A Director Looks to Her Audience for 'Porgy and Bess'

By Newmark, Judith | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Director Looks to Her Audience for 'Porgy and Bess'


Newmark, Judith, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Decades have passed since the Muny presented a tour show. Indeed, Muny staffers consider it a point of pride that the big outdoor theater mounts all its musicals itself, generally with less than two weeks from first rehearsal to opening night.

"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," which opens on Monday, is a tour show.

The Muny's artistic director and executive producer, Mike Isaacson, isn't troubled.

"Every once in a while, something comes along that's worth breaking all the rules for," he said. "This is one of those things.

"'Porgy and Bess' is arguably one of the greatest works of 20th- century art. Imagine that, and imagine that Gershwin score, under our trees and stars.

"We weren't going to let the chance go by."

The tour that's coming here is the celebrated production that director Diane Paulus introduced at Harvard's American Repertory Theatre (where she's the artistic director) and moved to Broadway. With a hard cut in length and a script reworked by Pulitzer Prize- winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, Paulus aimed the 1935 opera straight at today's theatergoers.

They're the ones, after all, who will be in the house. When they hear songs like "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "I Got Plenty of Nothing," she hopes they'll love them for how they sound and feel, present-tense, not just for the memories they evoke.

Paulus has no problem with revivals just the opposite. Three shows that she directed won Tony awards for best revival: "Hair" in 2009, "Porgy and Bess" in 2012 and "Pippin" in 2013. For that one, Paulus also claimed her own Tony, for director of a musical; it plays the Peabody Opera House in December.

"When I direct a piece from the repertoire whether it's 'Don Giovanni' or 'Hamlet' or 'Hair' my goal is to make it feel immediate and present," she said in a phone conversation from Boston, where she's directing a new show about J.M. Barrie, "Finding Neverland."

"I don't want the audience to feel they're watching something that was created many moons ago. I want it to feel visceral and immediate. I don't want them to have to peer through layers of gauze, separating the work from the audience.

"I want them to feel as if it's brand-new and was made just for them."

Paulus, 48, has been shaping plays for contemporary sensibilities since she burst onto the scene in 1999 with "The Donkey Show," a disco treatment of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that she created with her husband, theater artist and producer Randy Weiner. Married 19 years, they have two daughters in elementary school.

"'Midsummer' usually seems rather sweet," Paulus recalled, "but Oberon, the fairy king, drugs his wife to make her love a donkey. That is not so sweet!

"The drugs, the sexual hijinks, the way the characters disappear into the forest and change identities it all made us think of Studio 54 in its heyday, when a busboy from Queens could dance with Elizabeth Taylor. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Director Looks to Her Audience for 'Porgy and Bess'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.