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All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

Delaney Vega, a TCU journalism junior, is painting a school in Belize. (Courtesy of Teja Sieber)
“The week of joy”: Christ Chapel College’s annual trip to Belize
By Ella Schamberger, Staff Writer
Published Apr 23, 2024
174 students, a record number, went on this year's trip.

“Instructions for a Séance” takes the spotlight at Amphibian Stage

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Evan Michael Woods
Bender illustrates how Houdini’s famous handcuffs function. (Photo curtesy of Evan Michael Woods)

A one-woman show at Amphibian Stage has been revamped for a Fort Worth audience.

Uniquely intimate and effortlessly funny, “Instructions for a Séance” tells a magical story in which playwright and lead actress Katie Bender invites audiences to help her summon Harry Houdini in an attempt to escape the tribulations of her life as a mother, wife and artist.

Wooden hands holding tarot cards are used for decoration in the theatre lobby. (Ellie Griffin/Staff Writer)

While it is uncommon for playwrights to perform their works, Lily Wolff, director of “Instructions for a Séance,” said that working with Bender was a pleasure.

“I wasn’t nervous when we went into the workshop together,” Wolff said. “Katie is incredibly open to feedback. She has a very healthy relationship to her own ego.”

The play was originally workshopped at Alley Theatre in Houston, but after Amphibian Stage expressed interest in producing her show, Bender said she was thrilled to return to her Fort Worth roots.

“I lived in Dallas when I was a kid,” Bender said. “We would visit Fort Worth. And so, there’s been a very sweet thing about returning to the places that I remember when I was a kid. It’s nice to be back in Fort Worth and reconnect with spaces I love.”

“Instructions for a Séance” is a living story. Bender changed parts of the script to appeal to her Fort Worth audience.

At one point during the production, Bender walked the audience briefly through Fort Worth’s history, noting the importance of the cattle drives and stockyards. Throughout the show, she referenced local sites, such as the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and the Fort Worth Water Gardens.

On their way into the theater, audience members pass a large wooden chest secured by a padlock. (Ellie Griffin/Staff Writer)

“You want to know what heaven looks like?” Bender asked during the show. “Heaven looks like Joe T. Garcia’s, except you skip the line and you’re already on your first margarita.”

The description of heaven took quite a bit of time and collaboration to create. Bender and Wolff talked to several staff members at Amphibian Stage before devising the final product.

Like the script, many other elements of the show required team coordination.

“We have an amazing lighting designer, Paige Seber,” Bender said. “For the show, she bought real candles and drilled a hold down the middle of them. She threaded a little LED light up through the middle so that they’re all programmable from the board.”

Seber went to great lengths to give the show a mystical ambiance, and wanted all the candles to extinguish themselves simultaneously.

Bender explains the significance of artifacts related to Houdini. (Photo courtesy of Evan Michael Woods)

It wouldn’t be a séance without sprinkles of magic throughout the show, especially at the conclusion of the show when Bender performs an impressive mentalist trick.

“We have a great magic consultant who has been on the project since 2020,” Wolff said. “He’s an incredible magician.”

Brett Schnieder, the magic coordinator for “Instructions for a Séance,” used magic as a storytelling tool onstage.

“The magic toward the end of the show—it fulfills an implicit promise that the story pitches at the beginning of the show,”  Schneider said. “Supernatural powers will be channeled.”

In spite of being a one-woman show, “Instructions for a Séance” proves that developing a story from script to stage takes a village.

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