Can a little bit of Brecht be found in New Haven, CT? Doug Hughes, artistic director of that city's Long Wharf Theatre, thinks so. Hughes, together with Cornerstone Theater Company founders Bill Rauch and Alison Carey, have set the wheels rolling on The New Haven Project, a community-based collaboration which will eventually result in a modern adaptation of the Brecht classic The Good Woman of Szechwan, titled The Good Person of New Haven. Furthermore, not only will the drama's story be transported to present-day Connecticut, the production will involve everyday New Haven citizens.
The project has been long in development and will not see its final manifestation until the spring of 2000, when Long Wharf will stage The Good Person of New Haven. Work toward that goal began in October 1997, when Hughes discussed the idea with Rauch and Carey. The Cornerstone, based in L.A., was formed upon the notion that society flourishes only when its disparate members come to know and respect each other. The company has since executed community-based theatre projects in New York and Washington, D.C.
Over the past summer, the Long Wharf held a series of community meetings to select a play. After poring over several works, those involved chose the Brecht piece, seeing many aspects of New Haven life in its themes. The Good Woman of Szechwan concerns Shen Te, a good hearted prostitute who becomes unexpectedly wealthy, but finds the only way she can avoid bankruptcy at the hands of a rapacious community is to invent a ruthless alter-ego, Shui Ta.
Long Wharf began conducting four weeks of acting and writing workshops on Oct. 10. New Haven residents over age 12 were invited; no experience is necessary. It is hoped that these sessions will result in new material, by which the play may be adapted and updated by playwright Carey. (Anyone wishing to participate in the workshops may do so by calling Shana Waterman at (203) 787-4284, ext. 682.)
After Carey has produced a script, rehearsals for a June 1999 workshop production will begin. The workshop will then be presented at The International Festival for Arts and Ideas. By then, Carey, Hughes et al should be able to see it The Good Woman of Setzuan makes for a good play in New Haven.
-- By Robert Simonson