Wakey, Wakey: How Will Eno's Work Brings Joy to Theatre
At Hyde Park Theatre, we have a long history of producing Will Eno’s wonderful plays. Since 2007, we have produced Thom Pain: based on nothing, Tragedy: a tragedy, Middletown, and The Realistic Joneses. One of my greatest pleasures in nearly forty years of theatre has been bringing Eno’s work to Austin audiences.
But the Eno play that has brought me the most joy is Wakey, Wakey, a beautiful, moving, and surprisingly hilarious script about life, death, and healing. In Wakey, Wakey, Eno’s wry tenderness toward humanity is more vivid than in any of his other plays. He asks us to confront the fact that we are all going to die—then comforts and delights us with a wonderful collection of suggested videos and still photos. He gently returns to the brutal, unbearable fact of our own mortality—then shows us photographs of children. This lovely play demonstrates over and over that by trying to protect ourselves from the knowledge that our time on earth is short, we also blindfold ourselves to the gifts that litter the ground around us. By showing us a dying man, the character Guy, some guy—ourselves—and then showing us the gifts of the world, large and small, grand and absurd, profound and silly—he makes us recognize on a deep level that our time here is short but, if can see it, breathtakingly rich.
So, it’s no surprise that Wakey, Wakey was that rare production that many of our audience members attended multiple times. Quite a few patrons saw the show twice, and several even saw it three times. All four of the reviews we received were raves, and one critic said of the production, “Wakey, Wakey is one of the most moving experiences I have had in a theatre. In many ways, it is a call for us to start conversations with strangers, to form connections where none have existed in the hope that we might walk out into the night air a little bit changed and a lot more loved.” Audiences and critics in Austin have loved all of our productions of Will Eno’s plays, but none more than Wakey, Wakey.
Over the past forty years I’ve been lucky to play some brilliant roles by great playwrights, but none have more special to me than this amazing character from the mind of Will Eno. Playing Guy was a real joy, as was getting to play opposite the amazing Rebecca Robinson, who portrayed Lisa, Guy’s caregiver. Her performance was lovely and breathtaking.
Will Eno and I have been corresponding over that past five years, and I can’t begin to tell you what a truly lovely man he is. He’s been generous with his time, helpful in answering questions, and has given us numerous excellent suggestions. A huge part of our success with this production was due to his encouragement and invaluable input. I was also deeply honored that he had faith in me to take on the dual role of director and actor in this production. Wearing both hats for this production wouldn’t have been possible without the keen eyes and ears of my assistant directors—Pearson Kashlak, Mia Williams, and Blake Robbins
This play is a dream and an exciting challenge for designers, and I was blessed to have a truly great team for our production. Lowell Bartholomee’s videos, Robert S. Fisher’s sound, Mark Pickell’s set, Don Day’s lights, and Cheryl Painter’s costumes helped make this production truly memorable. Eno’s brilliant suggestions in the script for the design team were indispensable.
Hyde Park Theatre is currently in negotiations to bring our production to other cities, and I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of being able to revisit this life-changing play. I can’t recommend this script enough to other producers out there. Wakey, Wakey is a play that needs to be seen by audiences all over the world. Please do yourself a favor, and order a copy of this beautiful play today.