For its first show of the 2014–’15 season, the Yale Repertory Theatre will present a marriage of science and art as it stages one of the most widely known plays of the last two decades.
Described by the Rep as a “ravishingly romantic time-traveling masterpiece,” “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard begins next Friday at the University Theatre. Yale School of Drama Dean James Bundy DRA ’95, who also serves as the Rep’s artistic director, will direct the production. Bundy said he believes “Arcadia” will provide audiences with an appealing combination of humor and romance, adding that the play’s popularity serves as a contrast to the other shows in the season, three of which are world premieres.
“Yale Rep audiences have loved Tom Stoppard’s work in the past,” Bundy said. “It’s important to balance new and canonical work throughout the year.”
“Arcadia” contains two storylines, one of which is set in the early 19th century while the other is set in the late 20th century. The former follows the relationship between a precocious 13-year-old student named Thomasina Coverly and her tutor, named Septimus Hodge. The latter plot line centers on a writer named Hannah Jarvis and a professor named Bernard Nightingale, both of whom are conducting research at the estate where Thomasina once lived.
Rebekah Brockman, who plays Thomasina in the production, described her character as having an “unfiltered” personality and frequently questioning the world around her. She noted that her approach to the part is largely inspired by a line from the play’s script that reads “It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter.”
The show will feature original choreography by Yale Dance Studies Director Emily Coates ’06 GRD ’11 and original music compositions by Yale School of Drama professor Matthew Suttor. Coates and Suttor said their primary challenge has been to create music and movement that is artistically creative as well as historically accurate.
Suttor said that the play’s two storylines, which are set nearly 200 years apart, create opportunities to compose music in a variety of styles. He explained that one piece in the play is a reworking of a waltz by 19th-century composer Franz Schubert while another contains harmonies that match those in the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Coates said her choreographic approach involved extensive research into the history of the waltz in England during the 19th century, and the final scene in the play features a party at which Thomasina asks Septimus to teach her how to waltz.
Bundy also emphasized the interplay between scientific concepts and artistic themes in the play, which he believes makes the play particularly relevant at Yale, where such disciplines have co-existed in the University’s liberal arts curriculum for centuries. Coates said the play reminded her of a course she co-taught with Physics professor Sarah Demers last fall titled “The Physics of Dance.” Suttor said he thinks that there are many more similarities between the scientific and artistic professions than one may expect, noting that the play illuminates a number of these connections.
“As a species, we have been badly served by the idea that scientific thinking and creative thinking are separate entities,” Suttor said.
The last performance of “Arcadia” will be held on Oct. 25.