Hearts like Fists
by Austin Community College

Jun. 07 - Jun. 23

A superhero noir comedy about the dangers of love. The city's heart beats with fear: Doctor X is sneaking into apartments and injecting lovers with a lethal poison. Lisa's heart beats with hope: Now that she's joined the elite Crimefighters, maybe she can live a life with meaning. And every beat of Peter's wounded heart brings him closer to death, but he's designing an artificial replacement that will never break. Can the Crimefighters stop Doctor X? Do Peter and Lisa have a chance at love? And who is the girl with a face like a plate?



Letter from the Director of Hearts Like Fists


We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, — This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties. -- 




“I wear a mask. And that mask, it's not to hide who I am, but to create what I am." --Batman 


Masks and masking are commonplace across storytelling traditions here on Earth-1218. In theatre, our most recognizable iconography lies in the well-known tragedy and comedy masks passed down from ancient Greece: One face frozen in laughter, the other in sorrow. The Noh tradition in Japan uses hundreds of different masks to delineate characters— gender, age, status, or even whether a character is human or supernatural. In the Igbo tradition, as Nigerian author Chinua Achebe notes, masks are multifold; they are central to the pageantry of masquerades but in other instances, they provide a spiritual link to the eternal and expansive cosmos, and serve to protect the wearer’s individual self when in direct conversation with said cosmos. 


So, for Adam Szymkowicz to write a stage play about masked heroes, it seems all too apropos. 


Masks in performance serve aesthetic, narrative, and ceremonial functions. In the source material for Hearts Like Fists—comic books—they also allow heroes and villains to prop up the play within the play. Heroes and villains live other lives. They go out at night to perform their respective tasks, then return to their day jobs with none the wiser. Typically, the premise of cowls and capes is to protect one’s identity. The reason: to safeguard the lives of loved ones and non-combatants. Or to stay out of jail. Szymkowicz takes the trope a step further, suggesting that while masks may protect one’s true identity from public scrutiny, the practice of masking simultaneously inhibits any honest expression of one’s true self. So, when love strikes, the ability to open one’s self up to real connectedness becomes a problem. The façade, once a shield, seems like a prison; guarding who you really are precludes you from the personal intimacies that make life worth protecting. Further, Szymkowicz suggests that costumed heroes aren’t the only folk at risk. Those of us who do not wear physical masks walk around behind shaded eyes in our everyday lives. The masks we construct can be just as difficult to set aside as those worn by characters in a comic or a play. And If left in place too long, the knot in the mask string hardens and becomes un-unravelable (thank you Big Bang Theory). The result is a weakening of the heart, a hardening of the heart. A heart that cannot give love or receive it. A heart from whence empathy, compassion, joy, and goodness quickly evaporate.  


As much as Hearts Like Fists is about heroes and villains, it is about love. Love takes courage. Sometimes it stings real bad. Sometimes it destroys you. Sometimes it is the most dangerous drug. But sometimes it is worth the risk. So, take the risk. After all, if it turns out poorly in the end, there is always life as a supervillain…



Marcus McQuirter

Director & Chair of ACC Drama

Hearts like Fists
by Adam Szymkowicz
Austin Community College

June 07 - June 23, 2024
Austin Community College Highland Campus
6101 AIrport Drive, Highland Campus
Building 2000, second floor
Austin, TX, 78752

June 7th-23rd, 2024

Friday-Saturday 7:30 pm, Sunday 2 pm.