When an actor cannot move, the director has to jump in: Tina Brock is the new KING in the sold-out final performances of Ionesco’s classic

The cast of IRC’s EXIT THE KING, with Robb Hutter and Anna Lou Hearn in the foreground and Patricia Durante, Jenna Kuerzi, and Bob Schmidt in the background (Photo credit: Johanna Austin)

Robb Hutter (laying) and Anna Lou Hearn in the foreground and Patricia Durante, Jenna Kuerzi, and Bob Schmidt in the background of IRC’s EXIT THE KING (Photo credit: Johanna Austin)

“Performing Ionesco is a sport,” declared Tina Brock, artistic director of absurdist theater group Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, in a recent Phindie interview, unaware that she and her theater would get tested severely when Robb Hutter, the lead in IRC’s production of EXIT THE KING, hurt his back and ended up at hospital. Tina Brock had to make a quick decision: “So I’m on as the King—both last night and today. Not exactly the way I was hoping to take out this show, but here we are!”

Before the final show today, she shared the following: “The King’s back had been giving him stop and start fits throughout the run of the show, though [it] seemed to be under control. I received a text yesterday in the early afternoon that Robb was lying on the floor, unable to move, he was in such excruciating pain…. We were trying to solve the problem through texts as he waited for the ambulance to arrive. [He] was admitted to the hospital for testing and released later last night.”

Tina Brock as the King, wheeled by Jenna Kuerzi. Photo by Joanna Austin @ AustinArt

Tina Brock as the King, wheeled by Jenna Kuerzi. Photo by Joanna Austin @ AustinArt

She continues: “We talked about what to do, with a full house, closing weekend, many of our loyal audience waiting until the final weekend to see the show. After many considerations—since I knew the text, have played Ionesco before, [and] understood the material—it seemed the best course to have me wear the Little Lord Fauntleroy wig from Ondine (worn as the King) and give it a go. The script became the King’s scepter and off we went.

“The cast was able to move me around on stage where the King needed to be, since he’s losing his mind and faculties anyway. Funny how all the blocking goes away when you are suddenly in the play instead of on the other side of it, directing the action.

“It’s always a joy to perform Ionesco, regardless of the circumstances: to say his words, to exist in the world, is a gift. Since the King in Exit is losing all his capacities, so it all sort of seemed to work.”

She ended her note with “Hugs and wish me strength,” and added this PS: “running off after the show, while the crew loads the set out tonight, to fundraise for WHYY, beginning at 6:30 pm. Happy life.”

Speedy recovery, Robb Hutter, from all of us—and on with the show.

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About the author

Henrik Eger

HENRIK EGER, editor of Drama Around the Globe. Bilingual playwright, author of Metronome Ticking. Born and raised in Germany. Ph.D. in English, University of Illinois, Chicago. German translator of Martin Luther King, Jr’s Nobel Peace Prize mail. Producer-director: Multilingual Shakespeare, London. Retired professor of English and Communication who taught in six countries on three continents, including four universities and one college in the U.S. Author of four college text books. Longtime Philadelphia theatre correspondent for AAJT, the world’s largest Jewish theatre website. Articles published in Classical Voice, Los Angeles; Kayhan International, Tehran, Iran; Indian Express, Mumbai, India; The Jewish Forward, New York; Philadelphia Jewish Voice, Phindie, and Broad Street Review, Philadelphia; The Mennonite, Tucson; and New Jersey Stage. Contact: HenrikEger@gmail.com