Free Association Theatre Ensemble will present an ambitious community-theater production of Marat/Sade, a complex 1963 play by German-born playwright Peter Weiss (1916-82), with music by New York composer Richard Peaslee and lyrics by Weiss, on Nov. 5 and 6, 11-13, and 18-20 at 267 Grande Heights Dr. in Cary, in a performance space that is located in the Harrison Pointe Shopping Center at the corner of Maynard Dr. and Harrison Ave.
“I actually read this show back in high school at my director’s urging,” reveals FATE founder and artistic director Julya M. Mirro, “but I didn’t really get into it until I had a long conversation with my aunt who is an actor in NJ/NY. She told me this wonderful story about how they did the show back in college, and their director took it so seriously that they were — and I quote her — ‘never quite right after that show.’ It sounded like a fun and a wonderful challenge, and it made me happy to think about the actor’s options when playing ‘crazy.'”
Mirro, who will serve as producer as well as director of Marat/Sade, adds, “The thing I like best about this show is the opportunity for the actors to create the multilayered characters. First, they’re actors, then they add the characterization of a ‘patient’ in the asylum, and then the ‘character’ in the play-within-the-play (‘The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat’). I just think ‘How cool is that!?!?'”
“This show has been on my radar for over 15 years,” explains Julya Mirro, “and it just really suits FATE. When our artistic reading committee put it on the ‘short list,’ and it was almost unanimously voted on at our open board meeting, I was excited that the ensemble also thought it was a good fit for us. After that, it was easy to be encouraged to produce it!”
Originally written in German as Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade — better known as simply Marat/Sade — was translated into English by Geoffrey Skelton, with verse adaptation by Adrian Mitchell.
This provocative play had its world premiere in London in 1964. The show made its Broadway debut, directed by Peter Brook and choreographed by Malcolm Goddard, on Dec. 27, 1965 at the Martin Beck Theatre, where it played for 145 performances before closing on Apr 30, 1966. The show starred Patrick Magee as the Marquis de Sade, Ian Richardson as Jean-Paul Marat, and Glenda Jackson as Marat’s murderer Charlotte Corday. Marat/Sade won four 1966 Tony Awards®, including the Tonys for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play, and Best Featured Actor in a Play (Patrick Magee).
The 1967 British motion-picture version of Marat/Sade, directed by Peter Brook from a screenplay by Adrian Mitchell, again starred Patrick Magee as de Sade, Ian Richardson as Marat, and Glenda Jackson as Corday.
FATE director Julya Mirro says, “[Marat/Sade] is the story of how a liberal asylum director, Coulmier (John Paul Middlesworth), provides creative opportunity in the form of a play to his patients. This play is written by the infamous Marquis de Sade (Jeffrey Bergman) about the true, historical story of the persecution and assassination of the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat (Thom Haynes) and other assorted historical figures. These include Marat’s murderer, Charlotte Corday (Noelle Barnard), her associate Duperret (Mick Williams), and rabble-rousing priest Jacques Roux (Chris Brown), amongst others.”
Mirro says, “Various other inmates (Wyatt Geist, Jarrett Lefler, Jillian Lefler, Jessi Nemeth, Irene Rockwell, Oliver Vest, and Cassie Wladyslava) perform additional roles. Additionally, Coulmier has invited some patients (we have addressed them as ‘day patients’ who can come and go from the asylum) to sing and perform. The singers are Rossignol (Erin Brown), Cucurucu (John Honeycutt), Kokol (Nicola Lefler), and Polpoch (Ken Wolpert).
“The ‘play’ gets out of control as the patients’ focus breaks down,” Mirro explains, “and the themes of the French Revolution spill over into the patients’ behavior and experiences, forcing the nurses/bouncers (Jim Azarelo and Brian Clark) to settle the patients down.”
She adds, “Because the concept was to focus on the inmates/patients first, and allow the play-within-the-play to evolve and play as it would from the perspective of inmates/patients, it was difficult to settle on a type of presentation. We [will perform] it in a modified round, so that the audience can always see the behaviors of the ‘patients,’ regardless of where they sit. It also seemed appropriate that Coulmier wouldn’t want the ‘patients’ to be out of viewing of the nurses/bouncers.
“Additionally,” Mirro says, “we are renting a new space in the Harrison Pointe Shopping Center, and it’s a large open room. While we wanted the space to seem industrial and cold, as a ‘play/visiting’ space would be in a modern asylum, its sheer vastness required some creative solutions to challenges in terms of defining the space. Kudos to Leslie A. Pless, who conceived of, and executed, a wonderful ‘wall’ system to delineate the ‘visiting’ area from the ‘patient’ area.”
In addition to producer and director Julya M Mirro, the Free Association Theatre Ensemble creative team for Marat/Sade includes assistant director, technical director, and stage manager Leslie Pless; musical director, composer, and sound designer Erin Brown; set designers Leslie Pless, Julya Mirro, and various cast members (Mirro notes that “the majority of the decorations were created by the ‘patients'”); costume designers Julya Mirro and Leslie Pless (but Mirro says “each actor is responsible for their patient’s ‘costume’ for the play-within-the-play); and properties manager Leslie Pless (Mirro says cast members were “responsible for creating and utilizing the majority of their props, as the ‘patients’ would have created them; additionally, they were only allowed to use craft supplies which were approved by the ‘asylum’ and had no additional access to items”).
Mirro notes that “Each member of the ensemble created their own ‘patient,’ and conceived of their own medications, objects, and backstory,” and that this FATE presentation of Marat/Sade will use original music by local singer and songwriter Erin Brown, instead of the music that Richard Peaslee composed for the play’s original production.
She adds, “Each ‘patient’ has a basic white costume. The less functioning patients (ensemble) wear all white. The higher-functioning females (patients playing Corday and Simone) wear a long white tunic. The higher functioning males (patients playing Sade, Marat, Roux, and Duperret) wear blue and white striped ‘day pajamas’ (actually from a British asylum!).
“Each patient has a number (actor chosen) on their left, in pink or blue, designating them as male/female and their identification,” says Mirro. “The singers wear modern clothes which fit the theme of red, black, white, and gray. Coulmier is dressed for the event in his best clothing. The nurses wear daily scrubs.”
Julya Mirro says, “The set, as the space, consists of things which would be provided to inmates in an asylum. They make use of carpet squares to delineate their own space, colors and tape to provide personal space, a dog pen, stairs, random chairs (great big ‘Thank You’ to Rachel Klem and Common Ground Theatre for loaning us some of their superfluous chairs), and whatever would be around. The areas are delineated by a wall of cardboard, which the actors (as their patients) colored and decorated….
“We are using the florescent lighting, which is standard in the space,” Mirro says, “although we did adjust which lights had tubes which are lit in them to create more specific spaces.”
Director Julya Mirro adds, “I think it is important for people to recognize that our production of [Marat/Sade] is not the same as the film or, perhaps, even other productions. Instead of focusing on the play-within-the-play, I chose to focus on the patients who are putting the play on. I believe this has given the actors a really fun and exciting challenge — building a character who takes on another character. The show is chaotic and fun and a little disturbing, but that all seems relevant to the themes presented by Peter Weiss.
“I’d also like to point out,” says Mirro, “that one of the things important to FATE’s mission is to provide opportunity for actors who are eager for experience. In this production we have three teenagers, a green actor, and several seasoned actors — this makes for a wonderful ensemble, and a great experience for everyone who is involved in the show.
“FATE believes that we all have creativity inside us, and this production really makes it clear that a group of different people — mostly who don’t know each other — can come together and make a truly wonderful ensemble, and we’re really proud of that,” claims Mirro. “You’ll laugh (a lot) and you may even cry. But you will not be bored!”
The Free Association Theatre Ensemble presents MARAT/SADE at 8 p.m. Nov. 5 and 6 and 11-13, 3 p.m. Nov. 14, and 8 p.m. Nov. 18-20 at 267 Grande Heights Dr., Cary, North Carolina 27513.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel.
BOX OFFICE: 919/228-8184, FATEreservations@gmail.com, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/132687.
The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marat/sade (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=7041 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060668/ (Internet Movie Database).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Weiss (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8133 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0919140/ (Internet Movie Database).
Erin Brown: http://ernbrn.com/ (official website).
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