By Kenzie Love
Given its enigmatic title and billing as the story of a woman “dabbling in her madness,” Muddy Footprints suggests a play sodden with surprises. Audiences for the latest effort from director and U of C alumna, Cherie Caslyn, can expect some shocks. Not because of crass tricks of the dramatic variety, but how audiences will see themselves reflected in the central character.
Both Caslin and the play’s star, fellow U of C graduate Sheryl Thompson, drew upon their personal experience for their respective roles. Marking her debut as a playwright, Caslin’s play was inspired by the discovery of muddy footprints on her apartment’s floor. A similar experience happens to the character Carol, who spends the rest of the play trying to figure out who left the offending trail behind.
A story with such a strange origin seems it would lend itself to a more bizzare telling. But Muddy Footprints is more conventional than some of Caslin’s previous works she’s directed, such as Coffee and Jazz (which broke one of theatre’s conventions by never showing a character’s face). In the case of Muddy Footprints, the mystery informs the structure of her play, “[It’s} how the mind tries to put together pieces of a puzzle,” explains Caslin.
She’s not the only one to stretch out, as the star of the show, Thompson, dabbles for the first time in the art of a one-woman show. “You’re flying out there by yourself,” she says. “There’s no one to react to. It’s different, but I like it. It’s the ultimate narcissistic actor’s dream to have all eyes on you.”
Thompson identifies with Carol and thinks everyone who sees the play will as well, particularly with her character’s familiar struggle to keep up outward appearances despite being plagued with inner turmoil. That Carol’s life consists of the repitition of the same will strike a chord with audiences. For her and many others, something like that is enough to make life a living nightmare, which happens to be the play’s tagline.
Caslin originally planned for Muddy Footprints to be a one night only event, but got fed up with the cost of mounting a production multiple nights for consistently small crowds. But interest exceeded her expectations and a second show has been added on Mar. 18. Muddy Footprints has connected to its audience, resonating with the madness that sometimes consumes our lives. We just need to follow the muddy footprints of our own lives.