The American premiere of a Royal Shakespeare Company stage production of the Salman Rushie novel, "Midnight's Children," will play The Power Center in Ann Arbor, MI, and the Apollo Theatre in New York City in March 2003, in a unique relationship between the RSC, the University of Michigan/University Musical Society, Columbia University and Harlem's famed Apollo.
Rushdie's award-winning allegory of modern India, Midnight’s Children, gets a London staging in January 2003 to be followed by US viewings first in Ann Arbor's Power Center and then at the Apollo.
Midnight's Children is billed as "a complex and important work combining three main tales: the turbulent history of 20th-century India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; the saga of a Muslim family; and the story of one man, Saleem Sinai, whose telepathic powers allow him to communicate with other children born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947."
The Ann Arbor run plays on the campus of the University of Michigan March 12-16 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts in a co-presentation with the University Musical Society, an independent performing arts presenting organization affiliated with the University of Michigan.
The New York City production, presented by Columbia University, will run March 21-30 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. In London, Midnight's Children will have a five-week run at London's Barbican Theatre Jan. 18-Feb. 23, 2003.
In a statement, novelist Rushdie said, "I'm delighted that 'Midnight's Children' is to be staged with such commitment by the RSC, and to be working again with director Tim Supple, who made such a brilliant version of 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories' at the National Theatre in London a couple of years ago. It's also an honor to have the participation of two great American universities, and a real thrill to be able to bring the show to the Apollo, which is not just a theatre but an icon of New York life."
The production's cast includes 20 British actors, many of whom are South Asian. The leading role of Saleem is played by Zubin Varla. His previous roles for the RSC include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (1999), the title role in Roberto Zucco (1999) and most recently Caliban in The Tempest (2000). Other members of the creative team include Melly Still (designer and movement), Tina McHugh (lighting) and John Leonard (sound and video).
Director Tim Supple said in a statement, "Past attempts to film and stage 'Midnight's Children' have sadly failed. Now the novel's fantastic language and remarkable story can be enjoyed as a theatrical spectacle. Rushdie's creation will be brought to life in a production that we hope will be as inventive, contemporary, sweeping and engrossing as the novel itself."
The New York staging will be punctuated with a related "education and humanities festival" to include discussions with Salman Rushdie; round-tables and dialogues with Columbia faculty, South Asian writers, and the artists from the RSC production team. "Themes to be explored will include history of the region, the era of colonialization and its aftermath, the relationship of literature and politics, and the current political climate in the region," according to the Sept. 4 announcement.
New York City public high school students and teachers in surrounding communities will have the chance to attend special school performances and to become immersed in the play's themes of nationhood, cultural history, and religious, racial and ethnic diversity.
The Michigan residency is the second component in a five-year relationship between the RSC and the University of Michigan and the University Musical Society. The joint venture was launched in March 2001 with the co-presentation of Shakespeare's Henry VI, parts I, II and III and Richard III, directed by the RSC's new artistic director, Michael Boyd.
Cultural events in Michigan, similar to those in New York, will occur on campus in Ann Arbor and throughout southeastern Michigan, which is home to large Muslim and Hindu communities. Rushdie will spend several days on the University of Michigan campus participating in community and university educational events.
The novel, "Midnight's Children," won the Booker Prize. For information about the RSC, visit www.rsc.org.uk.
— By Kenneth Jones