Express Stops

Directing, Performance, Playwrighting, Theatre, Uncategorized, Writing

In 2008, I managed a black-box theatre and rehearsal space just off of Times Square. A bit more on that can be found in an earlier post.

 

Theatre4

 

One of the things I just failed to launch was one evening a week where our resident ensemble performed an hour of original short plays and vignettes. “Slice of life in NYC” sort of thing. Short, punchy, experimental stuff. I had written a number of short pieces to try out in the first evening, and would have been joined by some other writer friends of mine in time had it been successful. I wanted to call it Express Stops.

Burnt Njál (Unfinished)

Playwrighting, Writing

The Story of Burnt Njál, or Njál’s Saga is a 13th century Icelandic work of prose that I began adapting into poetic form sometime after working on and performing Shakespeare’s Pericles at the Texas Shakespeare Festival.

Similar to Shakespeare’s epic, I used iambic tetrameter for the prologue/chorus and pentameter for most of the rest. The text I based my adaptation on is George Webbe Dasent’s 1861 English translation of the saga.

I ended up abandoning the project like a sinking Snekkja longship (no money in that kind of piffle) but here’s a look at my progress below.

I rather like the courtship bit between Hrut and Unna; it reminds me of how deeply I was into Shakespeare at the time as it’s very reminiscent (albeit so very much shorter) of his own many wooing scenes, like the one between Petruchio and Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.

(Note: If anyone wishes to use any of the scripts posted here for performance, please do! Just drop me a line to let me know they actually getting some use, and I’d appreciate being acknowledged in some way if the production is more substantial than scene-study work.)

 
371px-njal_saga_-_gunnar_hallgerdr

 

1.1 Prologue

Chorus

In Broadfirth dales our story swells,

Where one by name of Hauskuld dwells.

Of stout and gen’rous heart this man,

And to a feast bids he the land.

His own half-brother Hrut he calls;

A handsome man, and strong, and tall,

Well-skilled in arms and temper mild

A counselor wise, but warrior wild.

This Hrut on brother now attends,

And sits beside him as he bends

His eyes to that same golden prize

which ‘cross the feasting hall now lies:

A daughter, plays amongst the girls,

Her silken hair hung all in curls,

So fair of face and tall of growth,

The pride of father and of host;

Hallgerda named, and mind you now

Remember at this moment how

One brother wise, with vision keen

Does make the future present seen.

How I Came to be Lawfully Wed

Directing, Performance, Playwrighting, Theatre, Writing

In my last year of undergraduate studies, I was introduced to Anton Chekhov when I performed in Wendy Wasserstein’s one-act play The Man in a Case and Michael Frayn’s The Alien Corn: adaptations of two of the many short stories by the prolific Russian writer.

In the following years I continued coming back to his work as actor, director, and playwright in of a revival at my college of that first production, a mounting of Frayn’s The Sneeze and Other Plays at the Warehouse Theatre one summer, Three Sisters in graduate school, a new translation/adaptation of Uncle Vanya with my friend Moti Margolin who also played the title role at The Space in NYC, summer productions with then-current students of my college, and several productions with high school students when I taught in Sydney.

His work is just really good.

After a period of some familiarity, I began to adapt his short stories on my own. Chekhov wrote hundreds of them, and not all have been translated. But from what I was able to find, I was always looking for material to adapt for the stage.

Here is one of the first I adapted.

(Note: If anyone wishes to use any of the scripts posted here for performance, please do! Just drop me a line to let me know they actually getting some use, and I’d appreciate being acknowledged in some way if the production is more substantial than scene-study work.)

 

 

How I Came to be Lawfully Wed

a one-act play adapted by John Knauss

from a short story by Anton Chekhov

 

 

CHARACTERS

IVAN: a young man

ZOE: a young woman

LAPKIN: Ivan’s father

 NADIA: Ivan’s mother

STEPKA: a servant

 

 

A country garden at dusk. The remains of a light dinner are on an outdoor table. IVAN and ZOE sit at opposite ends of the table silently without making eye contact. NADIA and LAPKIN stand off to one side, murmuring to one another in a hushed argument.

LAPKIN: (turning; to IVAN and ZOE) Well! Dinner’s in the belly and the evening grows dark. (to NADIA) Perhaps we should leave these two and take a stroll in the garden, my dear Nadia. As they say, “After lunch: rest. After dinner: walk a mile!”

NADIA: (annoyed with him) Who says that?

LAPKIN: (gives her a dirty look and pulls IVAN aside) Go ahead, my boy! Tell her how much you love her! And that you want to marry her! Quickly, now!

IVAN: (whispering back) But I don’t want to marry her. I don’t have any feelings for her!

LAPKIN: (shaking his fist to heaven) “They gave the naked man a shirt and he said it was too thick!” (to IVAN) No one cares what you want, you idiot!

(LAPKIN gives IVAN an angry stare and exits with NADIA.)

IVAN: (aside) Oh, lord. Here we go.