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The UltraViolet

Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

To kill a mocking-book
To kill a mocking-book
February 21, 2024

All-School book converted into play

Middle School students spend more time in the development stage of their upcoming play. The ensemble will develop an adaptation of Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief.”

The cast of the middle school play, which is based on this past year’s all-school book “The Book Thief,” faces the challenge of adapting the hugely successful book into a play. One of the main challenges the ensemble faces is that the student body and the faculty have all read the book.

“It’s like seeing a movie after you’ve already read the book. We’re not going to match the expectations of everyone,” drama instructor and director of the play Gleason Bauer, said.

Bauer, who had read “The Book Thief” before it was chosen as the all-school book, took interest in its unusual yet gripping story.

“Every time I read a book I inevitably end up thinking how it would turn out as a play. The fact that the narrator is Death caught my attention immediately,” said Bauer.

“The Book Thief” is currently in its development stage, when selected students work on specific warm-ups and exercises to have a better sense of structure, to build a company together, and “to practically share a heartbeat,” said Performing arts department dean Anne Scarbrough.

Though “The Book Thief” is similar to last year’s middle school play, “The Secret Life of Trees,” in that it has the same challenging development process, the actresses this year will be focusing on working off of the book itself, as opposed to taking inspiration from a variety of sources.  This approach gives more attention to the process of creating theatre by putting more attention on the actors and less on the accessories.

“We’re trying to take the focus off of the big production that we end up getting into with the all-school plays and musicals,” said Bauer.

Bauer and Scarbrough both explained the difficulties of choosing a play that can not only be put on in a five week period, but can also fit a cast of about thirty girls.

“We need a play that isn’t a tour de force for just one actor; we want it to be an ensemble piece as much as possible,” said Scarbrough.

Though the entire process of creating what you perform seems unusual, Catherine ’13, who performed in “The Secret Life of Trees,” said otherwise.

“The whole process is unique, and though it’s still a bit nerve wrecking, we’re creating a solid foundation to have the play be a success again,” Catherine said.

Bauer took inspiration for the creative process of the play from Lars Von Trier’s series of films titled the “Dogme 95.”

“The value in devising a piece is that it gives the performers an opportunity to experiment with theatrical expression,” said Bauer.

Last year’s all-school musical, “Urinetown,” and “The Secret Life of Trees” focused on environmental issues and the theme was content-based.  To explore a structural theme and turn literature into theatre, Bauer chose “The Book Thief” to follow Pride and Prejudice.

The cast begins rehearsing what they have written after Spring Break. Scarbrough hopes that having a familiar story will unite the school community.

“We’re mining the company for their expressions of the novel that can be devised into something. It’s all going to emanate from them,” said Scarbrough.

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