The beginning chord of a 'Circle'

posted by Anthony Fusco, A.C.T. Core Acting Company member

A little over a week ago at A.C.T., we got together for an internal reading of a few scenes from Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, newly translated by our own Domenique Lozano. You may know her as the director of A Christmas Carol for the past few years, but “Domie” is also an important part of the M.F.A. program, where she directs and teaches and also helps the graduating land agents and dazzle casting directors by putting together the M.F.A. Showcase—which travels to New York and L.A.—every year. I had the good luck to co-teach a Shakespeare class with her this year, and suffice to say her students are very lucky indeed.

With the blessings of the Brecht estate, she is busily preparing Chalk Circle for production next season. It will be directed by John Doyle, and based on what we read, we are off to a fine, fine start. Her translation so far is very actable, very funny, and strikes a perfect balance between naturalistic phrasing and the formality or “distance” employed by Brecht. Those who saw Sweeney Todd in the fall of 2007 will remember Doyle’s use of this distancing effect, and I’m really looking forward to working with him on a play by the father of that approach. Also, Carey Perloff is a dyed-in-the-wool Brechtian, and I’ve always felt a bit outclassed by her first hand experience with old Bertolt. I’m super excited about getting some of that experience myself.

At the reading we had most of the core company, as well as a few M.F.A. students and some of our more beloved local actors all gathered in a rehearsal studio at 30 Grant to give it a read. I was immediately struck by and excited at the vividness of the work—the clear, strong characters, the scathing humor, the political urgency, the moral outrage, all held together by Brecht’s superb craft and abiding compassion for the little guy. My father is a well known photojournalist who has striven throughout his life to depict the plight of the oppressed and the sins of the powerful, so Brecht’s sympathies struck a familiar and welcome chord with me. And speaking of “chords,” figuring out just what to do with the many songs in the play is going to be one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of the production. Brecht, you see, wrote lyrics, but no music. Carey and her team have been listening to all types of stuff apparently. Should it sound folksy? Kurt Weill like? Soviet? Caucasian? Big decisions to be made.

Maybe the best part of the reading was the lively debate that followed as a few of us lingered afterwards. I imagine many in the audience will be caught up in debate as well. Folks, this is one to look forward to.

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