Belhaven University Theatre Department will present Tennessee Williams’ timeless memory play The Glass Menagerie September 27-30 in Barber Auditorium in the Library building on Belhaven’s main campus. An extremely complex and emotional play such as this is always a challenge to present, but our brave cast and crew are tackling the play in an intense rehearsal process, where the cast was set only 4 weeks ago.
Our cast is made up of 4 BFA performers – Grace Reeves (junior, Acting) as Amanda, Noelle Balzer (sophomore, Acting) as Laura, Christopher Miller (freshman, Acting) as Tom, and Caleb Henry (sophomore, Musical Theatre) as Jim.
Barber Auditorium is a highly intimate space, which can bring out the best in performance, but presents special challenges for the design team and our director, Dr. Elissa Sartwell. We are excited about the dramatic potential of presenting a play with such personal power in a space with such immediacy.
Join us next week for The Glass Menagerie!
To reserve seats, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 601-965-7026.
In contrast to the article on authorial intent and protecting the playwright’s vision that I previously posted, this article in the Guardian talks about 3 different productions of Chekhov plays being performed in London – each with a unique vision of what it means to attempt to communicate what the playwright had in mind: One traditional looking ‘samovar’ production, one minimalist, and one updated ‘contemporary’ production.
As a playwright, I am generally on the side of authorial intent. Good playwrights think through all the elements of production, and if it’s a good play, all of those elements – text, design, staging, lighting etc. – should be aiding in making the play what it is. I’m a believer in a traditional looking Beckett play, because the design of the space is part of what he was intending. And if a production wants to tell an audience something other than what was intended, find another play.
As a director, I recognize that I am as guilty as anyone of taking liberties with the look and feel of the production of a play. Steampunk Romeo and Juliet wherer the actors change roles every scene. A blown-up Viewpoints improv production of Antigone. A production of Murder in the Cathedral that looked like a Robert Wilson show. But, for me, presenting those plays in that way had more to do with unlocking different elements of the play than regularly get released than it did with just ‘looking cool’ or ‘being interesting.’ These different elements were not OTHER than what was in the play, they were (and are) within – in the text, the language, in the implications of the situation, sometimes lost in the recontexting of a play (producing an ancient Greek play in 21st century America). But my most sincere hope and prayer is that these productions are all still true to what was in the text of the play, and hopefully carry across to the audience what was intended by the author – even if it looks different.
So, do I want people to do that with my plays? Well, no. I’ve had the experience of someone making an alteration to a play of mine that I felt strongly changed what I had in mind, several times. I’ve seen it drastically injure the intention of the play, putting “words in my mouth” that I never said and didn’t mean – an addition that was not what I had written. But, if there’s a way of taking something that I’ve written and discovering something in it that I hadn’t noticed before and drawing it out of the text that is already there – I hope that I could find the joy in that.
Two recent articles spoke of the issue of playwrights defending their intentions in production.
Australia’s Belvoir theatre company based in Sydney has, over the years, faced a number of cases of opposition from playwrights (or their estates/ rights holders) over their re-interpretive productions of plays. The recent article talks of their cutting of the Requiem scene at the end of Death of a Salesman, and mentions previous run-ins with the estate of Samuel Beckett over the music used during the production of Waiting for Godot and their attempt to de-contextuaralize Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
On a slightly different note, playwright Bruce Norris recently shut down a planned production of his Pulitzer winning play Clybourne Park in Germany over his objection to their intention to have non-black actors to perform the African American characters in his play, but to have them perform in blackface. NY Times article here. This is not unlike another recent incident where playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis objected to the casting of a regional production of one of his plays where the characters were intentionally written to be minorities.
Often, the argument of making changes for a production comes down to a legal issue – by purchasing the rights to produce a work, the producer is contractually obligated to stage the play as written, with no changes to the text and as close to staging it as described as possible. Many well-established playwrights tend to be sticklers about how true a production must stay to the written text (including staging) – often because the staging (the set, the blocking) are integral to the meaning of the work. Other writers are welcoming to the idea of making adjustments, and are happy to alter dialogue, allow for casting variations (gender, race, etc), or make other concessions simply because they want to have their play staged in as many venues as possible.
The important factor is that any adjustments that a producer might want to make should always be discussed with the writer and/or the rights holder before putting them in place. That’s more than a legal obligation, that’s an ethical one.
This week is the show week for our Theatre 151 production of Angel Street by Patrick Hamilton. Last night’s opening was a wonderful performance, and was followed by a delicious tea and biscuits reception.
Angel Street is the first Theatre 151 production to flex the expectations of a performance in a small venue – usually the stage is set up as a traditional proscenium set-up, but for this show it was arranged as an ‘alley’ set-up, with the stage in the center of the room and a bank of seats on either side. This made for an even more intimate presentation – which heightened the sense of suspense in the play; a Victorian thriller. The impending return of a suspicious character is all the more intense when the furthest seat from the stage is hardly more than 10 feet away…
Congratulations to student director Ginny Holladay, the cast and crew of the show!