In The Tall Grass is about the murder of Shade Schuler, a 22-year-old transgender woman whose body was found dumped in a field in the medical district of Dallas on July 31st, 2015. Shade’s story is set against the backdrop of wider atrocities across the US, which saw at least 23 trans or gender-nonconforming people murdered in 2015 alone – more than the total number of trans murders than in any other year that advocates had recorded; and which is increasing every year.
"America needs to hear this story" In The Tall Grass, R&D Audience.
Verbatim theatre felt to me the most authentic way to tell this story on stage, by taking an immersive and journalistic approach to playwriting, whilst forging lasting relationships and building trust within the transgender community in Dallas and across Texas. The process involved hours and hours of interviews on tape, transcribing these recordings and then working with hundreds of pages of raw material to edit, shape and form a piece of theatre with a satisfying dramatic arc and a coherent narrative. When an audience watches the play, I want them to take on my role and witness the harrowing testimonies as though first hand.
Theatre has an incredible reach, and for me, verbatim theatre has the added punch being able to engage with people on a human level. Verbatim plays can break down complex social issues and promote change, by presenting a digestible, authentic piece of theatre, with clear messages to take-home. As human beings, we can't help but relate to and empathise with storytelling that talks to the human condition. With In The Tall Grass, it's really about engaging and telling unheard stories from a disenfranchised section of society. I have always been very clear in saying that it's not my job to give transwomen a voice... they already have a voice. What I am trying to do it to use my skills as a playwright to give their voices and their stories and testimonies a platform, and hopefully to take them to the widest audience possible. I believe that it is only through sharing these tragedies, and educating those outside of the community and unaware, or ignorant to them that we can hope for real change.
- Paul Kalburgi
“There is a sense of urgency about this project that we couldn't ignore, especially given our political climate. A project of this magnitude very seldom comes along in a theatre’s lifespan.” - Teresa Colman Wash, Executive Artistic Director
Paul Kalburgi is running a 2-day-workshop on Verbatim Technique on 4th & 5th March for only £50 for both days.