The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present a recent dramatic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic, coming-of-age epic, Great Expectations by Neil Bartlett. Directed by faculty member Tim Vasen and featuring senior Peter Giovine as Pip with senior Emma Boettcher serving as dramaturg, performances will take place on February 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 8:00 p.m. in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio located at 185 Nassau Street. A talk-back will follow the February 15 performance.
Published initially in serial form by Dickens in his periodical All the Year Round in 1860 and 1861 and then as a novel later that year, Great Expectations has remained a popular and enduring story, a quintessential example of Victorian literature, and a staple of English classes. The book has inspired at least four stage adaptations and over a dozen film and television versions.
“I looked at more than half a dozen adaptations and decided on Bartlett’s script. It is concise and moves briskly through the plot exploring perspective, how we perceive time, space and reality.” (Peter Giovine)
Great Expectations, written in the first-person, tells the story of orphan Philip Pirrip or Pip, as he struggles through an impoverished youth and his harrowing encounter aiding the escaped convict Magwitch in the marshes of Kent. In his visits to the wealthy spinster Miss Havisham at Satis House, he falls in love with her aloof ward, Estella, upon Miss Havisham’s encouragement. An anonymous benefactor makes it possible for Pip to become a gentleman and move to London. Ensuing intrigue and unexpected plot twists that have captivated generations of readers lead to the climactic ending, an ending that Dickens rewrote for the 1863 edition.
Among those readers was Princeton senior Peter Giovine, who was captivated by the book as a child and years later still could not get it out of his mind. He decided to tackle a theatrical version of the story for his senior thesis project in earning a certificate in theater. “I looked at more than half a dozen adaptations and decided on Bartlett’s script,” explains Giovine. “It is concise and moves briskly through the plot exploring perspective, how we perceive time, space and reality.” Bartlett’s 2007 adaptation uses Dickens’ original, darker ending to the story.
Peter GiovineGiovine is majoring in English in addition to his work in the Theater Program. He was inspired by his experience working previously with Vasen on the world premiere of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin in an originally Soviet-banned but recently rediscovered version, written by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky with music by Prokofiev. Acting since grammar school, Giovine has also appeared in the title role in Princeton Shakespeare Company’s 2011 production of Dr. Faustus, as well as eleven other productions on campus. He has done summer coursework at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Yale School of Drama, and, in true Dickensian fashion, at Oxford.
The role of dramaturg is a critical one for a production of this type, a role Emma Boettcher is taking on as her senior thesis work in theater. As dramaturg she is responsible for the historical and cultural research behind the production, assisting with how the script translates to the stage, and working with the actors, many of whom will play multiple roles, to get at the heart of Dickens’ iconic characters. Also majoring in English, Boettcher’s previous dramaturgy experience includes a literary internship at the Wilma Theater, a professional theater company in Philadelphia. “I read the novel for the first time while studying in London, during the bicentennial of Dicken’s birth,” recalls Boettcher, “and experiencing his legacy there helped me appreciate his novel’s vivid language and his own theatricality.”
The two seniors approached Tim Vasen, Director of the Program in Theater to direct the production. Vasen has directed and taught in the Program in Theater since 1993. In addition to the Onegin production in which Giovine appeared, Vasen directed the 2006 world premiere of the unfinished Prokofiev/Meyerhold production of Pushkin’s Boris Godunov, featuring nearly 100 undergraduate performers. His other Princeton projects include Playboy of the Western World, Waiting for Godot, Danton’s Death and The Misanthrope. His professional directing credits include a five-year stint as Resident Director of Center Stage in Baltimore, where he directed a variety of new plays and classics, as well as productions and workshops in theaters across the country, including The Children’s Theater Company, South Coast Repertory, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Playwrights Horizons.
The all-student cast also features Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn ’16, John Somers Fairchild ’15, Evelyn Giovine ’16, Kanoa Mulling ’15, Cameron Platt ’16, Caroline Slutsky ’14, and Jake Tempchin ’14.
The production will feature set and costume design by Anya Klepikov with students Laura Hildebrand ’14 as lighting designer and Matt Smith ’16 as sound designer. Maeli Goren ’15 serves as stage manager.
The talk-back discussion following the February 15 performance will be led by Vasen, Giovine and Boettcher and provide an opportunity for audiences to ask questions of the creative team behind the production.
Tickets for Great Expectations are $12 general admission, $10 for students and seniors, and are available through Princeton University Ticketing by calling 609.258.9220 or on-line at princeton.edu/utickets/, at the Frist Campus Center Ticket Office, and at the door prior to each performance.
The Lewis Center’s Program in Theater annually presents a major, professionally produced play, as well as a number of student senior thesis productions throughout the year. Other productions this season will include the Mel Brooks musical The Producers and Euripides’ Hippolytus with an original vocal score, as well as two new works written by seniors in the Program.