BL: What is the shaping idea behind the Stoppard trilogy?
JO: Perhaps the most important idea of this play is: Who has the map in history? Where are we? There is no map. When I pulled my personal camera back into a long shot and tried to figure what the hell I was approaching here, I came back to "the coast of utopia,"which is of course Stoppard's title. When you think about that, and you should think about that, utopia is an impossibility. There is no coastline, because you can't get there.
BL: There is a sense in the play of the characters trying to have an impact on history, yet history hurtles on without them.
JO: That's very Stoppardian. In the zigzag of humanity that he talks about, the question is raised: Are you the cause or are you the effect? Personally, I think we think we're the cause, and too often we're the effect. These guys, this gang of five, this posse of Russian individuals -- Herzen, Belinsky, Turgenev, Bakunin, and Ogarev -- did in fact know each other that entire period of time. They are both affected by, and affecting, the history of their time. Sometimes they're the doers, and some they're the receivers. What is mystifying and thrilling about our lives is that we sometimes have the mistaken feeling that we're doing it while truly it's being done to us. And I think that's a lot of what these evenings are about. Putting things in connotations that don't have connotations, but not enough to assure us that we're on the right foot. Because we sort of aren't.
BL: How would describe the basic story for people?
JO: This is at first a Chekhovian story and a story that really happened, and a story about a huge wrong that needed to be righted. To put it in fairy-tale terms: Once upon a time, in a country very far away, there were privileged people and great unwashed masses who were hopelessly, hopelessly poor. And some people thought that was not fair. That people shouldn't own people, that people shouldn't measure their wealth in terms of slaves but in terms of enlightenment. And these relentlessly intellectual guys struck flints against an impassive problem until they started a fire. The trouble with fire is, you can't control it. What they tried to do, for the best possible reasons, ended up, in 1917, with murder and cruelty and unbelievable unhappiness. That was the eventuality of revolution, which some people say has to happen. They say that without a revolution of some kind, you can't really effect change.
BL: How do you characterize each play generally?
JO: The first story in many ways is the wittiest, and the most charming, and most romantic, and the prettiest. The second story, gets a little deeper and a little darker. And people die. The third has a kind of intense intellectual brilliance. The trilogy is a marathon, but a very enjoyable one.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
LCT launches Utopia site
The official Coast of Utopia site is up with all sorts of goodies! Thanks LY.
Tickets: member tix go on sale this Monday, August 7th; the rest of us must wait til September 10th. StudenTix subscriptions are closed at the mo but you can sign up for the waiting list. Cast: the entire list of who plays what in which part. Jennifer Ehle is Liubov Bakunin in Voyage, Natalie Herzen in Shipwreck (huzzah!!) and Malwida von Meysenbug in Salvage. Blog: there's only an introduction up so far by Brendan Lemon, but definitely worth keeping an eye on. New interview with Jack O'Brien: compare to the 2003 interview. Here are some of the "in a nutshell" bits: FAQ: mildly useful. Calendar: there's a fancy Flash version of the performance dates on the site's sidebar, as well as a downloadable PDF. Below are jpgs of the latter - click to enlarge. Didn't know that they would repeat earlier parts later on in the run as well (so double huzzah!).