ACCLAIMED YOUNG AMERICAN DIRECTOR
KATE WHORISKEY IS STAGING BARD'S CAMILLE,
WHICH PREVIEWS ON JULY 6 AND OPENS ON JULY 7
I have never told you how strangely attached to this delightful creature I became . . .
Now she is dead … and I know not what chord of antique elegy vibrates in my heart at memory of her! …She was the most absolute incarnation of Woman who has ever existed.
– Franz Liszt, writing about Marie Duplessis (Camille)
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. — Bard SummerScape's dramatic presentation for 2006 is a new production of Camille, adapted by Neil Bartlett after La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas the younger. The inventive Kate Whoriskey will direct. With a preview on July 6 and opening on July 7, the play has ten performances in the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. Sets are by Walter Spangler and costumes by Ilona Somógyi.
Neil Bartlett’s new stage version presents a frank and emotional portrayal of Dumas’s tragic story, showing the struggles of Marguérite Gautier, a courtesan so successful that she can afford anything except falling in love. Selling herself to the Parisian elite, Marguérite acquires the desirable accoutrements of wealth and status: luxury possessions, elegant clothes, a cultivated sense of literature and music, and enormous social success. Her dress and demeanor exude virginal elegance; her trademark camellia is pure and inviolable. But all this is façade, and two forces beyond her control – true love and consumption – eventually defeat her.
The "real" Camille was a Parisian courtesan named Marie Duplessis (1824-47), a lover of both Dumas and Franz Liszt, who himself is the subject of this year's Bard SummerScape and Bard Music Festival. Much of what is known about Duplessis is mixed in with the later fictions, including the autobiographical Dumas novel. In Dumas, the unsophisticated "Armand Duval" meets the courtesan "Marguérite Gautier" and falls in love. She has been the lover of countless men more exotic than Armand, but he wins her nevertheless. She resolves to leave her demi-monde life; they move to the country; Armand learns that Marguérite is selling her possessions to pay for her medicines and their keep. Armand's father does not support this union and asks Marguérite to leave his son for the sake of his family's reputation and his daughter, whose engagement is jeopardized by the scandalous affair. Marguérite leaves Armand and the relationship is destroyed, along with what remains of Marguérite's health. Marguérite dies alone, penniless, in a garret.
“Camille” began life as the autobiographical novel by Alexandre Dumas fils, La dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), first published in 1948. Adapted by Dumas for the stage, La dame aux camélias premiered at the Theatre de Vaudeville in Paris on February 2, 1852. The tragic heroine of the story has since been immortalized in numerous stage and screen adaptations, most notably serving as the basis for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata, which Franco Zeffirelli subsequently made into a film starring Teresa Stratas as the doomed lover. On Broadway alone, 16 versions of the play have been performed.
To coincide with the performances of Camille at Bard, two of the most significant film adaptations will be screened as a double bill on July 9: the 1921 silent film, Camille, directed by Ray C. Smallwood, with Ben Model performing live on piano; and the Hollywood version starring Greta Garbo and directed by George Cukor.
In the Bard SummerScape program book Francine Prose discusses Camille in fiction:
"Doubtless the best-known version is the 1936 Camille ... More recently, in 1973, Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company staged what must have been among the most outrageous, hilarious, and ultimately heartbreaking conceptions of Camille, with Ludlam himself as the doomed heroine, a portrayal that would take on added resonance over the next decade, when AIDS (of which Ludlam died in 1986) assumed the role that consumption had played for Dumas and his contemporaries: evidence of the close and potentially tragic connection between sex and death."
The creative team behind Bard’s Camille
Kate Whoriskey – "the inventive young director with a penchant for the classics and a flair for dynamic visuals" (American Theater), and cited by the San Francisco Chronicle's Robert Hurwitt for her "vivid and imaginative stagings" – will direct this production of Camille, adding a welcome feminine perspective to this tale typically told from a man’s point of view. She studied with Kevin Kuhlke at NYU, where she learned to apply dance-theater principles of space, shape and time to dramatic action. She continued her studies at the American Repertory Theater's Advanced Theater Training Center in Cambridge, Mass., and has also worked with both Pina Bausch and Robert Wilson.
The Boston Globe’s chief theater critic, Ed Siegel, called Ms. Whoriskey "a major new talent," stating in 1998 that her production of Ibsen's Master Builder (co-directed by Robert Brustein) affirmed "a young artist’s dazzling potential to make theatrical history." Tom Sellar wrote in a 2001 publication of Theatre Communications Group:
"Though she is attracted to dense and difficult modern material, her approach to directing is more intuitive than cerebral. … Her stagings are invariably full of fresh, incisive imagery and metaphors, but she doesn’t have preconceived ideas or opinions about making theatre and doesn’t think she has a single style or technique."
Ms. Whoriskey has received several prestigious grants, and has completed residencies at such renowned regional organizations as the La Jolla Playhouse, the Intiman in Seattle and Chicago's Goodman Theater. Last season she made her debut at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company directing Shakespeare's Tempest.
Neil Bartlett was born in England in 1958, and is one of Britain's most versatile figures in theater – an actor and performance artist, director, writer and translator. At the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith he directed many classic plays in his own translations or adaptations, among them the first English productions of Jean Genet's Splendid's, Heinrich Kleist's Prince of Homburg and Pierre Marivaux's La dispute. A concern with theater language is evident in his translations of classic French plays by Racine, Molière and Marivaux; his translation of Molière's Misanthrope has been produced at Chicago's Goodman Theater. Mr. Bartlett is drawn to the strict verse forms, grand speech, and popular idioms of these classic plays as ways of expressing and analyzing extreme emotions.
Bartlett is the author of the novels Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall (1990) and Mr. Clive and Mr. Page (1996), which was nominated for the Whitbread Award and published in the U.S. as The House on Brooke Street. Who Was That Man? A Present for Mr. Oscar Wilde (1988) was his ground breaking study placing Oscar Wilde in a broad context of gay historical culture.
Costume designer Ilona Somógyi has worked on Broadway in Spamalot, at Washington's Arena Stage on The Rainmaker, at the Williamstown Theater Festival on Curtain Up and Top Girls and elsewhere. Walter Spangler faces the challenge of setting Camille in an appropriate framework. He designed the sets for the Broadway production of Carol Burnett's Hollywood Arms, of which a critic wrote: "It could be said that the silent star of the play is [the] set design. As simple as it is, it is the perfect blend of both location and mood, one that never lets us forget where we are, what we are watching and who the characters are."
Francine Prose's Bard program-book essay on Camille ends sagely:
"Halfway through the novel, Dumas indulges in an essayistic meditation on what it means to sincerely love, and be loved … by one of those women 'who love by profession and not by instinct.' When such a woman falls in love, and when a man loves such a woman, he concludes, the result is a 'redeeming love' that changes the lovers forever. And so perhaps this too is why the story of the lady of the camellias continues to haunt us and have such resonance. It reminds us of the power of love to lift us above the marketplace, to free us from the daily economies, from the desire for more and more, from the flurry of buying and selling in which, without love, we might foolishly spend our lives."
After La dame aux camélias, by Alexandre Dumas fils
Adapted by Neil Bartlett; directed by Kate Whoriskey
Sets: Walter Spangler; costumes: Ilona Somogyi; lighting: Jason Lyons
Theater Two in Bard's Fisher Center
July 6 (preview), 7, 8, 13, 14 & 15 at 8 pm
July 8, 9, 15, and 16 at 3 pm
Tickets: $45 (general admission)
Marguerite: Katrina Lenk
Armand: Michael Tisdale
Prudence Duvernoy: Tina Benko
Olympe: Molly Ward
Varville: Matt D’Amico
Dr. Koreff: Steven Boyer
Mr. Duval: James Gale
Nanine: Annette Hunt
1936, directed by George Cukor, 109 min
1921, directed by Ray C. Smallwood, 70 min
Silent with Ben Model on piano
Milton and Sally Avery Center for the Arts
July 9 at 7 pm
Special support for this program is provided by The Altria Group, Inc.
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This event was last updated on 07-18-2006