Photo courtesy Loudmouth Collective
Director Natalie Novacek describes Will Eno's Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) as a gateway drug to the playwright's work. She is also using the piece as a calling card for her new theater, the Loudmouth Collective.
"I wanted a piece that is really familiar, and that speaks to exactly what kind of work that we want to be doing," she says.
In the one-man show, Thom Pain shares stories and observations about life with experiences that may or may not have happened to him. The script brought greater attention to Eno's eccentric, absurdist voice, and earned him a finalist spot on the 2005 Pulitzer Prize Award for Drama. Sam Landman steps into Thom's shoes for the production.
"Natalie approached me, and I kind of accepted it without reading it. I know Natalie's work and her goals with the company: to produce risky and interesting stuff," Landman says.
Once he read the script, he had another thought. "I don't know how I am going to do this, but it will be really cool if we can pull it off."
Loudmouth, which opened last fall with Gruesome Playground Injuries, is dedicated to solo and small ensemble productions. It was born of Novacek's desire to build closer relationships between the director and the actor(s) for a show. "You become a support system for your actors, and the actors become a support system for you," she says.
Working a smaller scale also helps the director to focus on the performance. In larger, more "technically dense pieces of work, your focus gets split into different pieces. With smaller ensembles or solo performance, the actors have so much more of my attention and the script has so much more of my attention," Novacek says.
That's especially important in Eno's work. "Why is that a comma rather than a period? It's hard to commit the brain space when so many other things need your attention," she adds.
"Sometimes he will start with one idea and switch to another one in mid-thought," Novacek says about the character. The task, then, is to find "that inspiration and clarifying moments that don't feel like they fit together."
The text "jumps tracks so many times, then it doubles back on those tracks. You think you are going in one direction and then that track completely scissors on itself. It could be going backwards for a while," Landman says.
The character "is trying to figure it out as much as the audience is," he adds.
"It's Will Eno. That's the only way to describe it," Novacek says.
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing)
Friday through January 20
Open Eye Figure Theatre
506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
$15 ($10 with Minnesota Fringe Festival button)
For information, call 612.643.1231 or visit online