A year ago, Audra Bauchera moved back to Tucson with her 2-year-old son, her dog and everything she could fit into her Volkswagen Jetta.
Jolted into single-momhood, she felt alone until friends surrounded her with food and furniture. It became a running joke that Bauchera never seemed to sit down, which is where she got the idea for her new play.
"A mother is Sisyphus," she says. "You have to make six meals a day. You're always cleaning, potty training. My whole lot in life was to clean up shit."
And it was not lost on her that the friends helping her get settled were almost entirely women and caretakers of children. So Bauchera—a painter, musician, performance artist and playwright—found the time between shit cleaning and food preparing to write a feminist take on Sisyphus, A Glorious Day for Sissy Fiz, one of 20 plays included in the Tucson Fringe Festival.
Sissy Fiz is a musical comedy, comparing the modern mother to the mythological Greek king condemned to eternally push a huge stone uphill. The play features five badass ladies, a 14-year-old girl and one really big baby.
Getting ready for the play, Bauchera runs lines at home with her cohort, most of whom she's been performing with for years. She brainstormed ideas for the play with her longtime creative comrade, Lynzie Keefer, who plays the standup bass in the show and, with Bauchera, wrote a number of the songs in the play.
Bauchera's house is full of theater props, instruments and paintings by local artists. A hospital drip bag (ready for the stage) hangs on a stand in her living room. Her sink is full of dishes, and her stove is full of food—quiche, quinoa and kale. A red lava lamp ebbs and flows on top of a piano.Two-year-old Evan climbs on counters and waves around a white, lace fan. He runs back to his room, and Noodles, the 10-year-old border collie mutt, takes a turn asking for Bauchera's attention, whining gently with his head in her lap.
At most rehearsals, there's numerous children running around, as most of the Sissy Fiz players are mothers. And the only man in the show—the giant baby—is playing a part based on Bauchera's son.
"Who doesn't want to be my age and play a 2-year-old?" asks 38-year-old Adam Maltby.
In fact, all his lines in the play came right from little Evan (so he mostly barks orders in true toddler fashion). Bauchera says most men would take issue with playing a baby, but not Maltby, a social worker by trade, raconteur and self-proclaimed feminist.
Bauchera and Keefer founded Whiskey Breath Burlesque in 2006. They incorporated burlesque into full-length plays, with comedy and original music. The troupe was doing acts that would cause even the most sexually progressive to blush. I'm talking full nudity and tampon strings (I guess the show really must go on), kinks that result in super powers, a golden shower goddess and one Mistress Dildoa.
The first time I met Bauchera was in 2009, when she was learning to pole dance at the new Parasol Project performance studio, a short-lived artist collective that was maybe a little too bright (and raucous) not to burn out.
Bauchera is no stranger to the avant-garde, but Sissy Fiz is speaking to something simple and relatable: discovering motherhood and redefining who you are.
So, if Sissy Fiz is based on Sisyphus, where's the stone? Maybe the stone is motherhood itself, or maybe it's the marriage Sissy leaves behind.
Bauchera rates the play PG 13, for "mild burlesque undertones," but if you like a little smut with your theater, I'm sure Bauchera and her high-class crew will not disappoint. Oh, and apparently it ends with a poop joke and a sing-a-long.
"It's not children's theater," Bauchera says. "It's mother's theater."