at the close. “Side by side in the river of life, we will thrive.”

    The twelve animals, portrayed by six singers, make up the opera’s cast.

    As the creatures enter, one or two at a time, Tsui’s lively, colorful score helps their personalities come across—from the live-wire rat to the sultry snake. The latter has the most extensive introductory number, replete with sinuous vocal lines.

    The competitors quickly launch into conspiracies and comic trash-talking. The rat proposes to the ox that they double up; the pig has to listen to the monkey envision her as a snack of bacon—only to change his mind and suggest sausage.

    The characters came and went with vitality galore on opening night.

    Mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce, fresh from playing Suzuki in HGO’s Madama Butterfly, offered the nimblest vocal character-sketching. When she portrayed the snake, her voice sounded deep, plummy and a little sinister; transforming into the sheep, her almost-nasal tones hinted at a bleat.

    Seiyoung Kim’s high-wire tenor and bundle-of-energy demeanor made the monkey and rat the most vibrant animals of the contest. No wonder the rat won the race.

    Soprano Meigui Zhang’s gleaming tone lent flashiness to the rabbit and horse. Mezzo-soprano Alice Chung brought fullness and warmth to the ox and pig, and she gave a more pensive aura to the ox’s musings about life as an adult.

    Baritone Joseph Lim sang with a lustiness that brought out the vigor of the tiger and rooster, and bass Zaikuan Song’s deep-rooted tones put across the dragon’s pride and the dog’s good humor. Lim and Song’s voices also blended neatly in the initial welcome in the lobby.

    Tsui’s six-player instrumental group generally chimes in energetically—sometimes with chugging ostinatos—but lightly enough to let the voices come through. During a confrontation between the rabbit and tiger, the music harkens back to an agitated 20th-century atonalism. When the racers navigate the river’s terrors, their voices join in a sonorous ensemble.

    With each singer portraying two animals apiece, the costumes play a crucial role in illuminating who is what, and Valérie Thérèse Bart’s ingenious, vibrant designs are one of The Big Swim’skey charms.

    The singers are fitted out with intricate reversible headgear, each side of which represents one animal’s face fairly realistically—except, of course, for the scarily fanciful dragon. To complement those, the singers switch between robes and other components that help flesh out their identities, from the pig’s pink smock to the rat’s several-foot-long tail.

    The Big Swim’s characters come and go constantly, and stage director Mo Zhou avails of that to keep the stage action bustling.

    When the race gets under way, it’s obviously impossible to show all 12 competitors at once, but Zhou and the opera’s creators make up for that by having them zoom across the stage one or two at a time. At the climax, six singers turn out to be plenty to put across the all-for-one message.

    All the while, Afsaneh Aayani’s economical set—dominated by a hill surmounted by a single tree—creates an evocative backdrop while leaving plenty of room for the characters’ comings and goings.

    The instrumental sextet, led by conductor Eiki Isomura, added its own current of energy. And the cast rode the wave.

    The Big Swim will be repeated 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Asia Society Texas Center. Both performances are sold out.