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Therese Raquin

Adaptations in Theatre

Posted on: October 24th, 2015 by Sarah Kutnowsky

 

Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of Thérèse Raquin is the newest addition to a long history of bringing written works to life. There are many other novels that have made the journey to the stage. Here are just a few…

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN

Broadway Revival of BIG RIVER

Broadway Revival of BIG RIVER

Big River, an adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, follows Huck and Jim as they float down the Mississippi together on a raft. The musical first premiered on Broadway in 1985. In the 2003 revival, the Roundabout Theatre Company and Deaf West Theatre re-envisioned the production to include both hearing and deaf actors. The musical’s set was covered with large scale pages from Twain’s novel.

CORAM BOY

Jamila Gavin’s young adult novel is about the perils that face abandoned children in 1700s England. This other Helen Edmundson adaptation started at the National Theatre in 2005 and appeared on Broadway in 2007. The melodrama prominently features Handel’s oratorios (large scale musical compositions), which fuel and escalate the turbulent story.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Mark Haddon’s novel is about Christopher, a young man with autism, and his quest to solve the murder of a neighborhood dog. Adapted by Simon Stephens, the play made the move from the West End to Broadway in 2014. Using a combination of lights, sound, and projections, the stage becomes a large scale grid through which audiences can see Christopher’s unique view of the world.

CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME on Broadway

CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME on Broadway

FRANKENSTEIN

In Nick Dear’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel, performed at the Royal National Theatre in 2011, actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller alternated the roles of both Victor Frankenstein and his creature. The play began with the creature’s birth; audiences watched it emerge naked from a light filled orb, clawing its way into existence.

THE GRAPES OF WRATH

The classic American novel by John Steinbeck follows the Joad family on their journey from Oklahoma to California, where they hope to build a new life. In 1990 the play, adapted by Frank Galati, was performed on Broadway. The production had live music (composed specifically for the play, using Steinbeck’s words) and a 12-foot water tank for the actors to swim in.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY

Charles Dickens’ novel follows a young man, Nicholas, who must provide for his family after his father dies. David Edgar’s adaptation dramatizes the entire story, which is over 700 pages long, in a two part play that lasts for 8 and ½ hours. The play was first performed in 1980 at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Aldwych Theatre, and moved to Broadway in the fall of 1981. The play featured Roger Rees as Nicholas.

 


Thérèse Raquin plays through January 3 at Studio 54. For more information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Therese Raquin


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About the Author: Émile Zola

Posted on: October 11th, 2015 by Jason Jacobs

 

Emile Zola

Émile Zola

Émile Zola was a significant 19th century French novelist, critic, and political activist. Born in Paris in 1840, Émile Édouard-Charles-Antoine Zola was the only child of an Italian father and a French mother. The family moved to Aixen-Provence when Émile was three; four years later, Émile’s father died of pneumonia, leaving little money behind. Zola attended school but failed the baccalauréat examination, which meant he could not pursue a formal education.

At age 18, Zola returned to Paris and lived in poverty for four years, until he found employment as a clerk at the Hachette publishing firm. Zola began writing cultural reviews and political journalism as well as fiction. In 1865 his first novel, La Confession de Claude (Claude’s Confession), caused scandal by portraying a young man’s affair with a prostitute; however, it established Zola’s reputation as a writer. Zola quit Hachette and resolved to support himself and his widowed mother through his writing. His second novel, Thérèse Raquin, was released in 1867, first in serial form and then as a book. Although Le Figaro called the book “putrid literature,” it was a popular success.

In 1870, Zola began a masterwork that would take over 20 years to complete. The Rougon-Macquart series consisted of 20 novels. They portrayed a fictional family in the years of France’s Second Empire (1850-1872) and explored the impact of social, economic, and political events on the family. Zola championed naturalism, a literary genre that applied scientific principles to storytelling. “Determinism” held that forces of heredity, environment, and history determined character and behavior, while the experimental method called for a detailed, objective recording of precise data. Through naturalistic novels, Zola illuminated the plight of society’s poorest and most persecuted members.

Zola remained a prolific journalist and an outspoken advocate for justice. He wrote critically about France’s president Napoleon III, who had staged a coup d’etat and crowned himself as emperor. Zola is best remembered for intervening in the Dreyfus Affair by openly denouncing the government with his words “J’accuse” (“I accuse”). In an open letter, he accused the government of mishandling the case of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer wrongfully convicted of espionage and treason. Authorities retaliated against Zola by prosecuting him for libel. Zola fled to England and lived in exile for almost a year, until the Dreyfus case was reopened. Zola’s letter helped to shed light on the societal anti-Semitism and militarism at the root of Dreyfus case.

Zola married his lover Gabrielle-Alexandrine Meley when he was 30 years old, and their marriage lasted throughout his life. But his only children, Denise and Jacques, were the product of a 14-year affair with one of his housemaids, Jeanne Rozerot. Gabrielle recognized the children after Zola’s mystifying death in 1902. Zola died by asphyxiation from coal gas that leaked into his bedroom from a blocked chimney flue. Although his death was officially ruled to be an accident, to this day suspicions exist that he was murdered by fanatical opponents from the Dreyfus controversy. At his death, Zola was one Europe’s most respected novelists and widely admired for his political conviction and action.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Therese Raquin, Upstage


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Interview with Actor: Gabriel Ebert

Posted on: October 3rd, 2015 by Ted Sod

 

Ted Sod interviewed Tony-Award winning actor Gabriel Ebert on his role as Camille in Thérèse Raquin.

Gabriel Ebert

Gabriel Ebert

TED SOD: Why did you choose to play the role of Camille Raquin in Thérèse Raquin?

GABRIEL EBERT: I was blessed with the opportunity to work with director Evan Cabnet back when I was at Juilliard in my fourth year. And I've always loved the way he runs a room and the work that he does. The role of Camille is a bit of a departure for me – I’ve been playing a lot of tortured artists. Camille is babied by his mother and treated as though he's ill all the time. He has a phlegmatic personality, and he is responsible for a lot of the humor in the play. This character could be seen as a stereotype of an uncaring husband. Maybe I can find a way to play him that would allow his behavior to be better understood by the audience.

TS: Why do you think Camille behaves the way he does?

GE: He is an only child. He has always been a mama's boy. He’s never learned how to be self-sufficient, self-reliant. He's always been treated like a prince. And the fact that Thérèse doesn't treat him in that way wounds him. I am hoping to discover in the rehearsal room how much love there actually is between him and Thérèse. I think a lot of things go unsaid. I think there are misunderstandings between the two of them because she was forced into this relationship with his family due to the death of her parents.

TS: How do you explain the fact that he's clueless about who his friend Laurent really is?

GE: I've had the experience of meeting someone who I think is really cool and wanting to just hang around with them. I think Camille, who has always been around women, suddenly has the opportunity to spend time with a really confident, good-looking painter who is rather like an older brother. And because the excitement of that is so great, he doesn't take the time to actually look more deeply at things that might be happening. Camille doesn't see what’s negative about Laurent because he’s blinded by the excitement of having a cool friend.

TS: What do you think the play is about?

GE: It's hard for me not to read the play in terms of just character motivation. I try to empathize with my character. I try to relate to all of the characters on a human level. Helen Edmundson’s adaptation has made this a very human story. What do I think the play is about? It's about Thérèse and her struggle. She's forced into a marriage which is clearly loveless, a marriage that doesn't allow her to be authentic. It denies her a rich inner life. She's always struggling and staring out at the water. Finally she finds passion in Laurent. At the end of play, maybe one of the realizations Thérèse has is that Camille wasn't actually so bad after all. I think the play could be about the deception of lust. Or the fact that incredibly sexy encounters might not add up to true love. I think a lot of the play is about guilt. How guilt gets in the way of being able to accomplish anything. I feel that's something that Laurent and Thérèse struggle with in the second half of the play.

TS: How will you research your role? What kind of work do you have to do before you get into the rehearsal room?

GE: If I get pedantic in my research it actually takes me away from the visceral experience of being in the rehearsal room and telling the story that we're all telling. I'm definitely going to read more of Zola's work. Maybe Zola will give me a key into how Camille walks – perhaps it is with his hands behind his back or maybe he does a funny little thing with his nose when he talks. I'll probably study the character traits of the phlegmatic humor. I’ll explore with that in the rehearsal room and see what comes out of it. I have to make this story accessible to the audience at Studio 54.

Gabriel Ebert and Judith Light in rehearsal for THÉRÈSE RAQUIN.

Gabriel Ebert and Judith Light in rehearsal for THÉRÈSE RAQUIN.

TS: Thérèse Raquin has been adapted many times as a film, opera and play. What do you think attracts so many artists to this story?

GE: Thérèse is such a great character. Audiences can relate to her because a lot of us get into relationships that don't fulfill us in every single capacity, and we search for escape. We don't want to lose the relationship entirely, but our id is howling from our bowels, asking for the other things that we need. And so we go and seek those. This story talks about the cost of that. It looks at actually balancing the howling id with reality and the consequences of that.

TS: What do you look for from a director when you're working on a role?

GE: I like working with a director who provides me a very firm structure. Because within a structure, there’s more freedom I find. I've already had a couple of conversations with Evan about the play, and he's got amazing ideas. I don't go in with too many preconceived notions. I'm a nerd for all the minutia. I love doing table work, sitting and talking about the play and everyone getting on the same page in terms of the journey that we're going to create for our audiences. I like discussing the themes that are in the text. Rehearsal is great for me because it gives me an opportunity to fail really big, and through some of those failures, I'll find things.

TS: Will you talk about American actors working with actors from the United Kingdom?

GE: For some reason I've done a lot of English plays or musicals, and I often play British in transfers from London. I've worked with a lot of British directors. I don't necessarily find that there’s too much difference. This will be my first time working with a movie star of Keira Knightley's stature. I have an affinity for Brits. I love them. And I love England. I don't know if it's very different. I mean they love the theatre, and they take it very seriously. And so do I. And in some ways I feel like a Brit who just happened to be born in America. So in a way, it feels like coming home. Matt Ryan, who plays Laurent, is Welsh, and I love the Welsh accent. I'm definitely going to listen to him talk and secretly try to steal what I can, so that maybe I can play a Welshman someday.

TS: What about the French aspect of the story? Is that something you have to deal with as an actor?

GE: I don't know. I am sure Evan will tell us what world we live in. I don't know where our dialects are going to live. I love doing dialects. But I think it'll be kind of weird if we are all doing French accents or something like that. I imagine everyone French was smoking cigarettes at that period in time, so that's something I'd be interested in exploring. But I don't know if you can really smoke cigarettes in Studio 54 anymore. Whether in terms of dialect or in terms of style, hopefully we’ll just communicate the human elements of the story. When I read Zola's novel, all his details -- the way that the fog hangs over the buildings or the smell of the air or the colors of the time – all those details create a French atmosphere for me.

TS: Did you ever have any teachers at Juilliard or elsewhere who profoundly influenced you?

GE: I'm incredibly indebted and grateful to my teachers at Juilliard. And several of them still come and see my work. Jim Houghton took over the program after my first year, and he's been a huge inspiration to me. My acting teacher Richard Feldman and Richard's wife, Carolyn Serota, who ran the Alexander Program at school, were both influences. For years, I always hunched over and apologized for my height because I felt bad that I was bigger than everyone. When I got into her class, she got me to stand up straight for the first time. And Richard made me play kings and killers because I was always the clown, always apologizing for my size. They actually made me fulfill and embody my size. And for that, I'm extremely grateful. I also had a great teacher at Denver School of the Arts named Shawn Hann. She allowed me to do some great things and still comes to see the theatre I am doing and brings current high school students with her.

TS: Do you have advice for the public school students who might want to pursue an acting career?

GE: The thing I say to kids who are auditioning for colleges, which I know is terrifying, is try to go in with the attitude of I may be the right person and I may not. They're not looking to turn people away -- they're looking to accept the right people. If you keep that in mind, it gives you a positive outlook going in rather than a defeatist point of view. I think it leads to better work. If you go in and say to yourself, “I may very well be the right person for this job and I may not. But I'm not going to take it personally either way,” then you allow yourself an opportunity to succeed. I grew up playing a lot of sports. And being in sports, failure is a huge part of success -- you have to strike out a bunch of times before you get a base hit.


Thérèse Raquin begins previews on October 1 at Studio 54. For more information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Therese Raquin


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