True History And Real Adventures

Institute History

  • 1997 Theatre Lab


TRUE HISTORY AND REAL ADVENTURES is a play with music. It is the story of a young Scottish woman whose life is changed after walking into a theatre in 1893 and seeing a performance of THE TRUE AND REAL ADVENTURES OF CALAMITY JANE. In the company of four new friends, the young woman goes to America in search of the real Calamity Jane. Before she meets Calamity, she encounters friendship, love, the World’s Fair, the great American depression of 1893, racism and “true history,” when, under the alias of Pearl Hart, she becomes America’s Bandit Queen of the Nineties – the first woman to rob a stagecoach, the last stagecoach of the west. I have been working with Sybille Pearson, the author of TRUE HISTORY, for well over a year now on her play. Although there have been readings of the play, I have not had an opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with Sybille, composer Mel Marvin (for there are several songs in the play which advance plot and are crucial to the theatricality of the piece) and a group of actors to further my own understanding of how to theatrically tell this story. I welcome time and space and a situation unfettered by the demands of New York City. Working with a multi-cultural acting company will help us find out what the physical life of the play is. Opening our rehearsals at Sundance to other artists may engender fresh conversations about the work, and provoke the most vital thinking about how to proceed from here. The play makes wonderful use of 19th century theatrical techniques, and I want to explore those techniques and learn how best to tell the story physically. Sybille will need to address the writing as a result of that, and Mel Marvin will learn huge amounts about how much actual story-telling the music can and should do in terms of forwarding the episodic plot of the play as well as commenting on the socio-economic and racial progress of America and the American West, which impacts so mightily on our characters. It is also of great interest to all of us to do this work in the frontier world of Utah, which figures into the play. Sundance seems the ideal place and opportunity to help launch the project and move it forward.
—Michael Mayer

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