Atlanta Playwright Tom Key Gets Rare Right to Adapt "Confederacy of Dunces" for the Stage

News   Atlanta Playwright Tom Key Gets Rare Right to Adapt "Confederacy of Dunces" for the Stage
Theatrical Outfit, the small Atlanta Equity company devoted to classic and new works, will present the world premiere of Tom Key's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic novel "A Confederacy of Dunces" this summer.

Richard Garner will direct the Southern-set tale, to run Aug. 11-Sept. 5 at the Balzer Theater at Herren's, 84 Luckie St., in Atlanta. The late John Kennedy Toole novel won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Theatrical Outfit calls the story a "grand farce set in 1960s New Orleans….[it] has the bombastic comic power to subvert reality and brilliantly reveal the human condition."

Casting is ongoing. The beloved novel by the late Toole has been ripe for adaptation since it appeared, and screenwriters and playwrights have hungrily sought the rights. In fall 2008, Atlantan Tom Key received an unexpected phone call from the book's agent, who offered him the rights for a limited time.

About the phone call, Key said in a statement, "I was ecstatic. My antennae are always up for rich dialogue, which is the best soil for translating a piece to the stage, and 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is so full of truth and brilliance and hilarity — there's almost a comic button at the end of every scene."

According to Theatrical Outfit, A Confederacy of Dunces "chronicles the extravagantly colorful, eccentric world of one Ignatius J. Reilly, perhaps one of literature's most enduringly rendered anti-heroes. A lumbering, loutish mountain of a man, Ignatius carries a volcanic vitriol for the modern era and is ever at the eruption point; with abandon, he spouts and spews his disdain of the social, racial, economic and religious states of contemporary America. Clad in his trademark green hunting cap with earflaps, voluminous pleated tweed trousers, plaid flannel shirt and muffler, he spends the bulk of his time in his long-suffering mother's house, feverishly scribbling his lengthy indictment of the last four centuries in Big Chief notebooks. When Ignatius does venture past Constantinople Street, he is forced to function in a culture he loathes…" Of Ignatius, playwright Key stated, "He is genius with his verbiage, but he's also disconnected from reality. Ignatius is presented in such a way that he's almost impossible to like, but he so exposes the chronic hypocrisy that exists in the country that we have to pull for him…We want our geniuses to be corporate and well-adapted, so if we cast off the Rileys from our lives — our sometimes off-putting, unchecked natural human impulses — we're the poorer for it as a society."

Key's adaptation resume includes "Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Seminar," "The Moviegoer," "Pilgrim's Progress," a reader's theatre extraction of C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" and Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory." Since 1995, Key has served as executive artistic director of Theatrical Outfit. He conceived and co-authored the Off-Broadway and regional musical Cotton Patch Gospel, with the late singer-songwriter, Harry Chapin. His one-man play C.S. Lewis On Stage has been presented for more than 20 years.

For tickets and more information, call (678) 528-1500 or visit

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