The Daily Gamecock

Preview: 'Outlaw Song' features comedy, music and Mexican wrestling

“Outlaw Song,” an original play written and directed by University of South Carolina student Ryan Stevens, will debut at the Lab Theatre on Feb. 23. The play features comedy, music and Mexican wrestling. It follows the protagonist, marshal Roberta Weiss, as she pursues fugitive Billie Baxter through the western American frontier.

“The first half is primarily about the cat-and-mouse game between Billie and Roberta,” Stevens said. “As they get closer and as we as an audience learn more about them, we see that the roles of hero-cop and outlaw-criminal are a lot to live with.”

The production is reminiscent of 19th-century Western cinema. Stevens found inspiration from classics such as the “Dollars” trilogy, “High Noon” and “The Magnificent Seven.” However, “Outlaw Song” provides a modern take on these quintessential films.

“The main idea was just to take this huge, sprawling, idealized and romanticized world, the capital-W Wild Wild West, and put it in a blender with all these other genres,” Stevens said.

The often highly dramatized Western setting is used as a channel to deconstruct the traditional cowboy and outlaw characters.

“I wanted to tell a human story with the biggest and most exaggerated medium at my disposal — get people hooked and dazzled, and then get them invested,” Stevens said.

One nontraditional plot element featured amidst the old western setting is Mexican wrestling. The dramatic and theatrical showdowns of wrestler “El Soso,” were inspired by the dedication and perseverance of Lucha Libre wrestlers.

“Marrying yourself to a pursuit like that, especially to a pursuit that is on your body and is very physically demanding, was really fascinating,” Stevens said.

Stevens graduated from USC with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, and he is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in theatre. As an undergraduate student, he took theatre classes and worked as an actor in multiple theatre productions. He has also created many original short plays through USC’s undergraduate theater organization, Green Room Productions, and produced an original full-length play in 2015.

Although Stevens acknowledges the difficulties associated with writing and directing an original play, he emphasized the satisfaction that is also associated.

"The collaborative part is the best part, really. I’m the writer and the director — the show has enough of me in it on day one. The best things come from adding other people to the mix. The actors, the designers, the team behind it, they’re the best and most rewarding part,” Stevens said.

“Outlaw Song” features a primarily female cast. It challenges normative hero/villain archetypes, and it does so while occurring in the exciting setting of the Wild West. It will be shown at the Lab Theatre Feb. 23 - 26 nightly at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.

“It’s a piece about knowing your enemy, about appreciating people you disagree with and understanding their ideology even when you still don’t agree with it. It’s about trying to fight for legends,” Stevens said.