“When you were 6 and your parents were fighting, I helped you pretend you were underwater; that you were a cold-blooded fish, in the bottom of the black ocean, far away and safe,” says the Angel to the titular Marisol in José Rivera’s play about a war in heaven. In that scene, Marisol’s guardian stands at the border between personal human suffering and metaphysical battle. She says a long goodbye before leaving the young woman’s side for a pressing call to arms, walking toward celestial destruction. It was a reading of that monologue from Marisol that secured Samantha Rios’ place in SMU’s theater program, delivering the Washington state native to Dallas.
Rios again finds herself in a pastoral role—this time, shepherding the audience—as the Singer in We’re Gonna Die, from February 8 to 10, in the intimate Studio Theatre within the Wyly Theatre. It’s Rios’ second run leading experimental playwright Young Jean Lee’s existentialist cabaret musical with mic in hand, a position she practices often when she performs as new wave revivalist “Rat” Rios.
The singles she’s released since 2014’s Britishfold combine timeless soprano vocal delivery with ethereal synths and production. (She won’t release an album, she says, until all the songs she’s been stacking up fit into a larger story.) Rios’ preoccupation with mood-setting earned her the coveted role as Laura Palmer in the Twin Peaks-obsessed Damn Fine Music Fest at the turn of this year. Ever the insatiable creator, Rios just completed her first screenplay, a story about the lengths to which people will go for spiritual improvement. She plans to begin production on the short this year.