Bard in the USA

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  April 15, 2009

The six-hour, two-part Gatz is a project more fabled than seen in the Northeast, since a pending Broadway musical based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel prevented the writer's estate from granting rights to perform the work in New York or Boston (the latter ban has been lifted) and forced interested parties to travel to such far-flung locales as Troy (New York), Minneapolis, and the capitals of Europe to see the 2006 work, the "script" of which consists of the novel read from start to finish. "There's no play," Paulus explains. "It's set in a modern office, and a worker finds a paperback of The Great Gatsby and he starts reading it out loud. And then in this very magical, innovative, theatrical way, the life of the office starts to parallel the life of the novel."

The "bust" component of this festival is Odets's Depression-era drama, ostensibly the author's favorite, which will be directed by Daniel Fish. He introduced the work to Paulus, who found it "beautiful, with all this theatrical referencing to the Milton, but also very visceral and evocative, with themes that are eerily present for us right now in terms of, when you hit an economic crisis, what are your values? Do you cheat?" She's also a cheerleader for the young director, whose credits run the gamut from Tartuffe to The Elliott Smith Project.

The third festival, intense if condensed, unfolds over a weekend in May and is presented in collaboration with the Huntington Theatre Company and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Titled "Emerging America," it promises a combination of new voices and late-night parties that'll include a return of The Donkey Show. So roll over, Shakespeare, and text Fitzgerald the news.

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