Billed as “a comedy about a not funny thing,” Southwestern University’s “Texas Beauty Pageant Murder: The Fall of Don Swan” certainly doesn’t fail to produce plenty of laughs. But in true Texan fashion, this production also bites off many big questions for the audience to chew on, encompassing themes of masculinity and sexuality, beauty standards, and the cultural impact of the Don Juan myth. As Facebook reviewer S Bushak says of “The Fall of Don Swan,” the play is a “dark comedy that is both timely and intellectual. I laughed, got creeped out, laughed some more and then I picked it apart for days. Worth seeing more than once to absorb all the nuances. Witty and intelligent writing with an excellent cast!”

Devised by Director CB Goodman and students based loosely on a script originally written in 2016 by Dr. Sergio Costola, dramaturgical researcher, this one-act, absurdist film noir comedy was produced through the collaborative effort of the Theatre and Music Departments at Southwestern. “Texas Beauty Pageant Murder: The Fall of Don Swan” is a twisted tale of beauty, murder, and big hair. After the tragic death of Houston real estate developer and beauty pageant owner, Don Swan, the usual suspects dish the dirt on the man, the myth, and the truth about what was really under his cowboy hat. In part an adaptation of the opera, “The Don Juan Project” staged in 2017, “The Fall of Don Swan” includes several arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni that first featured new orchestral accompaniment written by Associate Professor of Music Jason Hoogerhyde. But, in addition to soaring music, tall hats, and big character egos, this play generates larger than life commentary on the implications of intemperate actions, particularly in light of the currently relevant #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Much like during “The Don Juan Project,” students are finding both creative joy and frustration in the production of a brand new show, tackling controversial topics and having to make decisions on the fly as they help shape the production of “The Fall of Don Swan.” They’re also seriously excited about performing their show at the International Collegiate Theatre Festival in Scotland this summer.

In fact, “The Fall of Don Swan” was developed specifically to take to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest performing arts festival in the world with over 3,000 productions, 50,000 performances and thousands of performers from across the globe. ICTF provides an opportunity for collegiate performing arts programs to study abroad and gain global perspectives highly visible venue while showcasing their productions on a renowned world stage. The marketing for this production had been entirely student-led as well.

Fourteen students along with three faculty and staff members from the Southwestern’s Sarofim School of Fine Arts (see list below) leave for Scotland in early August to begin onsite rehearsals and will perform “The Fall of Don Swan” at theSpace @ Venue 45, one of the Fringe’s original Edinburgh venues, on four separate dates August 3-8, 2018. This is the first time Southwestern University has attended the ITCF Fringe. During their two weeks in Scotland, the students will visit local historic sites, tour Edinburgh and enjoy a wide variety of shows premiering at The Fringe.

Funding for the production of “Texas Beauty Pageant Murder: The Fall of Don Swan” and travel to Scotland was made possible by the generous gifts of a number of individual donors–including many Friends of the Sarofim  School of Fine Arts–along with several faculty/student research grant awards.