Playwright Lucy Alibar is best known for her adaption of her play, “Juicy and Delicious,” into the hit film “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which scored her an Oscar nom for writing in 2012. Round House Theatre is currently streaming a virtual production of another of her plays, “Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up,” through May 30. Directed by Ryan Rilette, the one-person show is a somewhat autobiographical look at Alibar’s life growing up in the Florida panhandle with a pro-bono capital defense attorney for a dad.
Beth Hylton, who worked with Round House in 2018’s “Small Mouth Sounds,” plays Lamby, the fourth-grade narrator and part-time legal secretary at the center of this heartwarming and hilarious story. Told through a series of heartfelt and irreverent vignettes, the play acts as a love letter to family, the South, and the belief that everyone deserves a defender.
“The play is told through the lens of a 10-year-old girl, and covers a lot of really funny stuff and discusses things I was really drawn to,” Hylton says. “It also talks about people in the American South who are quite often forgotten and not talked about.”
“Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up” is set in a small farmhouse on a watermelon field — a play where Lamby’s dad runs with her every morning, plays Sam Cooke on the radio, and defends death row inmates who have no one else to stand up for them.
One of the major themes of the play is that of “white trash”: what that means on a cultural level and how that informs someone who grows up around people who are often treated like garbage.
“An argument in the play is about how these people have been fed disinformation for centuries,” Hylton says. “It looks at how to navigate that violence and underlines growing up in this rural, poor, uneducated misinformed place in our country. That was really powerful to me.”
Hylton had worked with Rilette as a director before, and the two had swapped some “growing up in the South” stories in the past — she in Danville, Va., he in Louisiana — so it was kismet that they would team up for this production. They also got some input from the playwright herself.
“Lucy was very present with Ryan before rehearsal started and a couple of times we spoke with her through the process about ideas and she was very supportive all the way through,” Hylton says. “Ryan and I, as director and actor, have similar languages, so it was a great experience.”
The production was staged and filmed at the theatre following strict Covid-19 safety protocols. This is the second thing Hylton has filmed to stream since the pandemic, but it’s still very different than what she’s used to being on stage. And being her first one-person show, she had the added challenge of performing by herself to a virtual empty house. She credits Rilette will perfecting the beat and structure of the scenes and helping her achieve the extra level of concentration needed.
At a time when there’s still not much theatre going on, Hylton believes this is a show that audiences will greatly enjoy and also hear a powerful message.
“Lucy is a brilliant writer,” Hylton says. “The language is funny and the story is surprising. You go down a path that you don’t think you are going down when you start. In many ways, it’s a love story for her family and her father. This play is here to tell you that no one is trash and we should love everyone. I’m hoping people think about the story and those people who we throw away as a culture and why.”
“Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up” runs virtually through May 30. Tickets are $30. For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here. Learn more about Round House Theatre at www.roundhousetheatre.org and @roundhousetheatre on Instagram.
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