Comedian Andy Kaufman used to have this gag: to clear the club at the end of the night, he’d pull out a dog-eared copy of The Great Gatsby and start reading. New York-based experimental theater group Elevator Repair Service, inspired partly by Kaufman, is coming to the Walker to do the same thing–but with one important twist: they want you to stay glued to your seat.
The just-announced performing arts season kicks off with GATZ, ERS’ ambitious and audacious homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic. Set in a rundown office space, a man finds a copy of Gatsby and starts reading it–every word. The people who populate the office, delivery guys and coworkers, start playing the roles of characters in the book. (Is this for real, or just an illustration of what’s going on in the reader’s mind?)
Not at all an adaptation, the verbatim reading of the book, which takes around six hours, revels in Fitzgerald’s language. It’s about commitment–both for audiences who engage in this marathon experience and for the company that’s being so faithful to the text. So maybe it’s fitting that this US premiere is set in the Twin Cities where Fitzgerald grew up–and that the final performance falls on the author’s 110th birthday (coincidentally enough, the Guthrie Theater is doing an adaptation of The Great Gatsby this summer).
For more on the performance, listen to Performing Arts curator Philip Bither’s recent interview on Minnesota Public Radio, or read ERS’ production notes on the 13-year journey of making the piece. And don’t miss an interview with Bither and ERS’ John Collins and Scott Shepherd (who, as the lead, has the entire novel memorized), which will hopefully be podcast here, in the September/October issue of Walker magazine.
GATZ comes to the Walker September 21-24.