Magazine article American Theatre

Novel to Stage: A Family's 2nd Act

Magazine article American Theatre

Novel to Stage: A Family's 2nd Act

Article excerpt

Amidst a season peppered with adaptations is Peter Gaitens's stage. version of Michael Cunningham's novel Flesh and Blood, scheduled to run at Oregon's Portland Stage Company Oct. 30--Nov. 18, under the supervision of artistic director Chris Coleman, following a workshop last season at New York Theatre Workshop. Coleman talked to the Pulitzer-winning novelist (for The Hours) about his decidedly nontraditional family drama, which follows three generations of the fictitious Stassos clan.

MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM: It's hard to say where the initial spark for something as large and complex as a novel comes from. I wanted to write about the decidedly nontraditional families I saw around me, many of which were composed of people whose biological families couldn't or wouldn't contain them, because they were gay or because they had drug problems or because they went around in drag or whatever. Still, in Flesh and Blood, I did want to write about a gay man who falls in love--big, romantic, lasting love--with someone who isn't 25 and doesn't have washboard abs or pecs like cantaloupes. And, 1 wanted to write about a repressed housewife who achieves some sort of transcendence. The book fell gradually, very gradually, into place.

CHRIS COLEMAN: Flesh and Blood seems inherently more dramatic than your other work. More of the text is dialogue, and there are many more direct confrontations between characters. Did you consider translating it into any other medium at the outset?

CUNNINGHAM: I never write a book with the idea that it might be translated into another medium. If I thought that way, I'd just skip writing the book entirely and write the play or screenplay or opera or whatever. But my feelings about adaptations are always clear: I want to put the book into the hands of someone I trust and respect as an artist and see what he or she does with it. I don't really believe in the "sacred text. …

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