Adapt or die! Summer ’23 update

It’s been over eight months since I’ve written a post here, and there are over eight months of news. developments, and happenings to report. I couldn’t possibly cover them all. I’ll pick out just a few highlights, and it will be no coincidence that the three examples I choose will indicate my continued relationship with three authors and their works: Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, and Frank Wedekind.

First, I’ll say that my stage version of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is coming along nicely. I’m far from the first to adapt Moby Dick to the stage, but few extant adaptions capture the novel’s humming cross-section of American life, its grandeur and Elizabethan fullness. My adaptation will involve over a dozen actors in full period costume, will come complete with peals of traditional song and maritime tunes, and will convey both the clownery and the tragedy of the original. With luck, this production with debut in New York City in 2024.

Painting of Ahab, Fedallah, Daggoo, and Tashtego by Gilbert Wilson.

It was just last week that I finished my second summer of teaching with the Elm Shakespeare Company. I had a slightly larger role this year—in addition to teaching my usual class, I adapted The Merry Wives of Windsor into a 30-page script for young actors, which every teaching artist in the organization went on to use as part of the program’s curriculum. This was a point of pride. And while the kids didn’t necessarily care that I had once performed in Merry Wives (as the doddering Mistress Quickly, no less!) they certainly reveled in the play’s zaniness with as much enthusiasm as I once did. As time goes on, I have a bigger and bigger soft spot for Merry Wives. English rustics like Mistress Quickly, Robert Shallow, Ancient Pistol, and Corporal Nym will never make it onto the list with Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, etc., but as they recur in my life, sometimes in my teaching, sometimes onstage, sometimes in the pages of a book, and sometimes merely in my memory, I begin to admire them just as much.

Poster for Merry Wives made by one of my students.

Finally, it has been my continued good fortune to work with Philadelphia’s Sewer Rats Productions, whose revival of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening will premier this September. Sarah Billings, one of my closest friends in the world, is directing, and I am the dramaturg, a title I haven’t worn in about 7 years. But I slipped right back into the role, and if my research and context prove half as useful as I’m told they’ve been, I will be entirely satisfied. Sarah is doing important work in Philadelphia theatre, and her recent efforts have garnered the kind of vociferous praise that my productions could only dream of! I am sure that this revival will inspire nothing less. Tickets are available now.

Poster for Spring Awakening, by Sarah herself.

And that’s about it, unless you want to buy the newest Worthy Tales with my new Téwae and David story featured on the cover. And even if you don’t, that’s okay too.

See you in the 2023 best-of post!


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