Introduced to Will Eno through The Flu Season, our company really connected to Tragedy: a tragedy. The play is challenging because it’s both an 80 minute long joke, and the in-depth exposure of our deeper, darker fears. It’s almost as if throughout the entire production there are wolves lurking around in the dark, their eyes gleaming in the firelight, waiting to devour us when we fall asleep. I don’t know if I’m quite intellectual enough to get everything Eno was going for, but I also don’t think that fully matters. What I can tell you is that it is all a joke, but it is also deadly serious at the same time. The play is not about the news media, but at the same time, it is very much about the news media and our obsession with the news.
Ultimately the play is about us. Humanity. It’s about how we cope with our fears, loneliness, disappointments, and our inability to properly connect with the people we work with, serve, or co-habitat with. It’s an unflinching look at how we can simultaneously have great wisdom and total ignorance. As you might be able to tell, I’m still figuring out this script.
I read in an interview with Eno that he didn’t talk much as a child. Eventually he says he realized that in order to get on in the world, he’d have to use his words. By that time, English was almost like a second language to him. I enjoy connecting this to the many times audience members asked me if Eno was British.
I decided to design the set for this play in what I called a “Hollywood Squares” format. I wanted the audience to view each of our newscasters separately, and it was equally important for me that the actors physically felt the isolation of their characters. Although they can hear each other, only Frank can see them all. Otherwise they’re alone. I left the back of each square open, highlighting the fact that a camera only captures one frame of the world it’s transmitting. Beyond that frame anything can be happening–each newscaster could be in a studio and we might never know it.
I confined each actor to their own square with the exception of Michael. Michael consistently breaks the rules, moving from location to location, inciting the viewer, and imitating the Governor. I allowed John one chance to break the rules of the world by throwing his script out into the void as he quits at the end.
The Witness brings us hope in the end. Our simple, plain-spoken everyman, comes in and soothes our nightmare, putting us gently back to our restful slumber, as we wait for the sun to rise again.