Spotlight on Chicago: Elana Elyce
Photo Credit: John-Paul Paonessa
When director Elana Elyce was doing auditions for Interrobang Theatre Project’s production of Here Lies Henry she asked the auditioning performers about whether or not they liked the titular character.
Scott Sawa, Henry, had mixed feelings about him. He didn’t give Elyce a big thumbs up or down on the character who is known as a compulsive liar.
Elyce said that Sawa’s reaction to the question leaned on his desire to help Henry rather than be his best pal. There was an understanding that Henry is complex which is important to comprehend in a one man show about said complex singular man.
When asked if she had a hard time liking Henry, Elyce had a simple answer.
“Actually it's not hard,” she said. “The thing I want to say is the answer is yes I like him because of how he's portrayed because Scott is not unlikable on any level.”
To celebrate their tenth anniversary, Interrobang is remounting a show they’ve done twice before with a different actor and creative team. This show, in many ways, grew up with Interrobang.
Can you talk to me a little bit about what it's like to return to this show for you?
It's actually been really kind of brand new. I remember how the themes touched me from the original production, but not a lot about the actual show from top to bottom. It has just given me the opportunity to deeply explore those themes that I connected with.
It's been more exciting than I anticipated it to be. There is no comparison [to prior productions at Interrobang,] Michael Moran [as Henry] was awesome and I love him. I don't have the run of that production in my mind. So, there was nothing to compare [this production] to. I know we did that production in an art gallery and we had some theater lights, but we weren't in a theater. I don’t have to feel the pressure of comparing it to what we did before.
So it's kind of like Here Lies Henry grew up a little.
Yeah, that's a really good way to put it.
So, given that the audiences are aware that Henry is a compulsive liar and the fact that we don't know what all is going on, can you explain what it's like to talk to people about this show? To be able to entice them to come see this one-man show that you really can't talk about?
I’ve mostly used the synopsis on the website.
But I really like that it’s about the nature of existence: when you're born, your life experience, and then you die. So sometimes I use that because that's a nugget for me.
Well, even the premise that this person who lies all the time, a decade ago, I feel that would elicit less from your average audience member than today. So what, what has that experience been like just based on our current political climate, our world at present.
It's an interesting overlay right?
I have a great interest in my personal truth and people's personal truths which is not the same as facts. The thing that intersects is the inability to be honest with oneself. So, largely, in our climate beyond the ridiculous lies that we are told, at the core of that is the refusal or inability to be honest with oneself across the board for our leaders. So Henry's ability or inability to do that runs us through the show. Then you have these moments that absolutely feel sincere and honest.
So, when you're taking on the role of director, what is it like to have a character that is, at times, a protagonist and maybe the antagonist at the same time?
What was important to me was tapping into whatever Henry's actual truth was as led Scott [the actor.]Henry is not a caricature. He presents to us like a human being. He has something at his core that is true and honest - he knows the difference.
It was really important to me that [Henry] is played as grounded in some version of reality. We need the audience on his side. Trusting him or not trusting him or being comfortable or not being comfortable. The point is that what he's uncomfortable, you're uncomfortable and when he starts to get more comfortable you do too. You're thrown a little off balance because now you've been made comfortable with this person that you know you're not supposed to trust.