Today’s Armchair BEA topic is “Beyond the Books” — What are your favorite alternative forms for experiencing literature?
I think the focus is supposed to be on webcomics, graphic novels, and so on, but this question got me thinking about some of the great theater productions I have seen over the years, several of which were adaptations of books. I’m sure many readers and bloggers must be theater fans as well, yet I don’t see much discussion or reviewing going on in the blogs I follow. Here are a few of the most memorable shows I’ve seen, some of them dating from decades back. I hope you’ll share some of your theater experiences as well!
To Kill a Mockingbird – unknown theater, Seattle
I’m pretty sure this is one of the first professional theater productions I saw as a child, quite a few years before experiencing the book (or the movie). I still remember its staging and actors sometimes when I read the novel. I just wish I could remember which theater it was…
The Gospel at Colonus – The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
In my first term of college I trekked up to “the Cits” to see experimental theater legend Lee Breuer’s musical version of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus. As the title suggests, the story is told by a Pentecostal preacher and the choir of his church, an interesting take on the traditional Greek chorus. Morgan Freeman was amazing (this was before he became really famous), as were the gospel singers.
On the Town – Shakespeare in the Park, New York City
It was worth waiting several hours in line for the free tickets to this exuberant revival. Click on the link and you can see a video of the opening number.
Jane Eyre – Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
I’ve already written elsewhere of how impressed I was by this British import, which has the “madwoman” Bertha Mason on stage throughout as a reprentation of Jane’s inner state. (Having a human actor play a dog was maybe not quite such a good idea.)
Twelfth Night – The Globe Theatre, London
This is undoubtedly the Shakespeare play I’ve seen most often, starting with the high school production in which I had a walk-on part as one of Olivia’s ladies-in-waiting. I can think of at least four or five others, but the most memorable had to be this version with an all-male cast at the restored Globe Theatre. Gorgeous music, too.
His Dark Materials – Royal Shakespeare Company, London
I was psyched when on the eve of my departure from London I was able to get into a preview of Part II of this theatrical version of Philip Pullman’s trilogy, which featured some interesting puppetry, as well as Timothy Dalton as Lord Asriel. It’s not my favorite part of the story, so for me the most memorable moment was when part of the revolving stage set got stuck and the cast and crew had to work out what to do.
Illyria – Taproot Theater Company, Seattle
This musical version of Twelfth Night (again!) was utterly charming, and probably better suited to the tiny Taproot stage than to the wider expanses of Broadway, where it flopped. Definitely worth seeing, if you can.
Thinking about these shows brought back so many wonderful memories — I’m now motivated to try to get to the theater more! Do you have any that stand out for you?