SPOTLIGHT: Matthew Trucano Directs 'The Wedding Party'

November 5, 2015

A new adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s A Respectable Wedding will open at Columbia this weekend as part of a second-year directing project. The play, directed byMatthew Trucano (Directing ‘17) was conceived by Trucano and Ellen Steves (Playwriting ‘17), and written by Steves.

Brecht wrote A Respectable Wedding (the title of which, in German, translates to “petit bourgeois wedding”) when he was only 22 years old. The play aims to destabilize and interrogate bourgeois values. It only stands to reason that a contemporary adaptation would see the story moved to current day Williamsburg, populated by hipsters.

“I think the most challenging thing about adapting this play is that Brecht was satirizing the bourgeois society of 1919 in Augsburg. At the time he was subscribing to radical Bohemianism, whose aim was to scandalize the petite bourgeois ‘elite’,” said Trucano. “So we have to find situations that are radically bohemian in 2015. It's really fun and also really hard because we have had to look introspectively to find the world of the play.”

As the playwright, Steves did not have to look far for inspiration. “I am a waitress in Williamsburg, and this summer I worked about 24,000 hipster weddings. That was dramaturgy enough,” said Steves. “It's interesting to be involved in this giant, strange tradition week after week, but not have any personal stake in it. I think this story is definitely told from the standpoint of the outsider.”

The Wedding Party is a bold and innovative take on the original. “It's weird, adaptation is not something I've ever done before, so it was an exciting endeavor,” said Steves. “At first, I felt a lot of pressure to remain true to the original script. It took about five drafts before I felt like it was mine.”

Working on an adapted classic is not new territory for Trucano, however. Before coming to Columbia he co-ran The Bricklayers, a theater company in Chicago that does adaptations of classic texts and original improvisation-based theatre pieces. “Working with Ellen in the room is one of the great joys of my artistic life,” he said. “When we are together we are able to riff off of one another, deepening dramaturgy with lightness and enthusiasm.”

For Steves, working as a team was a familiar place to be. As a founding member of boom! theater company she has spent years dedicated to the conception, generation and production of new work from inside the company. “Our work is experiential in nature, we often explores themes of torture and manipulation,” said Steves. “At a boom! show, you are not a spectator, you are an accomplice.”

“Ellen's infectious heartfelt desire to make an event (not merely a play) throws a gauntlet for me and the actors,” said Trucano. “She encourages me to be courageous both in staging choices and also in presenting a strong point of view.”

The road to adaptation can be a challenging one, and interpreting Brecht is not always simple. “He's so good and I'm so dumb,” said Steves of Brecht. “He’s a genius and all I think about is bagels.”

Tickets for The Wedding Party can be reserved here.