TENN Questions for Nate Eppler


Ingram New Works Playwright Nate Eppler The Ingram New Works Festival is right around the corner (May 7-17). We not only want you to come see all of our playwrights’ hard work at the festival, but get to know them beforehand.  So, we've asked our Ingram New Works Playwrights to interview each other to give you some insights into their lives with only TENN (10) questions. First up is Jeremy Sony interviewing Nate Eppler.

JEREMY SONY: What play do you wish you could read/see again for the first time?

NATE EPPLER: Top Girls by Caryl Churchill. The first time I saw it on stage I hadn’t read it, I really didn’t know anything about it, and it knocked me out. At the time, I wasn’t yet a playwright and wasn’t even considering a career as a writer. I wonder how I would see it if I saw it now, youknowwhatImean? 

I've heard it said that you make soundtracks for your plays --- how does music help you write and where can we see its influence in your plays?

I do make soundtracks. I find it helpful, but it’s probably not for everybody. A playwright and teacher I greatly admire named Caleen Sinnette Jennings said “Sometimes art talks about art better than you talk about art…” and that idea lit me up like a Christmas tree. I think it’s true. When I’m chasing a play or a character, I can’t always articulate it or codify it but I can sometimes point to other things that feel similar and that can help me find my way. So I go through songs sort of the same way I go through research, one leads to another down the rabbit hole or however you want to describe it, and eventually you land on something that feels right and helps to articulate what you’re after. You know, you start with a song that feels like an obvious choice, something blunt (as an example: for the new play it was the Three Dog Night cover of Easy to Be Hard) and then you use recommendation engines and the Music Genome Project and similar sites to follow curvy paths into the cobwebby corners of the internet. You eventually end up with a collection of songs that are a sort of sonic map, or collage, of how you feel about your play at that time. If you can ask yourself why each one of them sounds right, or feels right, you can get a lot of information about your play. The tracks that most recently felt right for me are full of psychedelic disorientation, distortion, fuzzy guitars and raw vocals; and so is the new play. 

Thought experiment: You're commissioned write a play about any three historical figures... which three do you pick?

Nancy Kerrigan, Tanya Harding and Jeff Gillooly drowning in the brutal and bizarre invention (maybe) of Modern Celebrity; or Horace Wells, Charles Jackson and William T.G. Morton drowning in the brutal and bizarre invention (maybe) of Anesthesia. 

What's the one piece advice you'd give to a new writer? Or what's the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?

Structure is the magic trick. Learn to do it. Amaze your friends. 

What is it about live theatre that drew you to write for it?

I was gonna say that I am and have always been attracted to the fact that the total power of theatre is held in the small act of generosity that is the audience actively suspending their disbelief and allowing themselves to become complicit in the illusion, but the truth is that I am and have always been attracted to actresses.

What is your favorite moment that you've seen on stage?

The gun didn’t go off. A billion moments went by. He did not panic. He said BANG BANG. He exited. It was breathtaking.

Your play LARRIES introduced Nashville to the multi-verse: so jump into one of those other realities and tell me, what's Nate Eppler doing if he's not a playwright?

I am almost certain there is a universe where I have been to France. Also a universe in which I am an alcoholic psychiatrist. And one where I am a hip detective with a mystery solving dog. In that last one maybe I also live on a boat? If this playwriting thing doesn’t work out that might be what happens in this universe. I just don’t know how one starts that life. Is it: Open a detective agency and then naturally get a mystery solving dog and a boat?, or already have the boat and think to yourself Obviously what’s missing here is the dog and the detective agency.? (If you want to give yourself a full-on freaky-field meltdown, this is the question to ask yourself. I mean the Who are you in another Universe? question. Not the How do you start a Dog & Boat Detective Agency? question. I’m being facetious in my answer above. Obviously you start with the mystery-solving dog.)

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one (or would you want to)?

Ghosts aren’t real. But, okay, so, ghosts are so real, right? However we want to describe them: ghosts, baggage, hang-ups, hurts, wounds- The things we’ve done, seen and lived through in the past are all too often alive and well and carried on our backs aren’t they? Like Eugene O’Neill said “There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.” So sure, in that sense, I’ve seen a few ghosts. I have a few living in my backyard. And although I know I’m supposed to want to get rid of them I have the disquieting feeling that if I did I wouldn’t have one single thing to type about. 

In five words, describe what makes a Nate Eppler play.

The insides turned into outsides. Or maybe: Anxiety inflated until it pops. Though I think some people would say: Funny until it isn’t funny. 

What should people know about you that we already don't?

It is only a partial exaggeration to say that Night Court is the sturdy foundation of all I have ever known or will ever know about writing. No joke: Night Court contains multitudes.

We hope you'll join us for Nate's new play Good Monsters, May 7 and 14. Check out the Ingram New Works Festival schedule and make your reservations early here.