UT-Austin student writes, stars in ‘Trash! The Musical’

Grace Robertson

TW: Relationship abuse and violence 

The first time Guinevere Govea saw the sheet music for her original, self-written musical, she cried. 

“It’s like my baby!” said Govea, a theatre and dance and journalism senior. 

“Trash! The Musical,” a project that took two years, 11 songs and 21 people to produce, began after Govea wrote a song that describes the experience of an abusive relationship — and feeling like trash in the process.  

“‘(He’s Not a Bad Guy)’ was the first song I wrote for the show and then it just grew from there,” Govea said. “I started thinking of little characters.” 

Govea said the musical also draws from feeling frustrated with the performative and superficial way that people of color are represented in the media, which is portrayed in the plot of the main character, Hannah Sadman. 

“I wanted to cover different topics like abusive relationships and being taken advantage of (and) covering this whole theme of being treated like trash,” Govea said. 

The story follows a woman of color who lives in a trash heap and interns at a publication company. When an opportunity arises to compete for a promotion, she is tokenized by a senior writer who uses her as a co-author to add diversity to his book pitch. 

As an undergraduate student, Govea said she didn’t think she could create such a substantial project. 

“She didn’t feel comfortable writing at all (because) she’d never written songs before,” said Nicholas Saldivar, a theatre and dance senior. “She taps into her feelings and these big problems, and she succinctly writes it into music.”

Govea cast her best friend, Saldivar, as an actor in the eight-person cast. One day, the pair was walking behind the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center when they saw The Therapy Sisters, an Austin-based jazz and neofolk trio, singing about frogs, dogs and therapy. 

Saldivar, who has worked with Govea on eight productions in the past three years, encouraged Govea to reach out to The Therapy Sisters about featuring their music in “Trash! The Musical.” The band contributed two of their original songs to the production, Govea said.

“We attempt to write songs to make people laugh and also think,” said Maurine McLean, bassist for the band. “And I think that’s what (Govea) also does in her playwriting.”

Govea’s journey to share her musical wasn’t the traditional process. The cast performed a staged reading of the show in February 2020, but they weren’t able to do a full production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Govea created a cast album that will be released in early February —  nearly a year later. The collection will be available soon on iTunes, Spotify and other streaming services. 

“It was so different, but at the same time so rewarding,” Govea said. “Seeing all of us undergrads come together to form this cool project has been really great.” 

To Saldivar, Govea’s skill as a playwright is what makes the project special. 

“‘Trash!’ is a lot of things,” Saldivar said. “It tackles race discrimination, gender dynamics in the workforce and the power of honesty and standing up for yourself.”