The Magic of Open

Zach Dulli Archive

by Crystal Skillman

How does one stage a magic show without magic? That is both the thrilling trick and joy for theater companies tackling my play ‘Open,’ a queer love story, which tells the story of the love of two women: Kristen and Jenny.

In ‘Open‘, a woman called the Magician presents a myriad of tricks for our entertainment, yet her performance seems to be attempting the impossible—to save the life of her partner, Jenny. ‘Open’ strives to do what theater is meant to do: create strong empathy and explore the power of transformation with a strong message, especially for young adults.

Performed in three short acts, the tricks Kristen performs throughout the show are pantomimed. But magic trick after magic trick, as Kristen feels the audience believes in this magic show and her partnership with Jenny, the more the magic in this show is heard… appears… and transforms the audience.

To do this, this play needs teamwork with a capital T. ‘Open’ is a terrific bonding experience for theatrical teams to tackle. Despite being a solo show, ‘Open’ requires a team to creatively solve some of these “tricks”. Inventive sound and lighting design, as well as costumes, play a key part.

Most fun of all is that the tricks in the show (which range from explosive card tricks to levitation and tightrope walking) are pantomimed, so this allows any actress to step into the role. For the pantomiming of tricks to feel true, a consultation with a magician can work wonders, and it is a delight for young artists to have that experience. By the time the curtain goes up, that performer feels like a real magician, the creative team part of a magical experience.

As LGBTQIA+ rights continue to be threatened, I wrote Open in response to the intolerant times that have increased in the U.S. (and globally). I have personally experienced how this solo show, through its powerful production in New York, (which earned a rave in the NYTimes), and now in its regional productions, as well as a recent tour in Edinburgh and Italy, is a powerful experience, especially for students.

As a writer and activist, it has been a great act of discovery to find that ‘Open,’ both the text (growing in inclusion in college reading curriculums around the world) and in performance, has become a powerful teaching tool. Included in the University of San Francisco’s new play festival just this past spring, I see how the show’s message is impactful and can inspire. ‘Open’ is a play that opens as it goes—it reveals itself in a unique theatrical experience through the love story of these two women. And in Kristen’s acceptance of herself.

People open up after seeing this play. I’ve seen how it can change lives and open minds. This is a play that can lead to a true act of transformation… not unlike a magic trick.

But don’t take my word for it, get to tackling these magic tricks yourself. Oh, and if you’d like a wee magic tip from this author. You got this. You’re ready now… Magician.


About the Author: An internationally award-winning playwright, fictional podcast writer, and comic book author, Crystal has written for Stories Podcast (Wondery Kids), Girl Tales, Adventure Time comics, and Marvel comics. New Plays include THE ROCKET MEN and RAIN AND ZOE SAVE THE WORLD. She is the author of the NYTimes Critics’ Pick plays GEEK, CUT, and KING KIRBY which you can listen to on Broadway Podcast Network. Visit to learn more. can listen to on Broadway Podcast Network.

To purchase your own copy of ‘Open’ by Crystal Skillman, click here to visit Dramatists Play Service.

If you are in the New York area on June 25, 2024, join playwright Crystal Skillman and the team behind ‘Open’ for a special event at the Drama Bookshop:

Finally, check out a short excerpt of the play on DPS’s Playing on Air! Click on the video below:

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