David Foster Wallace has a reputation as being hyperarticulate; the author’s friendships with dictionary-authors and dictionary-siring prose only further warrant this truth. Who better to try their hand at its interpretation than a director whose last piece was given a 53-word title? A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace is Daniel Fish’s ode to the late icon and will begin its three performance run at the McGuire Theater this Thursday as part of Out There 2016.
Unlike recent cinematic adaptations, Fish isn’t dramatizing the page or impersonating the author. His source, instead, is a breadth of audio recordings in which Wallace converses, is interviewed, and reads from his own works. The piece asks four actors to interpret this speech as it is sent to their headphones from a console under Fish’s control. Each performance varies in timing, execution, and excerpt selection, with the effect being best described by the Village Voice as “part séance, part theatrical eulogy, and part eerie karaoke show.”
In using his own speech over a script, the audience is beholden to Wallace’s raw verbal idiosyncrasy. As Fish told the New York Times, it is through this that he wishes to achieve “a kind of intimacy” and a “pure engagement with his words”. This intimacy was a major factor in Fish’s curation of sources. In lieu of his political commentary or the offbeat affairs of his novels, Fish mined from short stories and essays that celebrate and critique many broad but omnipresent themes of modern life.
Many of these are addressed head-on in one source, an unedited 84 minute interview with Wallace for German public television channel ZDF from late 2003. A high definition video of this interview has just been made available online, giving you a glimpse inside the performers’ headphones as they channel the honesty of expression present throughout his body of work. At one point, Wallace expresses his author’s desire to “jump over the wall of self and inhabit someone else,” and Daniel Fish’s creation has certainly given him a chance to do just that.
A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace by Daniel Fish will be performed in the Walker’s McGuire Theater Thursday – Saturday, January 14-16, 2016 at 8pm.
The Walker will also present a free film screening of Daniel Fish’s Eternal on Saturday, January 16 at 1pm in the Walker Cinema.