After spending much of its time focusing on the heralded arrival of Great Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company, the 4th International Festival of the Arts & Ideas will spend its last weekend presenting a community-based project. The Good Person of New Haven, an adaptation of a Bertolt Brecht play, ends the Festival July 2 and 3.
The dates will be a "work-in-progress" showing of The Good Person of New Haven. Doug Hughes, artistic director of that city's Long Wharf Theatre, together with Cornerstone Theatre Company founders Bill Rauch and Alison Carey, have begun a collaboration, dubbed "The New Haven Project." NHP is described as 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. The production will not only be transported to present-day Connecticut but will involve everyday New Haven citizens.
The project has been long in development and will not see its final manifestation until spring 2000. 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 kind-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, 1998, which generated material for the adapted version. New Haven residents over age 12 were invited, no experience necessary.
For more information about the festival, call (203) 498-1212.
-- By Sean McGrath