A typographer, a stenographer, and a geographer walk into a theater. No, that's not the setup to a joke. Nor is it the premise of the latest Errol Morris documentary. It is, however, an almost complete description of the action in Adam Bock's unusual play, The Typographer's Dream, which Memphis' Quark Theatre company opens at TheatreSouth this week.
Tony Isbell describes The Typographer's Dream as "the lightest show" his company has produced. In August, Isbell was honored with the Eugart Yerian award for lifetime achievement in Memphis theater. Quark, the producing organization Isbell co-founded with his friend and fellow actor Adam Remsen, has quickly developed a similar reputation for excellence. It's also developed a reputation for producing tense, even troubling work.
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Although it may be lighter, The Typographer's Dream remains bittersweet and more of an experiment in contrast than a story in the usual sense. Using the format of a panel discussion, Annalise, a geographer (played by Jillian Barron), Dave, a stenographer (played by Eric Vinton Jones), and Margaret, a typographer (played by Michelle Miklosey) all talk about their jobs.
"We get to know these three people pretty well by the end of the show," Isbell says of the 75-minute comedy. "The audience, almost literally, becomes the fourth character in the show. Because 75 to 80 percent of the show is the characters talking directly to them. It makes for a very intimate, personal kind of experience. Not your typical play."