Arts and activism in the Bluegrass are explored freely here in my little blog. My voice is your voice...
is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?
Monday, July 11, 2011
Bo List's Frankenstein Premiere Looms In the Arboretum Horizon...
I had the pleasure of catching up with Bo List yesterday, who was nice enough to answer a few questions about SummerFest's next jewel of their summer triple crown, Frankenstein, which List has adapted from the original. This isn't his first foray into remodeling, though, he's enjoyed success with prior reincarnations, even that of Bram Stoker's classic, Dracula.
So, I wondered if the rumors were true, did he re-work Shelley's creation, and just how is he connected with this year's SummerFest?
I am the playwright of FRANKENSTEIN, which will be making its world premiere this July 13! Plus I am an enormous fan of the participants in all of the shows - either because I've worked with them before or always just thought that what they do is cool. So - I'm a groupie as well!
Have you ever been affiliated with SummerFest before?
"I have. When the Lexington Shakespeare Festival retired, after years of distinguished service to our community, I worked with a group of Lexington superstars toward the creation of a new company that would continue the great work that had been done in the Arboretum. That original group (Pam Perlman, Joe and Sheila Ferrell, Trish Clark, Joe Gatton...there are too many to name, so commonly held was our belief in the mission) worked miracles in a very short time to make sure that there wasn't a summer spent without theatre alive in that park. Shortly after the initial formation, I moved to Memphis for a job - but have been as involved as possible since then as supporter, donor and volunteer. I hope anyone reading this will consider their own possible involvement as a contributor!"
How did you come to adapt Frankenstein for KCT - how did all that come about?
I had been suggesting to Trish Clark, former Artistic Director of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival , for years that FRANKENSTEIN would sell well, and that they should hire me to adapt it. Late last summer, Trish finally said "Well, how would you like to go ahead and do FRANKENSTEIN?" and I was just stunned and thrilled. I never actually thought it would happen. And then it dawned on me - "Now I have to do it!" Which has been great...it's such a great book, and has been so influential. Not just literarily - - I mean with science as well, and they way we look at life and where it comes from and social responsibility and all that."
List explains that the process to breathe new life into FRANKENSTEIN began last summer just as the summer season was winding down. "If memory serves, the first conversation was early August of last year (maybe as late as Labor Day), and I had a few scenes done by Christmas and a rough draft maybe March 1-ish. Maybe April 1-ish. It was later than I wanted it to get done, but sometimes the Muse or God or the Universe or whoever yells at the voices in my head to start talking - - sometimes the yelling happens and sometimes it doesn't! By the time I opened my own RICHARD III in Memphis, in April, I had a decent whole of the play - and had a reading of it with some of my RICHARD cast. An interesting parallel to Summerfest's 'Season of Monsters!' "
What is different between this and Mary Shelley's version? "I've tried to stay as faithful as possible. Cracklingly good entertainment as it is, it is still a book - and there is an obligation of any adaptor to make sure that the audience experiences a theatrical event, and not merely a book onstage. So I've taken liberties where Shelley was vague (as in the creation scenes, made so iconic in later films) and compressed time when she indulged in too-generous-for-the-stage detail. Plus, the book travels a lot - the Arctic, Geneva, throughout Europe, Scotland, mountains, rivers - - I have tried to keep the action fairly contained in a handful of locations, to give the story some focus and to keep the pace purposeful. I hope it works!"
"The Creature is more apparently spiritual in my adaptation. He is influenced a great deal, in the book, by Milton's PARADISE LOST. Our audience will not have read it the way that Shelley's early 1800s audience would have - so I have borrowed some of its themes throughout the play so that the influence can be illustrated. As a result, images and metaphors from the Bible (Adam, Eve, Satan) as imagined by Milton end up being referred to by the Creature - who has as much an existential crisis as Adam himself. God borrowed a rib from Adam to create Eve...a higher price is paid in this adaptation for the Creature to have a mate."
Were you a part of the casting process or production process? "I had no part in the casting or design process. This was a little scary, as I have usually directed my own work or at least been around for the rehearsals (I am in New York for the summer working for a theatre). But once I learned who was cast - some of my favorites in the area - any fear was allayed. Carmen Geraci, who plays a number of roles in the show, is serving as dramaturg - making sure that the production and I are well connected and making a lot of marvelous suggestions for the play's future life after the Summerfest production. At least my fingers are crossed that there WILL be a life! I hope that I can avoid working so hard to make something beautiful, only to end up with a monster on my hands!"
Nick Vannoy, seen here in his Fairfax
persona for the wildly
entertaining Impersonation of Being Ernest,
will play the Creature...I'll have more
thoughts from Nick in future blogs,
so stay tuned!
Since List has been busy working over the last several years -- away from Lexington -- I had to know where he's been and where is going next -- will Lexington audiences have the pleasure of enjoying more of List's work anytime soon? "I have lived in and out of Memphis the last few years - serving as Executive Producer of Germantown Community Theatre for two of them and as a high school theatre teacher for one of them. In between, I've freelanced as director - in Memphis (doing THE VIOLET HOUR and RICHARD III for Theatre Memphis), Lexington (EQUUS for Banta Productions) and New York - at Marist College and the famous performing arts camp Stagedoor Manor. I would LOVE to work in Lexington again, and AM doing so with FRANKENSTEIN. I hope that professional opportunities like this one, and the one I enjoyed with Banta, are on the rise. Lexington is my home, and I would love to spend more time here - but I must, for now, follow work until it starts to follow me."
I also asked him if there is a surprise in this play, a character or actor or element that steals the scene, is a show-stopper?"I have written no such surprise in the script - so when I see the play for the first time opening night, I will be just as surprised as anyone if an actor or moment emerges from the script that steals the show. I hope it happens! If anything is surprising to the audience, it may be that the Creature speaks. In the book it is very eloquent - but since the famous Boris Karloff creature does NOT speak (he only grunts and roars, in a fashion oft-imitated on Saturday Night Live, etc.), that's how audiences think of him. More heartbreaking is that the creature is acutely aware of his own deformities and differences and can articulate his loneliness."
What has been the biggest challenge/joy out of collaborating with KCT on this production? "I have enjoyed and respected Joe Ferrell's work for the almost 20 years I've been doing theatre in Lexington - but have never had the chance to work with him until now. So THAT is a real treat - working with your heroes. My collaboration with Carmen Geraci has also been tremendously rewarding. He knows the book very well and has a tremendous eye for detail, drama and feeling. So having his watchful attention over my writing is very reassuring...I know that nothing good will go unmentioned by him and nothing bad will go unpunished!"
Bo List is no stranger to Lexington audiences, but being a writer as well as a fan of List, I love to hear his description of his bio: "I was born to two excellent parents, Bill and Kathy List. I have a great sister with whom I am fine friends - Lucia List Freeman. I got my MFA in Directing from the University of Memphis in 2003 and have worked professionally in New York, Chicago, California, Tennessee and Kentucky. With the Lexington Shakespeare Festival I directed MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, OUR TOWN, TWELFTH NIGHT and AS YOU LIKE IT - and can round out my Shakespeare portfolio with HAMLET, OTHELLO, ROMEO AND JULIET, TITUS ANDRONICUS and RICHARD III in other venues. My plays CITY OF LIGHTS and OUR TIME had their premieres in Edinburgh, Scotland as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe/American High School Theatre Festival and my DRACULA...A VARIATION premiered there with local professionals as a Chance Theatre production. I serve, currently, as Managing Director of River Valley Rep in Poughkeepsie, NY and am at work, slowly, GRADUALLY on an outdoor musical comedy based on the life of Kentucky's most famous citizen - THE COLONEL SANDERS STORY: A FINGER-LICKIN' GOOD MUSICAL. Look for it, summer 2016!"
And lastly, do you have a secret talent, one you will share with my readers?
SECRET TALENT: I can wiggle my ears fairly well. I'm also pretty good at catching quarters from my elbow. My MS. PAC MAN skills are good, and I'm told I'm a good kisser. That aside, I hope I'm a good enough playwright and FRANKENSTEIN adaptor to warrant the marvelous attention you've given this production!
Oh, and are you going to be in town for opening night?
SummerFest’s monstrous 2011 season continues with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s classic
“Frankenstein” adapted by Bo List and directed by Joe Ferrell.
Purchase tickets online or via phone and receive a discount by going to www.summerfestlex.org or by calling 866-811-4111- Mon-Fri 9am-9pm EST and Sat-Sun 10am-6pm EST. Tickets for each evening’s performance can be pre-purchased online or via phone before 4:30 PM and onsite beginning at 7:00 PM.
Felix, Executioner, Constable
In this world premiere theatrical event - true to Shelley's novel - discover the real Frankenstein and decide for yourself who is man and who is monster!
Tickets at www.summerfestlex.org or at 866-811-4111. Reserve your tickets in advance and receive a discount!
Well, that settles it. I must be there for opening night of Bo List's take on Frankenstein. I love the way he embraces the works he assumes and feeds the writer's soul by remaining pure to the heart of the original storyteller.