Leigh Buchanan Bienen: Works

Site header showing Leigh Buchanan Bienen (L) with book library (R)

Title: Leigh Bienen Considers Adaptation in Chicago
: Leigh Buchanan Bienen
Publisher: Women in Theater Journal Online
Issue: June 5, 2019
Description: Augie, Bellow, Frankenstein and Me. In 1964 I returned with my family from Kampala, Uganda, where we had lived for two years, and was hired by Saul Bellow to read, answer and categorize some of the letters he received in response to that most epistolary of novels, Herzog. It was Bellow’s second big commercial success, (the one which would make him rich, although he later complained his ex-wives took the money) the first being The Adventures of Augie March, in 1953, now transformed into a play at Court Theatre at the University of Chicago, where it has been extended into late June, in a production the Wall Street Journal called: “..a full fledged play.. totally and triumphantly successful, [a] three and a half hour seriocomic extravaganza, so light on its feet it scarcely feels two hours long….” [Terry Teachout, “‘The Adventures of Augie March’: Chicago Kid Makes Good,” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2019 (p. A19).]

Adding on to the theme of linear writing transformed into theatre, expertly developed by the playwright David Auburn (author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Proof) in collaboration with Court Theatre’s artistic director Charles Newell, is an exhibit of manuscripts, notebooks (including the notebook containing the first draft of the novel) as well as letters and other handwritings from the University of Chicago’s Special Collections of Bellow’s papers.

This trope appears graphically in the images of handwriting, faint and blurry, scrolling across the stage in Augie March, and again on the shadowed steel of the giant Chicago railroad bridge under which the actions and adventures of the novel are reimagined– as time and generation jumping scenes, on several continents — on a mostly bare stage where simple props, a table, some chairs, are carried on and off by the actors.

At the same time that Court Theatre is presenting a theatre version of The Adventures of Augie March on the south side of Chicago, Lookingglass Theatre has opened another new adaptation of a novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the downtown Watertower Waterworks, by David Catlin, the theatre artist, director and Lookingglass ensemble member known for other stage adaptations including Lookingglass Alice, Moby Dick, and The Little Prince. [Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will run through the summer.]…


Link to article: Women in Theater Journal Online

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