The Lewis Center for the Arts will present WOYZECK, a new adaptation of the Georg Büchner classic play. One of the most performed and influential in the German theater repertory, this new rendering has been adapted and directed by Princeton senior Cara Tucker. Performances will be held on March 9, 10, 14, 15 and 16 at 8:00 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton.
A post-performance discussion has been added following the March 9th performance of WOYZECK with the cast and Acting Director of the Theater Program Timothy Vasen. Free and open to all Friday evening performance attendees.
Büchner’s play was incomplete at the time of his death in 1837, its drafts left scattered across his desk. Since then, it has been posthumously “completed,” reinterpreted, and adapted into an opera, a ballet, two musicals, several films, and a wide variety of theatrical works performed throughout the world.
Based in concept on a highly controversial murder and subsequent court case of the early 1820’s, the plot examines the deterioration of a man named Franz Woyzeck. In a muddy, isolated town, Woyzeck pushes himself relentlessly in order to support his girlfriend, a former sex worker named Marie, and her child, who is questionably his. A poor soldier, Woyzeck provides extra income for his family by performing menial tasks for his captain and by undergoing medical experiments for a doctor, who requires, among other things, that Woyzeck live entirely on a diet of peas. In the midst of this relentless routine, Woyzeck begins to hear the voices of the Freemasons speaking to him from tunnels beneath his feet and sees signs everywhere he goes. He experiences increasingly intense visions, both transcendent and apocalyptic. When Marie betrays him with a visiting drum major, the draw and aggressive impulses of this part of his mind become irresistible. Tragedy follows in this classic tale that explores mental illness, morality, and the fragility of the human being.
Tucker, an English major completing a Certificate in Theater at the Lewis Center, consulted the original German text and a number of translations and adaptations before drafting her own. “I wanted to create something that would allow an audience to see into Woyzeck, to look at the skeleton of his mind and of his life and see the war raging there,” Tucker says of the adaptation. “I actually made very few alterations to the spoken lines of Büchner’s drafts. I ordered the scenes, focused some of the imagery, and chose the English vernacular that shaped the clearest story I could. Our production is unique because we’ve exploded what Woyzeck says he sees and hears in the original script onto the stage. The Freemasons are real, present, and powerful to him. On the other side, the exhaustion and effort of his daily routine is not just something to know about going into the play, it’s something the audience witnesses.”
The cast of WOYZECK features Princeton undergraduates with Chris Ghaffari in the title role. Gabriel Crouse, Nick Hybel, C.C. Kellogg, Julia Keimach, Taylor Mallory, Matt Prast, Carlie Robbins, Phil Rosen, and Brad Wilson portray both Freemasons and characters of reality. Tucker and most of the cast and crew are certificate students in the Program in Theater at the Lewis Center
“WOYZECK is a play that pulls apart abnormal psychology decades before the ideas of modern psychology came to be,” notes Tucker. “It’s given us extraordinary artistic challenges to discover the most powerful ways to represent the mind of a character like Woyzeck.” To that end, the interdisciplinary adaptation features set and costume design by Anya Klepikov, original music by senior Kevin Laskey, and choreography and aerial work created by freshman Eamon Foley.
“Our season of productions this year represents a number of new adaptations of classics from world literature and the theater canon,” notes Tim Vasen, Acting Director of the Program in Theater. “We presented a new adaptation by award-winning playwright Cusi Cram based on the Lope de Vega classic of Spanish literature Fuente Ovejuna. We just finished a very successful run of a never-before-seen theatrical adaptation of the Russian classic Eugene Onegin with music by Sergei Prokofiev banned under Joseph Stalin’s regime in the 1930s, and earlier presented a new translation of the Russian, Soviet-era play The Monkeys are Coming.” The season also included a play based on true events in 1916 Tennessee when a town hung a circus elephant for the murder of her trainer in Elephant’s Graveyard and the Shakespearean classic Hamlet.
Upcoming productions include the musical Pippin in April with a jazz performance of the score, a new play based on the myth of Sisyphus entitled Roll!, and a new adaptation of the ancient Greek comedy The Birds with newly composed music.
Tickets for WOYZECK are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors and may be reserved through Princeton University Ticket Office by calling 609.258.9220, or by calling the McCarter box office at 609.258.2787 or at any of the campus ticket offices. Tickets are also available at each performance.
The Lewis Center’s Program in Theater annually presents a major, professionally produced play in the fall, as well as a number of student senior thesis productions throughout the year.