Notes from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Director Myra Platt, and a look into the cast’s workshop process last November. Kavalier & Clay is on stage now through July 13.
Art. Magic. Transformation. Escape. Freedom. These have been our watchwords in the rehearsal hall over the last several weeks as we pushed and pulled and splashed and spilled our guts out in an effort to realize Michael Chabon’s mammoth novel on stage. I have done a lot of “big” shows, but this one takes the cake. I could not have taken on this project without a brilliant and generous team of collaborating artists, beginning with Josh Aaseng whose initial passion for the novel, his brave conversation with the author, and his early work with adapter Jeff Schwager was critical to getting us launched.
Thanks to an NEA grant, we were blessed to have a two-week workshop last November. I collected as many artists as I could fit into a room who would not be afraid to get messy with experimentation. Every day, cast members would splay out on the floor with big rolls of paper drawing their own visions of The Escapist adventures.
Local award-winning comic book artist David Lasky taught us all Comic Book Drawing 101; Czech-born artist, Klara Glosova shared her authentic gritty aesthetic and brilliant mind; Michael Owcharuk banged out whole New York City-scapes on the piano; Steffan Soule unveiled to us in strict confidence the secrets of performing magic; designers Kent Cubbage and Pete Rush gathered and witnessed and discussed and helped shape things from a technical standpoint; and dramaturg extraordinaire Lenore Bensinger pushed us all to dig deeper into the content, the historical backdrop, and Chabon’s multi-layered themes. Scenic designer Christopher Mumaw envisioned our world with such courage and tenacity. And finally, but nowhere near least, I was blessed with our superhero stage managers, Victoria Thompson and Miranda Pratt, who saved us all.
After Jeff provided at least a dozen drafts and several readings of a three-act script, it became clear to us, as we considered the company’s mission and listened to our artistic instincts, that we needed to honor the whole story. So we committed to a four-act structure with a dinner break—a risk that I am so proud Book-It was willing to take. And an adventure we’re grateful you have signed on for.
Creating art is personal, but it’s also collaborative. As an artist, I find that balancing trust in one’s own vision with that of your collaborating partner(s) requires endless negotiating sans judgment and fear. Michael Chabon’s amazing novel offers an intimate look at two artists’ partnership, their mutual trust, and their individual relationships to their creations. In the book as in life, accessing inspiration can come at a price. But that moment when art happens, the “pang of creation,” we see the brightest light and feel the liberation of the heart.