Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Adapting the Classics - The Discussion

Red Tape Theatre's panel Adapting the Classics was presented on Saturday, October 11 at 4:30 p.m., alongside our adaptation of Dog in a Manger. I led a discussion with four Chicago artists who'd successfully helmed their own adaptations

The panelists were:

In Mr. Montgomery's production of The Master Builder, he felt he couldn't let an ensemble member play a character who "dies in act one and then sits in the green room. First of all we don't have a green room!" The decision to double cast the supporting roles led to greater discoveries. As the paranoid title character unraveled , the reality of those he meets became ambiguous. Do they exist? Are they creations of his rivals or his imagination?

Ms. Ford's production of The Misanthrope examined the contrasts of a decadent society in a time of war, as France indeed was. She described Kevin Depinet's set as a "bombed out mansion" in which Celimine and her followers were "squatting." Her rank was established in her refusal to acknowledge the hole in the wall. If she ignored it, so must her suitors, who entered through the doorway instead. Alceste, the title character, of course entered through the wall.

When Ms. Mclean began Lifeline's adaptation of The Mark of Zorro she was surprised by the darkness in the original books. Zorro's justice lacks mercy as he tortures and eventually kills his foes. In a post-Dark Knight age it seemed appropriate to instead explore the comic aspects of the story. She described the excitement of collaborating with actor James Elly, who not only explored Zorro the fighter and Don Diego the clown, but the mystery man who wears both masks. (Code named "Z").

Mr. Lewis received a variety of responses to the finale of A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Queer Tale. The production transformed Shakespeare's lovers into same sex couples fleeing a tyrannical government to a fairy land of drag queens, club kids and leather daddies. While the popular show had a festive, party atmosphere the finale introduced a somber tone with a closeted homosexual actor committing suicide in the middle of "Pyramus and Thisbe." In a production commenting on gay rights, Mr. Lewis felt it important to respect those who would be "left behind" when the rest of the communities "needs were met."

At the end an audience member asked when an adaptation ceases to be connected to the original work. The panel agreed that every production had it's own line in the sand. In most cases, they felt, you avoid crossing it. On special occasions, one added, one must embrace the opportunity to tell their own story. That's when you not only step over the line... you leap!

Dog in a Manger has been extended through November 2.
Visit for details and to purchase tickets online!

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