5 Questions for Playwright Nate Eppler


1. What is itchy for you in this play? Yeah, so, it turns out everything about this play is itchy for me. When I began the project I expected it to be an examination of media and the difference between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and the retelling of a salacious slice of minor history. Luckily where I ended up wasn’t anywhere near as academic as all that. I certainly started with Nancy and Tonya and their carnival as a jumping off point but ended up somewhere else altogether. I ended up digging up economy and poverty and mountains of self-deception and the cost of being the only one who thinks you’re the hero and the lengths we go to in order to lie to ourselves about the tiniest transgressions and slights, both real and perceived. I found a very talented and very wounded athlete who can barely survive the retelling of her own history. And all of that was so itchy I immediately turned it into a comedy.

2. What would you hammer someone's knee for?

So I spent some time with this question, and it turns out there is a surprisingly long list of things I would hammer a knee for. The short version is: You can do whatever you like to me but do not mess with my loved ones. I am apparently very protective.

3. If Blondie fought a tiger, who would win and why?

Listen to me now, because this is important: Do not bet against tigers.

That said, when I started this little play I decided that Blondie would have two defining strengths that bordered on super-powers. 1) That her legs were stronger than any other legs in history and that her jump was exceptional even among the exceptional. And 2) That she had a very complicated relationship with the truth and the amazing ability to make herself and everyone around her believe things they otherwise knew to be false. She is a fabulist of the highest order.

So. Even if it was the tiger that won (and trust me, it was the tiger) afterwards Blondie would tell you she won. And you’d believe her.

4. What was the first play you ever wrote? How would it be different if you rewrote it today? As a haiku?

I wrote a play version of Pandora’s Box in the fifth grade. It was a total triumph, though, in retrospect, the moment that the box was opened and the ensuing symphony of lightning storms at the top of Mt. Olympus was somewhat crudely realized. I cast Pandora and all of the Greek Gods as women. It was a controversial choice, but they let me do it because nobody really wants to get into the screwy gender politics of Greek Myths with a precocious fifth grader. In my version of the play, nobody knew what was in the box, and we were all sort of hoping Pandora would open it. If I rewrote it today it wouldn’t be about getting a magic box open. It would be about trying to put what crawls out back in the box.

As a haiku: Opening boxes Will always be more fun for Things inside the box

5. If money were no object, what would you do with the Ingram New Works Lab?

Two words: Space Station.

Seriously though: I would slowly help it grow into a sustainable organization whose purpose is to create a safe and dynamic environment for the nurturing of new voices and the creation of new works, and to make integral contributions to both the viability of the form and to the creative ecosphere of Nashville. That sounds like something out of an arts grant application, doesn’t it? I would make the kind of commitment to this city that this city has made to us. I would build a dedicated theatre for it in the middle of downtown Nashville. I would run development of new plays year round. I would support three times as many playwrights per year. I’d make an absolute commitment to diversity in the voices we support, because anything less is only part of the story. I’d pay a living wage to all of the playwrights for the full term of their residency, because time and money is like handing an artist safety in a box. I’d commission one of our alumni each year to write a play specifically for the theatre artists in Nashville, because without Nashville artists we’d all be standing in silence with piles of pages. I’d invite two Fellows, one Fellow who is already recognized for their significant contributions to the art form and one mid-career Fellow of extraordinary skill. I’d expand the festival to a month of programming. I’d include productions of plays that had been read in earlier festivals. I’d incentivize other Nashville-based arts organization to produce new plays. I’d provide as many jobs as I could to Nashville artists. And then I’d find ways to provide a few more. I’d remove all barriers to access. I’d never charge for a ticket. I’d do whatever I could to make Nashville recognized nation-wide as a city with high-quality, vital, and electric theatre. I’d build a very special, very safe playground, and once a year I’d throw a big free month-long party and invite the whole damn city. What would you do?

Learn more about the Ingram New Works Festival here.