Fat Tuesday by August Strindberg
English language premiere - translated by Jonathan
Howard - directed by Robert Greer
Presented by August Strindberg Repertory Theatre and Pink Pig
in association with Theater Resources Unlimited.
October 26 to November 17, 2012 - Gene Frankel Theatre
Crystal Meyer plays a puppet rising out of a trunk
in a churchyard gateway in "Casper's Fat Tuesday."
Photo by Joseph Urick.
Fat Tuesday" ("Kaspers Fet-Tisdag") is a proto-absurdist
work that was originally written as a puppet show. Penned in 1900,
it was first performed in 1901 and published posthumously in 1916.
No English translation has ever been published. In the 1950's,
Ingmar Bergman directed a Swedish student performance. A musical
version, composed by Hilding Rosenberg, was broadcast in Sweden
in 1954. In 1964, a German version was produced in Korbach. This
translation, unpublished, is a recent one by Jonathan Howard (England),
which uses an idiom that was current in Britain during the 1800s.
refers to Shrove Tuesday or Fet-Tisdag in Swedish, which is the
last day before the 40-day fast of Lent. In some countries, this
is a Carnival Day. The play is set in the churchyard of the German
Church of Saint Gertrude in Stockholm and takes the form of a
traditional Punch-and-Judy show. A manager and his wife uncrate
an ensemble of puppets including Casper (the Northern European
name for Punch), his wife Judy, their two sons, a Mexican man,
an Officer, a Creditor, a Tempter and Death. The manager abuses
his wife and the puppets gleefully abuse each other, torturing
the Tempter and evading the Officer, all the time being wary of
Death. There is apparent satire on a swirl of subjects, including
dialogue with the Mexican man on political issues (with oblique
references to Zapata's struggle for a more democratic regime).
There are also references to the telephone, which was a racy new
technology in Sweden before it was widely adopted in the States.
Dialogues occasionally break into German, a language that all
educated Swedes were familiar with in 1900. The play made little
sense to critics of its age, who overlooked its simple practical
philosophy, judging it rough and frivolous. The play actually
offers three basic life lessons: (1) There are more tears in answered
prayers than unanswered prayers. (2) You can't win for losing.
(3) As long as you treat all people badly, nobody has any reason
to complain. Director Robert Greer said, "I want the audience
to laugh their heads off and go out wondering about these things."
contained the play as translated by Jonathan Howard from the Swedish
national edition of Strindberg's collected work, but extensive
sections were added from a missing scene of Strindberg's play,
"Midsummer" (1901), which was also translated by Howard.
Written a few months before "Kaspers Fet-Tisdag," "Midsummer"
is a six-scene play that is cinematic in structure, anticipating
a movement to come much later in the century. Its penultimate
(abandoned) scene was a Punch-and-Judy show set in the park Djurgården,
which is just outside downtown Stockholm. It contains the same
characters as "Casper," but with different words and
actions. The two plays were be merged in this production for a
fuller, fatter "Casper."
was written for its Punch-and-Judy characters to be played by
traditional puppets and "Kaspers Fet-Tisdag" was written
for them to be played by actors. This production adapts the combined
script as a sort of Commedia dell'Arte. The puppet characters
will be played by ballerinas in commedia masks. Actual slap sticks
were be used when blows were exchanged. The piece was a co-production
of August Strindberg Rep with The Pink Pig Ballet, whose dancers
performed the puppets. A ballet was created for the dancers by
Miro Magloire, who is Artistic Director of the New Chamber Ballet
and the Strindberg Rep's balletmaster. In keeping with the absurdism
of the play, it was danced after the play's first bows.
The cast included
Kate Bishop, Preston Bradley, Valerie Mae Browne, Natalia Lepore
Hagan, Selena Hepburn, Crystal Meyer, Dina Rosenmeier, Joanna
Sienkiewicz, Natlaia Sheptalova and Moriah McAda-Smith.
was performed in a double-bill with "The Stronger" (1890),
acted by Dina Rosenmeier and Albert Bendix.The translation was
set in a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, cafe on Christmas Eve, 2011.
This was the second production of August Strindberg Rep. Both
plays were designed by Angelina Margolis with lighting by Miriam
Crowe, who had been the design team of the previous season's season's
"Playing With Fire." The commedia masks in
"Casper's Fat Tuesday" were designed by Peter Hodges.