(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Icarus and Other Party Tricks, a first semi-staged reading of an immersive drama exploring themes of grief, confrontation, and tenderness. Written and directed by Princeton senior Sarah Grinalds, the piece follows a protagonist’s manic episode through mandated therapy sessions, familial confrontations, and her own brainscape. Performances are on September 30 at 7:30pm and October 1 at 2:00pm & 7:30pm in the Drapkin Studio at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. The show is free and open to the public; no tickets required.
Icarus and Other Party Tricks takes place in the world of therapeutic culture, where the rhetoric of healing is ubiquitous. Grinalds’ play nods at the stretching repression of trauma, diagrams of avoidant and anxious attachment styles, and the variety of psychoactives in shining armor. She notes that despite familiarity with the therapeutic vocabulary, which seems to offer diagnoses, roadmaps, and solutions, many still struggle with healing. In the new ubiquity of therapeutic culture, audiences encounter the new protagonist: deeply traumatized, aware of said trauma, and yet traumatized nonetheless.
Ines Roget fits such a description. Literate in the world of therapeutic culture, she weaponizes her own self-awareness against her therapist and her loved ones; and despite having the healing toolbox defined in front of her, progress remains out of reach. The play follows her through therapy sessions, familial confrontations, and the surrealist perceptions of her own mania as she navigates an elusive sense of healing, of tenderness, and of peace.
Playwright Sarah Grinalds is pursuing a degree in Princeton’s School of International Affairs, with certificates in French, Latin American studies, and theater. In her central concentration, she focuses on the intersection of the law and behavioral health, advocating for more holistic approaches to housing and first response. Grinalds was first drawn to theater as a means of furthering societal conversations. At Princeton, she explored drama, making her own pieces and engaging with a wide variety of disciplines. As a student and theatermaker, Grinalds is drawn into the abstract, the immersive, and the experimental for creating socially grounded work. Specifically, her interests include experimental and immersive trends in Latin American theater, French avant-garde, and Irish cathartic theater. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a career in immersive theater.
Grinalds notes that Icarus and Other Party Tricks would not be where it is today without the mentorship of playwright and Princeton Lecturer in Theater and the Department of English Nathan Davis. Davis advised Grinalds on Icarus and Other Party Tricks from when she wrote the first scene in his playwriting class to its rehearsal process.
This production of Icarus and Other Party Tricks features a months-long design collaboration with professional designer Frank Oliva (This Beautiful Furniture, Lost Not Found, Marriage Story). Audiences will experience the immersive surrealist design of the play’s brainscapes, realized motifs of water and reflective distortion, as well as an innovative seating arrangement to further the play’s narrative structure. After the performances, a talk back will include discussions of the play’s collaborative design process across lighting, staging, and choreography.
Grinalds notes that the inspiration for Icarus and Other Party Tricks came from myriad sources, but she notes her exposure into cathartic theater as a significant influence. The play centers on the dynamic of mother/daughter relationships, backdropped by the fantastical spectrum balancing grief and manic experience. The play asks questions about the construction and constraints of familial tenderness, especially when wrought with uncomfortable histories and turbulent presents. At its core, the play asks audiences who is capable of showing love, and, as Grinalds notes as of equal or perhaps greater importance, who is capable of accepting it.
The performance features professional actor and Lecturer in Theater Vivia Font, as well as actors Ashley Jackson ‘25, Gillian Tisdale ‘24, Moses Yang ‘26, Collin Guedel ‘26, Charlotte Defriez ‘26, Elena Milliken ‘26, Kristen Tan ‘26, Matthew Cooperberg ‘26, Daria Popova ‘26, and Eman Atta Maan ’24. The production team includes lighting designer Ay Marsh ’23, choreographer Naomi Benenson ’23 and stage manager Eslem Saka ’26.
All guests must either be fully vaccinated, or have recently tested negative (via PCR within 72 hours or via rapid antigen test within eight hours of the scheduled visit) and be prepared to show proof if asked, or wear a face covering when indoors and around others.
The Drapkin Studio is wheelchair accessible and an assistive listening system is available. Guests in need of other access accommodations are asked to contact the Lewis Center at LewisCenter@princeton.edu at least one week prior to the event date.
To learn more about this event, the Program in Theater, and the over 100 performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, and lectures presented each year at the Lewis Center, most of them free, visit the Lewis Center website.
Photo by Dylan Tran ’23