Friday, October 1, 2010

* A Yale Legacy: Blue Legs

Blue Dramaramas

Yale's theatrically inclined graduates have managed to produce a kind of  extra-genetic lineage of their own: from the godfather of the American theatre Thornton Wilder ('20), to Henry Winkler (M.F.A. '70) and Meryl Streep (M.F.A. 75) , and now, in the Broadway production of The Great Gatsby ( word for word, in toto) by a theatre company created by a Yalie (below).

"Break a Leg!"

Rebecca Mead, Onward and Upward with the Arts, “Adaptation,” The New Yorker, September 27, 2010, p. 44

“Gatz”;Elevator Repair Service;“The Great Gatsby”;F. Scott Fitzgerald;Novels;Theatre;Scott ShepherdABSTRACT: ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS about “Gatz,” Elevator Repair Service’s staging of “The Great Gatsby.” It would be misleading to call “Gatz,” which débuts at the Public Theatre later this month, an adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” since nothing in the novel has been altered to conform to theatrical constraints. Nor is it precisely a theatricalization of the novel: there are no bobbed hairdos, cigarette holders, or flapper gowns. Rather, in “Gatz”—which is the real surname of Jay Gatsby—the text of “The Great Gatsby” is spoken aloud, all forty-nine thousand words of it, and the action unfolds solely within a shabby office space. For the first half hour, the narrator (played by Scott Shepherd), reading aloud from a paperback copy of the novel, impersonates the other characters in the book. But eventually, the other workers in the office begin speaking the dialogue. The remaining text, including every “he said” and “she said,” is supplied by the narrator, who both is and isn’t Nick Carraway. The show lasts for a Wagnerian eight hours, including two short intermissions and a dinner break. Rather than dramatizing “The Great Gatsby,” “Gatz” dramatizes the experience of reading “The Great Gatsby” and in so doing it delivers the book back to its author. Tells about previous adaptations of “The Great Gatsby,” including a 1926 Broadway staging written by Owen Davis, film versions in 1949, 1974, and a televised adaptation in 2000. In 2006, a new attempt was made to bring “Gatsby” to Broadway. The show, written by Simon Levy, had an out-of-town tryout in Minneapolis. After Variety deemed the show “less than satisfying,” the Broadway plan was shelved. Members of Elevator Repair Service first came up with the notion of making a play out of the “The Great Gatsby” in 1999, when Steve Bodow, a founding member of the company, brought the book to rehearsal. (John Collins founded Elevator Repair Service in 1991, soon after he graduated from Yale. Bodow is now the head writer on “The Daily Show”; Collins remains as the company’s director.) Tells about previous production by E.R.S., including adaptations of “The Sound and the Fury” and “The Sun Also Rises,” and describes the process of creating “Gatz.”

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