EB 13

The Empire Builders

by Boris Vian, translated by Simon Watson Taylor

The Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5
January 9 - 27, 2011
Directed by Tina Brock


The Dupont’s three room apartment in a Parisian apartment building


Two Days Later:
The Dupont’s two room apartment, one flight up in the same Parisian apartment building


The Next Day:
The Attic, yet one more flight up in the same Parisian apartment building

The Empire Builders - Postcard - Front
Bob Schmidt
Kirsten Quinn
Kate Black-Regan
Sonja Robson
Michael Dura
The Schmürz
Tomas Dura


Tina Brock

Costume Design

Maggie Baker

Fight Choreography

David Mason

Lighting Design

Maria Shaplin

Scenic Design

Meghan Jones

Technical Director

Rajiv Shah

Sound Design

Kevin Francis

Fight Captain/Stage Manager

Jaime Pannone

Property Master/Stage Manager

Monah Yancy

Lights & Sound Operator

Jesse Delaney

Scenic Construction

Anthony Carpenter, Nathanael Harting and John D’Alonzo

Scenic Painter

Colleen Sawyer


Johanna Austin / AustinArt.org

The IRC participates in the
Barrymore Awards Honoring Excellence in Theater.


This production is made possible in part by generous grants from
The Samuel S. Fels Fund and
The Philadelphia Cultural Fund


Playing time is approximately 80 minutes; there will be no intermission.


The Empire Builders (2011)

"If you're a collector of arcane absurdist theater, The Empire Builders by Boris Vian is a rara avis and one for the life list. If you're inclined toward that European brand of mid-20th-century, heavy-handed metaphor, this latest discovery by the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium offers a strong production under Tina Brock's fearless direction."
Toby Zinman, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"...this intense and creepy production is tremendously entertaining. Tina Brock’s direction woos the audience with its balance of humor and viciousness."
Jim Rutter, Broad Street Review

"When it comes to theater of the absurd, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium has it covered. The ensemble, most recently lauded for its woolly take on The Madwoman of Chaillot, looks for the ridiculously complex, sad and tragic ways in which we cope with the crisis of living."
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia City Paper

Director's Notes

February 2011

“We are racing towards the future at full speed, going so fast that we cannot glimpse the present, and the dust raised by our pounding feet hides the past from us.” -- Leon Dupont, The Empire Builders


The time seemed right for The Empire Builders, French playwright Boris Vian’s absurdly farcical look at our relationship with our biggest enemy -- fear --  and the havoc that ensues from its mismanagement.  Written in 1959 and translated by Simon Watson Taylor in 1967, Vian never saw a production of Empire in his short lifetime.

Boris Vian was a writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and engineer.  He is best remembered today for his novels, published under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan -- parodies of criminal fiction, highly controversial at the time.  Vian’s highly individual writing style featured nonsensical words, subtle wordplay and surrealistic plots.  L'Écume des jours is the best known of these, and one of the few translated into English.

Vian suffered from ill health throughout his childhood and was educated at home until age five.  Shortly after his 12th birthday, he developed rheumatic fever, followed by typhoid.  This combination led to severe health problems that left him with a heart condition which ultimately marked his death at age 39.

Empire’s family patriarch, Leon Dupont, says, “I always felt sure that it was only the absence of real tranquility that prevented my discovering the origin and basic pattern of things…” and we see him play out the disastrous results of his anxiety and inability to manage his emotional world.

Empire provided a unique opportunity for the actors, designers and director alike to grapple with how to illustrate the many ways we embrace and run from our fear and pain.  How it guides us, warns us, shows us the way.

Thanks for sharing your evening with us.

Tina Brock
Producing Artistic Director