Eileen Tull Opens Up About The Healing Power of Art & Her Love of Harrison Ford with Abby Sheaffer

Jeffrey Millies (c) 2016 Jeffrey Millies (c) 2016

Eileen Tull is a fixture in the Chicago live-lit scene. She’s the co-curator of Sappho’s Salon with Liz Baudler, a frequent performer at renowned series such as You’re Being RidiculousThat’s All She Wrote!, and Story Club. Tull is also a huge Harrison Ford fan (I mean, who isn’t?) so much so that it inspired her to create a witty one-woman show about Ford as well as her romantic misadventures. Bad Dates, Or What Killed That Monkey In Indiana Jones Only Makes Me Stronger will make its Chicago return at Rhinofest tonight following its successful 2016 Texas tour. Read our candid interview to discover more about Chicago’s live-lit darling. Interview after the jump.

come-on-eileen
Jeffrey Millies (c) 2016

You’re undoubtedly a literary luminary in Chicago’s live-lit scene, you and Liz Baudler are at the helm of the LGBTQ+ hit series, Sappho’s Salon, and on any given night, you can be found reading at numerous reading series throughout the city. What got you into storytelling?

I do love that Sappho’s Salon (every second Tuesday at Women & Children First bookstore)! I was, of course, always someone that told stories at parties and around fire pits, but I officially started telling stories in Chicago in 2014. I had tried my hand at theatre and I had ventured into the world of stand-up comedy, but neither seemed to be the medium for me. Then I found storytelling, through shows like Loose Chicks, Essay Fiesta, and You’re Being Ridiculous. I love the freedom in storytelling: a story can be active and theatrical, but it’s grounded in the form of oral storytelling. A story can cover all sorts of emotional bases; it’s not just about going for laugh after laugh. Storytelling is so immediate. I can create a storytelling piece in reaction to current events or things that happen to me on the day of a performance.

Your one-woman show Bad Dates focuses on your love of Harrison Ford in conjunction with your romantic misadventures, when did you first conceive the show?

The title of the show (Bad Dates, Or What Killed That Monkey In Indiana Jones Only Makes Me Stronger) first popped into my head about five years ago, really just as a play on words. I didn’t think of it as a show. I had only dabbled in the solo performance world and I was “happily” in a relationship at the time, so what could I really have to say about dating? A long, long three years later, so many different planets had aligned, and I was finally ready to make the show happen. It’s definitely much different than I could have originally thought it would be. I’m lucky to have evolved a lot as a person, which trickles down to an evolution in the way that I approach dating.

You originally toured with the show in Texas last year, what was your favorite experience from that time?

Oh, there were so many great times. I got to experience the city of Dallas for the first time. I went to Dealey Plaza (I’m macabrely obsessed with presidential assassinations), I got to eat some really good barbecue, and my performance space was right next to the Cotton Bowl Stadium, where my dad had played (and won!) in college. The Dallas Solo Fest is such a blast. One audience member came up to me afterwards. She was a real Southern belle kind of lady, and she told me that she loved my show and that I looked like a young Elizabeth Taylor. So that was definitely a highlight of the trip/my entire life

How does the Texas live-lit scene differ from Chicago? What do you like about it that Chicago doesn’t have and vice versa?

 I’m not sure I was there long enough to have a sufficient answer to this question! What I will say is that, though scenes like Dallas or Cincinnati are smaller than Chicago, the performing arts scenes in these cities are hungry for experimentation and pushing the edges. Some of the other shows I saw at the Dallas Solo Fest were some of the most inventive and amazing solo performances I’ve ever seen. I’m looking forward to building more relationships in different cities, so we can learn from each other.

 How old were you when you first watched a Harrison Ford movie? When did you become enamored with him?

I talk about this in the show, but there’s not a time where I remember my life without Star Wars. I don’t remember the FIRST time I saw Star Wars, because it was just always on. I remember realizing that Indiana Jones was not a sequel to Star Wars, and being slightly disappointed. Similarly, I don’t remember falling in love with him, just that he’d always been the ideal picture of a man: strong, smart, brave, sarcastic, well-educated, dedicated to his family, and good at punching. When I started dating, I didn’t consciously compare boys to Harrison Ford, but as I grew up and started looking for a partner in more serious ways, it was hard not to think about him when I described what I was looking for.

 In your mind, what is the most underrated Harrison Ford film and why?

I must say that I’m partial to the commercially successful films in his filmography, but I do have a soft spot for Sydney Pollack’s remake of Sabrina, with Harrison in the Humphrey Bogart role. He is pitch perfectly playing the grumpy, all-business, no time for love guy who falls in love with the chauffeur’s daughter. There are so many great supporting characters in there: Paul Giamatti and Becky Ann Baker have tiny tertiary roles, and Greg Kinnear made me fall in love with a blonde man for once. It’s not as good as the original Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn, but it’s solid and seems to have been forgotten to time.

Who inspires you? How has their life impacted yours?

There are so many performers and creators that I want to be, so I steal from. Today it’s a list of folks including Patti Smith, Gilda Radner, Marina Abramovic, Steve Martin, Spalding Gray, Marc Maron, Sarah Jones, Lily Tomlin, and two of my biggest inspirations: Tig Notaro and Carrie Fisher. Both of those women experienced a lot of pain and suffering, in different ways, and they used those experiences to make art. Funny, biting, hard art. That art has been so revolutionary for me. In all honesty, my many failures in dating and romance are sometimes difficult for me to think about. There’s a lot of pain there. But I have found that through making this show and embracing the hilarity of some of this pain that I am in a much better place about the whole Love thing. In general, I love survivors who show you their scars through their art. It helps the viewer know that they are not alone.

Harrison Ford was born in Chicago and attended the same high school as Hillary Clinton, do you think he’ll catch wind of your show? What would you do if he and Calista [Flockhart] showed up to a performance?

Just thinking about this question makes me start tearing up with overwhelmed excitement. Which, for anyone who doesn’t know me, isn’t that difficult of a task. I don’t know. I don’t think he’d really like the attention. As much as I love the characters he plays, I also love that he as a human seems to be more interested in the privacy of his family, rather than the whole Hollywood thing. He’s a movie star, sure, but it does seem like he values a simple life. So I think the attention of it would make him uncomfortable. Have I rehearsed a conversation where I meet him and try to coolly tell him I’ve written an autobiographical solo show about being obsessed with him? Yes, I have. Can I get through it without crying? No, no I cannot.

Do you have a favorite quote by Harrison Ford?

DO I!

This is from an interview in 1977 about the challenges of acting against people in droid costumes: “Surely the job was to relate to them as one would relate to a human being, but one with a tin mind. You meet people like that all the time anyway.”

Character-wise, I think my favorite quote is and forever will be, “Never tell me the odds.” It’s so comforting and is such a telling quote about the character of Han Solo.

And finally, my favorite thing in all the world is this exchange during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session:

Question from a fan: “Why did you dress up as a dog in a hotdog suit on Jimmy Kimmel?”

Answer from Harrison Ford: “Because I could..and I had the outfit.”

Question from another fan: “What’s your favorite Halloween costume that you’ve ever worn?”
Answer from Harrison Ford: “I was a dog in a hotdog suit.”

It just makes me laugh so hard. He’s ‘playing’ it so seriously, but it’s so ridiculous.

Don’t miss Bad Dates at the Prop Thtr (3502 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60618) February 2nd, 9th, and 16th at 9pm | GET TICKETS |

*This interview has been updated to correctly state that this is a Chicago revival of Bad Dates, not a Chicago debut.