The name Will Eno is pretty distinctive, but it’s not yet what you’d call a household name. That is, unless your household keeps up with New York Times theatre reviews or follow the winners list for Guggenheim Fellowships. But more and more, Eno’s plays are garnering critical and commercial success. His play entitled Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2005. His play The Realistic Joneses appeared on Broadway in 2014, and his play The Open House, presented Off-Broadway in 2014, won the Obie Award for Playwriting.
From October 5 – 21, Eno’s 2011 creation Title and Deed will be presented by Urbana’s Celebration Company at the Station Theatre. The play premiered in Ireland (a collaboration with Ireland’s Gare St. Lazare Players) and was produced the following year Off-Broadway. The Station’s website describes the play thusly:
“A lyrical, word-drunk show about a stranger in a strange land. Full of poetic phrasing and humanity, this one-person performance is at turns haunting and hilarious as it explores the definitions of ‘immigrant’ and ‘home.’”
David Barkley, a veteran C-U actor, will star in this solo piece, under the direction of Deb Richardson. I had the opportunity to pose some questions to Ms. Richardson, whose previous directorial efforts at the Station include Lee Blessing’s Independence and Eno’s The Open House.
Smile Politely: You’ve directed a Will Eno play prior to this one. When did you first become aware of Will Eno? Is there a reason you gravitate to his work?
Deb Richardson: A few years ago, when I read The Realistic Joneses. He has a knack, in his writing, for making ordinary situations extraordinary, and his work has often been compared to Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco. The New York Times dubbed it “stand-up existentialism.” I tend to gravitate to this type of work.
SP: What about this particular Eno play spoke to you?
Richardson: It, to me, is about home and the sense of belonging. I was particularly moved by the play because of the current immigration situation in our own country. Although the subject matter doesn’t necessarily “go there,” it is about someone far away from home and his comparisons of home and away.
SP: Directing isn’t for everybody, and it isn’t easy. What is it that you enjoy about it?
Richardson: I love to study every aspect of every show I attend and am involved with. As a director, I get to oversee every detail, from the costumes to the lighting to the sound and set designs. I’m very much about the details.
SP: Your one actor in this one-actor show, David Barkley, (pictured, left) is also your partner. I know you had him in mind all along for the role, and I certainly compliment you on your choice. What’s it like to work with David on this show? Any particular benefits?
Richardson: David is great. He is a professional and approaches this as a professional arrangement, as do I. I take off my partner hat and put on my director hat when I go into the theater. They’re separate relationships. The fact that he has his lines memorized at the first rehearsal certainly didn’t hurt anything. I don’t know if I see any detriments, but the benefit has been that it’s just the two of us, so if we’re running late on a particular night, we’re not holding others up. We can also run lines at home any time we want.
On a side note, Connor Lovett, who performed this role Off Broadway, was directed by his wife, Judy Hegarty Lovett.
SP: The Station Theatre has now been in operation for more than 45 years. When did your time with the Station begin? What have been some highlights of your experience there?
Richardson (pictured, right): I’ve been directly involved with the Station Theatre since fall, 2006, when I designed costumes for The Mikado. I have had some amazing experiences as an actor, director, and designer. I have played some of my dream roles at the Station. But, I would say without question that the greatest highlight of my experience was when I played Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba.
SP: Is there anything you’d like to add about the show that I haven’t asked?
Richardson: Come see this sweet, funny, and sad show. David Barkley captures this character so beautifully. You don’t want to miss it.
Title and Deed will be open Thursday, October 5th, and will run three weeks at the Station Theatre in Urbana. Ticket prices and information about reservations can be found online or by calling 217-384-4000.