With Immediate Theatre Project, Willie Repoley Strives for Maximum Impact with Minimalist Shows

Apr 27, 2018


Willie Repoley named his company the Immediate Theatre Project, and watching Repoley in rehearsal, the name is clearly appropriate. Sets are minimal and casts are small -- and with his new original show, called “Burden,” -- the cast begins and ends with Repoley.

The company’s plays only look like they can be mounted immediately. What Repoley really wants is to inspire immediate reactions from audiences. “Burden” runs through May 20 at Asheville’s NC Stage.

Willie Repoley rehearses a scene from "Burden."
Credit Matt Peiken | BPR News

“When I started the company, one of the benefits was choosing plays we thought needed to be seen right now,” Repoley said. “It’s always been important for me to tell better stories, and ultimately to serve some purpose in the world and bring an emotional connection with audiences.”

Repoley grew up in Charlotte and moved to Asheville in 2001. In between, he did small professional stage and screen work in New York and Atlanta, but never embraced the chase for fame. Instead, as a married father of two, Repoley has relied on substitute teaching and the generosity of extended family to augment his occasional film work.

“I didn’t like getting headshots and going to auditions and just being part of a big machine of saying ‘I’m an actor for hire,’” he said.

After moving to Asheville, Repoley formed Immediate Theater Company, largely to create and stage contemporary adaptations of classic plays. NC Stage asked him to produce shows in partnership, and it’s worked for both companies.

Repoley brings more spare, experimental work to Asheville’s leading professional company. For one show, the entire set consisted of nothing but construction pallets. And NC Stage brings more marketing muscle and recognized name to Immediate Theatre Project shows.

“I want our money to go to the people and story,” Repoley said. “Our focus has sort of become on simple, direct storytelling that feels relevant to the way we live right now.”

“Burden” is the company’s first original show. It came about after Repoley couldn’t secure affordable rights to produce “All the King’s Men.” Ron Bashford is a veteran stage writer in Asheville who went to Repoley with an idea -- let’s create a one-man show with all the elements you like about “All the King’s Men.”

“And then I was interested in the idea of not literally lying, but what it means to live a lie in a kind of subconscious way,” Bashford said. “When your behavior and how you treat others is driven by a false understanding of yourself.”

Bashford and Repoley began writing by recording improvised conversations around certain themes, and they wound up keeping the stammers, false starts and ums and ahhs that often spreckle common speech.

“We literally transcribed every umm, every I-I,” he said. “Our script is full of ellipses and dashes.

“We’re only doing this original show because it felt like it was something that needed to happen,” Repoley said. “I wouldn’t say I’m committing to new works, but I want to find the most exciting plays wherever they’re coming from.”