ART: Posner brings comic truth about love to Oregon stage

Renowned director and playwright Aaron Posner opens Artists Repertory Theatre’s 2012-13 30th Anniversary Season with the world premiere of his play And So It Goes…, adapted from Kurt Vonnegut’s first short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House (1968).

Posner’s award-winning adaptations of two novels by Chaim Potok, The Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev, played across the U.S. and internationally. This year Posner received the prestigious Helen Hayes Award for the second time as director of Cyrano, performed at the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC.

Now, with his first production at ART, Posner has set his sights on no less than the truth about love.

“There is nothing about love that isn’t true,” he told Oregon Jewish Life in an August interview. Describing Vonnegut as “more interested in truth than reality,” Posner acknowledged that the distinction may be blurred when it comes to love.

“If I truly understood the difference between truth and reality in regard to love,” he said, “I would be writing self-help books instead of plays. You make art because you don’t understand these things and want to explore them through the medium that is the way you enter the world. I find my way in the world through literature and story and stories being told on stage.”

The play’s title echoes Vonnegut’s phrase “So it goes,” from his famous novel Slaughterhouse Five (1969).

“I believe I’ve read nearly every word Vonnegut ever published,” said Posner. “He was a powerful formative influence on my young mind when I was growing up in Eugene. I am delighted to be doing the world premiere of this adaptation here in Oregon where I first fell in love with his work.”

He said the play is a comedy in the “true sense.”

“It’s no accident that Shakespeare’s comedies end in marriage, which is the ultimate societal order,” he said. “Tragedy is a portrait of a fractured world. So these stories are comedies in that … while it might be hard, and people might make missteps, it will all work out in the end, which is a lovely thing to spend a little time with.”

Sitcoms portray “the simplest kinds of truths – the easy laughs, the easy payoffs, the low-hanging fruit of truth,” he said. In contrast, And So It Goes… engages with love’s complexity: “things that are real and things that are imagined and things that are hoped for and things that are wished and lies we tell ourselves and lies we tell each other.”

Posner also has adapted the works of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Kesey and Twain. In attempting to serve them, he said, “I’m fortunate there’s a genius in the room. … It’s really about unfolding and unpacking the wonderful stories these folks wrote.”

An associate artist at both the Folger Theatre and the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Posner came to Portland with his wife and daughter to direct the show.

Amy R. Kaufman is a Portland writer, book editor and publisher.

    Artists Repertory Theatre’s 30th Anniversary Season

Celebrating its 30th anniversary season, Artists Repertory Theatre’s 2012/13 play schedule stays true to the company’s three-decade mission of offering productions that challenge artists and audiences with adventurous and provocative plays staged in an intimate environment.

“This is a season with a lot of heart,” says Producing Artistic Director Allen Nause, who is in his last year at the helm of play selection after 25 years. “This season continues Artists Rep’s commitment to new, challenging, vibrant work with three world premieres along with West Coast and Portland premieres. We continue our journey exploring the human condition, the human heart, with plays set over the course of a century, through these distinct, quintessentially ‘Artists Rep’ premiere plays.”

This season’s schedule is: Sept. 4-Oct. 7, And So It Goes… by Aaron Posner, adapted from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Oct. 9-Nov. 11, Seven Guitars by August Wilson; Nov. 27-Dec. 23, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol by John Longenbaugh; Jan. 8-Feb. 10, The Lost Boy by Susan Mach; Feb. 12-March 17, Red Herring by Michael Hollinger; March 26-April 28, The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar; April 23-May 26, Ten Chimneys by Jeffrey Hatcher; and May 28-June 30, the Fowler-Levin Prize Award-winning New Play Commission by Andrea Stolowitz.

In fall 2011, Stolowitz was awarded the Fowler/Levin Prize with this winning play concept. She will write and develop this timely piece as the final production of the 2012/13 season.

The 2012/13 season is sponsored by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Founded in 1982, Artists Repertory Theatre is the longest-running professional theater company in Portland. 

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