Trailblazing Lee Breuer at Wesleyan this Weekend

Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge talks with Lee Breuer, who conceived and adapted (with Maude Mitchell) “Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play,” which will receive its first Connecticut performance on Saturday, February 16 at 8pm.  

Lee Breuer

One of my top ten theater experiences of all time was seeing Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s The Gospel at Colonus, a Pentacostal version of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus that premiered at BAM’s Next Wave Festival.  I remember getting completely immersed in the world that Mr. Breuer created, and knew that he was pushing the theatrical form unlike anybody else.  Since then, the co-founder of Mabou Mines has created work after work for those with an appetite for intelligent, risk-taking and provocative work in downtown New York and around the world. Wesleyan audiences will remember his talks as a part of the Outside the Box Theater Series over the years, and many Connecticut theater-goers had the opportunity to see his masterpiece, Mabou Mines DollHouse in New Haven in 2006 [a Long Wharf Theatre/Yale Repertory Theatre co-presentation].

This Saturday, Mr. Breuer brings his latest work, Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play, to Wesleyan. When I spoke with Mr. Breuer about what compelled him to make this piece, he told me about the intensity of his experience directing A Streetcar Named Desire for the Comédie-Française.  The legendary theater company had never presented an American play in its 330 year history, and they chose Mr. Brueuer to bring the American classic to life in a new French adaptation.  The work played to rave reviews and sold out houses for six months straight, until the Williams estate shut it down.  He explained that they didn’t like the non-traditional unorthodox direction, and wanted to keep it from being seen.

“Tennessee was brought down by critics, in the end,” Mr. Breuer explained. “They hated him because he was gay, and because he changed his style of work. He wrote 30 plays after he brought Streetcar to Broadway, only a few of which got any attention. I could relate to that.” Mr. Breuer went onto say that he got rave reviews of Gospel at Colonus when it was at BAM, but that all changed when it went to Broadway.  “In Glass Guignol, I’m experimenting with how to direct Williams’ later plays which have yet to be successfully done.”

At 76, Mr. Breuer said he’s working on three plays simultaneously.  “I have a lot I want to do while I can,” he said. Glass Guignol is an exploration/excavation of the multi-faceted fictional refractions arising from Williams’ erotic, voyeuristic relationship with his sister, Rose.  It uses Two-Character Play as a frame and then references many of the women in Williams’ other plays, stories, and poems [The Glass Menagerie, A Cavalier for Milady, and Suddenly Last Summer] that dramatize the brother/sister relationship. Actress Maude Mitchell co-created the work and plays many of the women.  The play also features Jessica Weinstein ’02, the only actress ever to appear twice in one season at the Center for the Arts!  Last September, Wesleyan audiences had the chance to fall in love with Ms. Weinstein’s Tall Hilda in Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe Love Amour!

A Mabou Mines Masterclass Workshop Production
“Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play”
Conceived and adapted by Lee Breuer and Maude Mitchell
Saturday, February, 16, 2013 at 8pm
CFA Theater
$25 general public; $20 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Panel Discussion: Tennessee Williams after “Iguana”
Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 4:15pm
CFA Hall

Featuring Lee Breuer, Maude Mitchell, and Thomas Keith, Editor, New Directions Publishing and Dramaturg of Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play. Moderated by Wesleyan Professor of Theater Ronald Jenkins.

4 thoughts on “Trailblazing Lee Breuer at Wesleyan this Weekend”

  1. It’s 4 days since I had the great fortune of seeing Glass Guignol, and my thoughts continue to swirl around the play and all that it stirred up in me. Having lived for the past 40 years in NYC, I’ve been privileged to attend so much stimulating off-Broadway theater, including Open Theater, Wooster Group, Living Theater, Foreman, La Mama, and of course Mabou Mines. But living on the CT shoreline for the past few years, despite the rich plethora of Yale/New Haven theater I’m seeing, nothing has stimulated me as much as this brilliantly contorted Guignol production. Thank you, heartfully, to Lee Breuer for bringing this workshop to Wesleyan, and to the valiantly committed (and brave!) cast and crew for giving it everything they had to give. Deeply inspired by Maude and Greg’s tirelessly mind-bending performances, I was overjoyed, back home, to read about Greg’s directing role in Roy Cohn/Jack Smith, the single-most powerful play I’d treasured seeing in the past century. I hope Glass Guignol continues to grow and prosper, and to be seen again and again in future incarnations. If and when it does, I vow that I will be there.

  2. I can only reiterate what Edward Ryan wrote
    I loved mr Breuer
    Emphatically stating this would not go to broadway
    I saw gospel both at bam and broadway. …

    I too hope the piece stays in development
    So proud of cfa and the commitment to great art

  3. Glass Guignol is a remarkable piece of theater. Elements of staging, lighting, sound and music, and most of all language and performance are masterfully synchronized to create a powerful, provocative work of art. Although the content is poignant there is a judicious usage of humor that serves to both accentuate and relieve the seriousness of the subject matter. The acting is brilliant; achieving both an intellectually stimulating arc and a deep emotional reality that is intensely human. Glass Guignol should be seen by anyone interested in theater, art, and in the exploration of the human condition. Brilliant.

  4. This was another wonderful Lee Breuer/Maude Mitchell theater experience. And to have them right here, at Wesleyan, was also wonderful. I continue, during this week, to reflect on their original, creative, thrilling conception — to present Williams’ work in this light. I hope they continue to develop it and that we get to see it again. Oedipos at Colonus and Dollhouse were wonderful and unforgettable — and now this piece is added to their repertoire. It really was an honor, still after 50 years of theater-going, to be in the CFA and see this brilliant production.

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