Dallas — Chicago’s Eileen Tull talks about Bad Dates, which has the subtitle What Killed That Monkey In Indiana Jones Only Makes Me Stronger. It's a solo piece that has been incubating in her brain for several years. This multifaceted artist focuses on autobiographical tales with a conversational style. Tull's show plays on the first weekend of the third annual Dallas Solo Fest at the Margo Jones Theatre.
What was your inspiration for Bad Dates?
It popped into my head around 2011, but I didn't write a word of it until 2014. Obviously, the title references the famous line about the poisoned treat that kills our monkey spy friend in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Combine that with the format of Dr. Strangelove’s full title and there you have it. I remember not understanding what a date-the-fruit was when I first saw "Raiders," so I had to ask for clarification from my parents. I didn't understand (as a 6 or 7 year old) why Sallah would be bringing up an awkward meet up for coffee as the fan revolved over that dead monkey's body. That wordplay confusion has always made me laugh upon repeat viewings, so I wanted to bring that in.
How long have you been performing solo pieces? What draws you to this kind of performance?
I created my first full-length piece for the 2012 San Francisco Fringe Festival. For me, solo combines the best of all worlds: stand-up, theater, spoken word, conversation, and, most of all: lots of attention. I had dabbled in these areas with varying degrees of success. But with their powers combined, I've found a sweet spot.
It's also the ideal medium for non-fiction narrative pieces. I want to tell true and personal stories. I love the relationship created with the audience as a solo performer, to be able to look them in the face and actively bring them into the story.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background in theater?
I've been working in theater for a while, and I've worn many different hats: stage manager, director, producer, actor, writer, sometimes two at a time. I always wanted to be an actor, but I was never cast anywhere, so I moved into studying directing in college. I loved directing, I loved leading the narrative and guiding the action along. But there was too much distance. Solo work provides me the chance to be propelling the story front and center. I still work in theatre occasionally as an actor, director, or writer, and I live flexing those muscles and especially working with other people.
What other projects are you working on?
I run a monthly show at Chicago's Women and Children First bookstore co-curated by writer Liz Baudler. It's called Sappho's Salon, a monthly performance series featuring female-identifying and non-binary artists exploring gender, feminism, and sexuality in their work. I'm so proud of the work we do and the performers we're able to feature.
I'm working on a new full-length solo show that speaks to my experiences with addiction and recovery. It's been a hard show to write, but I'm hoping to have a close-to-finished draft by the fall.
Whose work inspires you?
I draw inspiration from lots of different types of performers. Tig Notaro is doing amazing and genre-bending work as a stand-up performer. Steve Martin has created such a variety of work over his career and remains my comedy idol. I'm inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the earnestness of Hamilton, not to mention the sheer excellence in craft and language. I worked with We Players in California, an inspiring company that turns theater into a full-sensory experience. In terms of solo work, I reference the work of Mike Daisey, Spalding Gray, and Lily Tomlin constantly. And I'm incredibly lucky to live in Chicago, where I am influenced daily by the amazing theater and performance community here.
What are you looking forward to the most in bringing this show to Dallas?
Dallas is such a vibrant and interesting community. I'm excited to dive into the scene for the first time and especially to see the other performers. I hope this show will speak to the sci-fi/nerd community, as well as the experimental theater folks.
» Bad Dates is performed on the following days:
- 9pm | Thursday, June 2
- 7:30pm | Friday, June 3
- 10:30pm | Saturday, June 4
» Click here to see our listing for Bad Dates
» To see a full schedule of shows, go here
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