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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton to host world premier of “House of Seven Gables” play

<mwork” is a word that usually refers to sports, but the people involved in the upcoming Carleton play, The House of Seven Gables, give that word new meaning. A crew of over thirty students have been working on the play, and only five of them will be onstage opening night. The rest are involved in costume design, prop design, sound design, and more. Director Ruth Weiner, Professor of Theater and the Liberal Arts at Carleton, has the difficult job of “coordinating all the many, many different people.”

These people do not just include the students. Weiner has consulted many others, such as Professors Peter Balaam, John Shot, and Nancy Cho in the discussion of the literary and historical accuracy of the play. There are also the professionals that Carleton has hired to bring this play together. Playwright Barbara Field, who also wrote “A Christmas Carol” for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, wrote the adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s popular novel just for Carleton. Hiram Titus, the play’s composer, has worked with many theaters around the Twin Cities, including the Guthrie. John Arnone, who is in charge of set design, won a Tony Award for The Who’s Tommy, a rock musical.

These people are interested in working with students. In fact, Arnone, in addition to creating the set design, will be hosting a presentation on Wednesday, February 16, in Leighton 304 for any students who are interested.

It is the teamwork of students, professors, and professionals that will make this play a success. Weiner said, “I love getting to work with this particular group of students, but also with the playwright. It feels really new and exciting. Whatever is up on stage will be the result of our collaborating.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The House of Seven Gables” in 1851. It is the story of the Pyncheon family, cursed by Colonel Pyncheon for unjustly accusing a man of witchcraft. A hundred years later, siblings Hepzibah and Clifford Pyncheon are destitute. Clifford has been in jail for the past 30 years, accused of a crime he did not commit.

While the play was originally written as a novel, Weiner said in an interview that the story “lends itself to adaptation. It’s melodrama, in the best sense of the word.”

The play has a dynamic set of characters which include Holgrave, a daguerrotypist who boards with Hepzibah and Clifford, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, the cousin who accused Clifford of murder, and, last but not least, Clifford, who cannot stand anything that is ugly, including his sister.

This play has brought Hawthorne’s story to the forefront of Weiner’s life. “Now, I feel as though I live in it. I like the novel, I like the adaptation.”

This play has provided a unique experience for many of those involved. “It’s very exciting to work with the playwright,” Weiner said. Field attends many of the rehearsals and works with Weiner and the actors to work out any problems with the play.

When asked what the greatest challenge she faced in creating the play was, Weiner said,

“Bringing a new script to life—nobody’s ever done this play before.” That is what makes this play unique. This play was commissioned by Carleton, and it will be performed for the first time at Carleton, put together largely through the collaboration of Carleton students and faculty.

“It’s going to be terrific and fun and exciting,” Weiner said. “It has a great set of characters, a great story, and a great ending.”

In order to find out what the ending is, however, you will have to go see the play when it plays at the Arena Theater on Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21, 2009, at 8 pm, continuing the following weekend.

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