We're stepping back into the rehearsal studio this month to start work on our 14th stage production, an original adaptation of Edmond Rostand's French classic, Cyrano de Bergerac. Trust us, even if you don't think you know this story, you KNOW this story.
Cyrano de Bergerac is a complex story set in the 1640s France in the middle of the Thirty Years' War. There are references to war and to restoration theatre, but there's a very simple dramatic conceit at its heart: A guy (Cyrano) is in love with a girl (Roxanne) but believes he is too ugly to ever get love in return. She loves a handsome guy (Christian) who is too shy to pursue her. Cyrano and Christian concoct a plan to win Roxanne’s heart – Cyrano will write the words and Christian will deliver them. Cyrano will be the brains, and Christian will be the body.
One of our goals in producing classic plays with our ensemble is to ensure our actors have equal access to cultural history and experiences. Cyrano has been the basis for so many stories in popular culture, we are excited to connect our actors to this important piece of theatre. Countless TV shows have made use of this trope ranging from Lizzie McGuire to Seinfeld, The Brady Bunch to This Is Us, 30 Rock, Will & Grace, and even The Muppets. Cyrano's inspiration can also be seen in films like Hitch, The Ugly Truth, and the Truth About Cats and Dogs. The Disney Channel's 2012 film Let It Shine updates the idea to be about a hip hop songwriting competition.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of Cyrano in pop culture is Steve Martin's 1987 film adaptation, Roxanne. Martin updates the story to be set in a small town in the Pacific northwest and plays a big-nosed, witty, brave fire chief by the name of C.D. Bales. He helps his awkward, shy junior firefighter, Chris (Rick Rossovich) to woo the intelligent and beautiful Roxanne (Daryl Hannah). Martin's adaptation brilliantly preserves the core of Rostand's story and updates it for a modern audience. It's a great first introduction to the tale.
Adapted by A.B.L.E. co-founder and Artistic Director, Katie Yohe, A.B.L.E.'s re-telling of this tale will focus in on the central Cyrano-Roxanne-Christian love triangle. The script has been tailored to the individual strengths of the ensemble. We will bring their talents to the forefront with a mix of humor, pop music, and some good old fashioned swordfights. Actors will share roles, with each playing multiple characters, giving everyone a chance to be in the spotlight. We are also exploring deeper themes such as inner and outer beauty, "otherness", unrequited love, loyalty, and friendship, all of which hit home for any teenager, but especially those with developmental differences.
We look forward to sharing our rehearsal process with you over the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned for weekly blog posts with a behind the scenes look at rehearsals including photos, videos, and interviews with our cast and crew. And be sure to grab your seats when tickets go on sale March 1st!
Want to dive deeper into Cyrano? Here are some more resources from our friends at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. You might also want to watch the 1990 film adaptation with Gerard Depardieu, the RSC's 1985 production with Derek Jacobi, or the 2009 production with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner.