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Adaptations!

June 8, 2013

Now that I’ve finished my master’s and almost done working on four shows at one time (which I would say never again, except I know at some point I will), I’ve started thinking about what shows I really want to work on and how I want to do them. Since I do mostly new works and my interests are plays that focuses on social issues, I thought adapting a classic play to focus on something that’s important to me would be an interesting way to do something new while still doing what I love. So I decided to take my favorite Ibsen play “Hedda Gabler” and start adapting it to place it in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

For those of you that don’t know, “Hedda Gabler” is about Hedda’s life as a newly wed to professor George Tesman, who is competing with his academic rival (and Hedda’s former lover/admirer) Eilert Lovborg for a chair position at the university. I won’t give too much away (so you can read it or see a production to find out more), but my plan is to make Lovborg Palestinian while keeping all the other characters Israeli, while placing it a few years in the future of our time (around 2020) so see not only how relatable the play is still today, but to show the damages that the conflict causes between people.

This concept came to me randomly in April while I was sitting in my Images of Women in Theatre class (clearly I was focused on class work in that moment), and once I came across this thought I knew I had to make it happen. Some people hate the thought of taking a play and changing its context since it’s not what the playwright intended. However, depending on the play adapting it may make it more relatable to a modern-day audience. For me, I plan on doing this adaptation by adding layers to the story without taking away its original meaning and intentions.

My example in this case being with making Lovborg Palestinian and Hedda Gabler and her husband Israeli, it not only makes the thought of who will get the position at the university more heightened, but it explains a lot about why Hedda and Lovborg’s relationship (or affair, or flirty friendship, depending on your interpretation) didn’t work out. It also connects to the original intentions of the script because Hedda and Lovborg’s relationship was taboo in its original setting simply because it wasn’t the way women were expected to behave back then (with the forward unwedded romance that they had). Now in the Israel/Palestinian conflict setting, it would be considered taboo by some for an Israeli and a Palestinian to behave in this matter as well. So I’m taking Ibsen’s original concepts and not only adding meaning (without taking away anything) but making it relatable today with race and religion.

I’ve only started doing this (I finished the pre-adapting dramaturgy for the concept recently and I’m in the middle of searching for translations to use for my adaptations), but I’m hoping to get a staged reading of it by the time 2013 ends.  If it works out, then I want to get a full production next year and possibly do more adaptations in the future. Even if it doesn’t go well or I learn in the process that I’m not as interested in adapting, I’m glad I’m having this new experience to explore and I feel even just creating these adapting concepts are really helpful and creative to do as theatre artists.

sarah sig

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