Written as a serial in the publication All the Year Round, British author Charles Dickens released portions of his famous novel Great Expectations from December of 1860 to August of 1861. Great Expectations has been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times, and will be gracing the stage of Corban campus early in March.
Great Expectations the play, adapted by Barbara Field, is very true to the plot of Dickens’s original story.
“I think it’s really close,” said Melanie Rice, who plays Miss Havisham as well as several other roles in the production. “There are direct lines from the book.”
“There is really nothing [that differs from the novel]. It follows the story almost to the ‘t’,” said Adam Fields, who plays the protagonist, Pip. “Most of the lines are word for word out of Dickens mouth.”
Katie Karnes, Corban alumna and the director of the play, says she and her husband Adam, the assistant director, chose Field’s version after throwing out another potential that drastically changed the original ending. Finding a version that stayed true to the text was an absolute must for the Karnes.
“The play is fairly accurate in what it does cover,” she said. “[The script] follows the book very well.”
Much like the plotline, the characters in the production are true to the novel. Rice explained that there are ten actors, each of which takes on several roles as well as “neutral narrator roles.”
“We don’t a have a person that is a set narrator,” said Fields, “The characters narrate as neutral characters. Sometime a character will give a narration line and then transition straight into their scene.”
Rice explained that in these blank “narrator” roles, the characters help “guide” the audience to understand set changes, or even lapses in time.
“It’s very much a verbal play,” said Katie Karnes. “We tell you what we’re going to show and then show it … nearly half the script is told by a narrator.”
Karnes explains with a complex play such as Dickens, such an approach keeps the audience from getting lost.
The play, broken into two acts, is a continuous flow of narration and dialogue. There are no breaks between scenes. As far as the backdrops and props go, the audience may be shocked by their scarcity.
“It’s a minimalist play,” said Rice. “Very few props and very few places.”
According to Fields, there are three to four areas on the stage that represent six to eight different settings.
“You have to show through your acting that you really believe that you are in that place, he said. “You have to interact in the environment.”
Karnes explained that with the rapid-fire of seamlessly joined back-to-back scenes, anything besides a minimalist set would be unfeasible.
While staying true to the original plot, characters, and often dialogue, Corban thespians, and a few child “guest stars,” will be bringing the classic story to stage come March.
Fields, the lead, admits that he was “impartial” to Dickens written work. However, he has confidence that it will come alive on stage.
“When we dry read the script it seemed very monotonous and slow, but when we added character and motions to it, it came to life and was very captivating,” he said.
With multiple roles to play, self narration, and a minimalist set, performers will be giving their all to entertain the audience, and maintain the authenticity of Dickens’s original work.
March 10 at 10:30 a.m.
March 11, 12, 17-19 at 7:30 p.m.
in the Psalm Performing Arts Center,
5000 Deer Park Drive SE
Salem, OR 97317
$10 for adults,
$8 for students and seniors (62+),
$4 for children 12 and younger
Call 503-375-7035 for tickets, or visit the Corban bookstore.