If you’ve ever taken an English class, or been to a vaguely themed party in the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of The Great Gatsby. Even this magazine takes its name from a Great Gatsby character. F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel about wealth and love in the roaring 20s is infamous, and St Andrews is seeing its own adaptation coming to the Stage this week. Owl Eyes sat down with the Director, Madison Hauser, to ask a few questions about how to manage a party quite so big.
How well do you think the Great Gatsby makes the transition from the page to the stage?
What is so unique about Simon Levy’s adaptation is that it takes pivotal moments and notable quotes from the novel as well as the Fitzgeralds themselves (Zelda and F. Scott) and melds them all together into a piece which stands apart spectacularly from the book and the films. It’s one thing to experience this haunting tragedy from a distance – it’s another to have that empathy thrust upon you, to witness, through flashbacks and Nick’s woven narrations, the jadedness of an era which supposedly embodies spectacle. Seeing it unfold in front of you is significantly different than seeing it on a screen or a page. It reiterates a desperate sense of hopelessness. Despite Gatsby’s unwavering belief in the green light and his ‘gift for hope’, the audience has no choice but to watch how it all falls apart ‘to pieces like snow’. There is something humbling about this, how easily lives are destroyed, and how there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Also, the script emphasizes Nick’s involvement, allowing the audience a narrator they can seek refuge in, turn to when they aren’t sure how to react. Nick is as much an audience member as he is in the show. He is the voice of the sorrow, the loss. In a production setting, he is easier to relate to, as he relives everything for the audience to experience firsthand.
How would you describe your aesthetics in terms of how the play looks – closer to the movie or more with the roots of the book?
Our aesthetic is a mix of both. It combines the abstract elements of a dream-like, illusory atmosphere through the tech and music and the authenticity of the 1920s through the costumes and set. A parallel between modernity and tradition is established that mimics the movie, maintains the textual significance of the book, and brings everything to the forefront in one massive, crazy statement. I think people will come to see the show with certain expectations since the story is so well-known, but I’m hoping that this will offer something different. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say, it’s going to be an aesthetic which features aspects of this tale that make it all the more tragic and moving.
What do you think the relevance of Gatsby’s story is in today’s world?
Gatsby’s story is one of humanity. I think it’s easy for people to look at the grandeur of it all – the parties, the alcohol, the costumes, the jazz – and see only that: a superficial impression of an era that we all long to live in. But there is more to it than that, there always has been. This tale resonates across time. It is one of lost love, of unwavering hope, of dashed dreams – but it is also one that reminds us that not everything is as it seems. There is a darker side to it all, to each and every character. It goes beyond the glitz and glam to the core of what’s inside us all: selfishness, hatred, carelessness, sadness, unspeakable loneliness. It dares to explore the horrible parts, the sorrow, the misery. So, the glamorous 20s might not be something we experience in the world today, but it’s only the stage, the setting for what Fitzgerald was ultimately trying to tackle: human fallibility. And that is something we can absolutely all relate to.
Favorite Gatsby: Dan Jonusas, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Toby Stephens
Dan Jonusas, of course. He is Gatsby.
You’ve got a lot of collaborators in this show, plus a fairly large cast. Has it been easy herding all those cats?
With a cast of 12 and a crew of 20+, I knew this definitely wouldn’t be an easy undertaking – but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Everyone is just as passionate and dedicated to this show, and that’s how everything has come together so smoothly. I wanted this to be an opportunity for people to not only show off what they can do creatively, to have a platform for their artistic voices, but also a production that brings people together. I definitely would say, though we are a large, loud, rambunctious bunch, this team has become like a family. I couldn’t have done it without each and every person. Everything you see on stage will hopefully show that level of commitment and collaboration. Trying to bring in all these disparate elements – the music and the dancing and the acting and the tech – has been a feat, but one that has been relatively easily achieved due to the amount of effort everyone’s put in.
What has been your favorite moment working with the cast thus far?
Every rehearsal has brought a smile to my face, and that’s all I can ask for, really. I am incredibly fortunate to have such a phenomenal cast embodying these characters. I care for each and every one of them deeply – watching them grow and explore the layers of this story, many that there are, has been such an enlightening experience, and it’s made me fall in love with it all over again. All of them bring out qualities of the characters which are surprising and unexpected, and which change the tone of the overall production into something more tragic and haunting. They make you empathize, which is something that can get lost in the grandeur of Gatsby’s parties. These are characters that are not easily brought to life – and this cast has done that seamlessly and fearlessly.
What would your green light be?
Honestly? This show. I believe in it, and the people in and behind it, as much as Gatsby believed in the green light. That probably sounds super cheesy, but this has honestly been my entire life for the past six months, it’s all I’ve thought about.
If you could sum up why you should see the play in one sentence, what would you say?
This is a well-known story, told in a way that is entirely new and unexpected: it will be pure madness, full of technological extravagance, rampant nostalgia, opulence, decadence, outstanding performances…what more could you want, old sport?
The Great Gatsby goes up on the 14th and 15th of March in the StAge at 8 PM. Tickets are 6 Pounds and can be bought at the door, or reserved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.