Making ‘Miss Molly’
By Charlotte Settle
Photo by Evan Michael Woods
Former TCU roommates reflect on a triumphant debut at Amphibian Stage
Christine Carmela and Evan Michael Woods have been dreaming up their hit play for the last five years. “Miss Molly (A Marital Deceit of Honest Intentions)” finally made its world premier at Amphibian Stage this summer and delighted audiences with its “sidesplitting, lovestruck escapades.”
The production, which closed its run in August, marked Carmela’s and Woods’ professional debuts as playwright and director, respectively. Carmela also starred in the show’s titular role.
“To have ‘Miss Molly’ premiere in any other city, at any other theater, with any other director would feel blasphemous,” Carmela says. “There is not a single director better suited to bring ‘Miss Molly’ to life than the person who lived in the room next to me for most of my time in DFW, whom I consider a go-to collaborator, confidant and friend.”
“Miss Molly” pays tribute to Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
“I’ve been obsessed with Oscar Wilde since high school,” Carmela says. “I always wanted to write something witty and period, with pretty costumes and fun banter.” Because Wilde was very limited in subjects he could touch — and ultimately was convicted for being homosexual — Carmela wanted “Miss Molly” to be “very explicitly gay.”
Set in aristocratic London in 1889, “Miss Molly” follows lifelong friends (read, lovers) Matthius Manley and Aloysius Thurston. When whisperings of their relationship arise, the men propose to sisters Molly and Genevieve Houseington. All is seemingly well until the sisters’ mother suspects something “fruity” and orchestrates an elaborate plot to unravel the engagements. In Carmela’s words, “high jinks ensue.”
“Miss Molly” turned out to be one of Amphibian’s bestselling shows to date. Many audience members even came back for seconds.
“Having been written by a young gay trans person and directed by a young gay person, we knew that young gay people were going to love it,” Woods says. “We weren’t really sure how a more mature audience would like it, but it has been universally adored.”
“Miss Molly” had audiences laughing, crying and laughing again as it navigated the complexities of family, motherhood and marriage. “There’s something for everyone,” Carmela says.
Since graduating from TCU in 2019, Carmela has made her off-Broadway acting debut at Soho Rep and earned an MFA in Writing for Screen and Television from the University of Southern California. Woods has spent much of his postgrad life as an interdisciplinary artist in Fort Worth, juggling acting, photography and design while managing marketing at Amphibian.
The pair started working on “Miss Molly” in 2018, when Woods directed a staged reading of Carmela’s first draft at TCU. The university’s theater directors loved the play so much that they scheduled an official production for the department’s 2020 season.
Due to the pandemic, the show was canceled and remounted on Zoom. But Carmela wouldn’t rest until she saw her work on a stage — complete with elaborate sets, ornate gowns and full-fledged shenanigans.
Amphibian’s directors had been champions of Carmela’s work since 2019, when they held a staged reading of one of her earlier plays. However, “Miss Molly” didn’t get an immediate yes. It took a couple of years, several pitches and the right timing to get the team on board.
Last year, Woods jumped at the opportunity to advocate for “Miss Molly” again when Amphibian’s directors struggled to find an original summer comedy for 2023. Having just finished a directing course, he eagerly shared his vision for how he wanted to stage the production. On the condition that Carmela and Woods would revamp the script, the Amphibian team agreed to produce the show.
“I spent nine months with Evan rewriting so much of it,” Carmela says. “I opened a brand new document and just started from scratch.”
The pair were finalizing the script up until two weeks into rehearsal. “A big thing that changed in this version of the play is just how far we go from pure farce to deep despair,” Woods says. “I hope people feel basically every emotion you could feel in the theater.”
The cast of “Miss Molly” featured three leading women over the age of 50 — a rare feat for any play. The three DFW-based actresses — Emily Scott Banks, Laurel Collins and Shannon J. McGrann — have an entire act to themselves.
“These women are brilliant geniuses, and they deserve every bit of adoration they’re getting,” Carmela says.
The cast also included TCU grads Logan Graye and Brayden Raqueño, SMU grad Parker Gray and, of course, Carmela. “It’s very easy to feel proud of something when you adore everyone working on it,” she says.
Plans to further the life of “Miss Molly” after Amphibian are in the works. “It seems that other theater makers thought the same thing I did, which is that this is a great solution to a summer comedy people haven’t done before,” Woods says.