Category: The Understudy
Win free tickets to see The Understudy!
Kafkaesque – adjective 1. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or resembling the literary work of Franz Kafka: the Kafkaesque terror of the endless interrogations. 2. marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity.
As David Gardner, our Fels Dramaturg Intern states here, "When we call a situation “Kafkaesque” we mean to highlight its nightmarish atmosphere of horror and despair."
Have you ever felt that a moment in your life was totally 'Kafkaesque'?
It's okay to laugh at Kafka.
Kafka: Laughter Lost in Translation
In The Understudy, two young actors and a stage manager rehearse a newly discovered play by literary giant Franz Kafka. As in any great comedy, things go awry, and we laugh with the characters as they try to sort it all out. But what sets The Understudy apart from other comedies is the way Theresa Rebeck allows our laughter to make us more receptive to the deeper truths of her play—truths about the need to be recognized, the fear of being unknown, and the terror of feeling out of control. This is where Kafka comes in, for these are truths about which he wrote at length. By combining Kafka’s dark truths with her own knack for comedy, Rebeck creates a theatrical world where fear and laughter coexist. But much more than that, Rebeck teaches us how to read Kafka, for while this juxtaposition of horror and hilarity would seem out of synch with Kafka, whose work is generally considered to be all gloom and no mirth, Rebeck’s combination of Kafka and comedy turns out to be spot on. Reading Kafka as uniformly dreary is a misreading, due largely to decades of mistranslation.
"...life is actually a bit like Kafka would have us believe it is."
David Kennedy is the director of the Wilma’s upcoming production of The Understudy by Theresa Rebeck. This interview was conducted by Richard Kotulski, the Wilma’s Literary Programming Assistant and Casting Director.
RK: What draws you to The Understudy?
DK: I identify with the underlying anxiety that fuels the characters, and I enjoy the way it’s expressed in this very smart and funny writing. What’s great about The Understudy is that Theresa employs the imaginative universe of Franz Kafka as shorthand for all the ways in which we’re frustrated in the attainment of our desires by impersonal forces that, nevertheless, have a very personal effect on us. Kafka’s novels and short stories are actually comedies of a sort, but comedy infused with dread, a kind of tragic farce, as is The Understudy. To my mind that’s the best kind of comedy.
In the play we have three people, all of whom could be said
Interview with Playwright Theresa Rebeck
David Gardner: How did The Understudy come about?
Theresa Rebeck: I had been asked to write a monologue or a short one-act for a fundraiser at Playwright’s Horizons, and I wrote this monologue that was pretty crazy — it went a lot of different places. But there was something about it that I liked: you didn’t know who this person was, you didn’t really know what was going on, and that became the seed of the opening monologue for The Understudy. And the confusion, the sort of mystery around it — are people there, or are they not there in the house — was built into that moment. And when I decided that it was an understudy rehearsal and that he would be the understudy, I then had to come up with what’s the play. And I’ve also had a life-long fascination for Kafka: I love his work, and I felt like the kind of mysterious, you know, surreal tragedy of his work could echo in a comedic way. That’s what I was interested in — could the things that were at stake tragically in the play being rehearsed be turned upside down and remain the same existential issues, only presented in a comedic way in the play that held the other play. Who is running the show here, and what does it mean to be human, and why are we so out of control of our lives?
A prostitute, a toy soldier, and your first love
By Johnny Van Heest
This week, the actors are on stage for The Understudy rehearsals. I was able to sneak down to the stage for a bit for a photoshoot with the actors. Aside from being extremely funny when running lines, these guys are pretty hilarious even when they are not in character. It perhaps comes as no surprise that these three actors, Jenn Harris, Brad Coolidge, and Cody Nickell, all have experience working in comic theater, television, and film.
Something to think about AFTER the holidays
We hope you got some great Cyber Monday deals (perhaps you took advantage of the $25 deal here at the Wilma?) While I am still not over the fact that it is already December and the second full day of Chanukah, I am totally getting into the holiday spirit. I even found a 4’ ‘holographic’ fiber-optic Christmas tree in my basement that now stands proudly on a table in my sitting room. It's in extremely poor taste, but it stands as a reminder that for the next month, there will be cocktail parties, cookies, and cards - and at the end of it all, a kiss with a loved one to ring in another new year.
Even after my tacky Christmas tree is put back in its box and placed in the dark closet in the basement, I will have something to look forward to – the Wilma’s upcoming production of The Understudy, Directed by David Kennedy.