Archive for September, 2010

Theatre vs Film, Round 1

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 | Davis Sargeant

“Amadeus,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “A Man for All Seasons” and “Casablanca.” “Chicago,” “My Fair Lady,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and even “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Hollywood seldom hesitates to adapt a play for the big screen, especially after a successful run on Broadway. Recently, while thinking about Chris Kammerer’s “The Stoke Scriptures” and comparing it to “Babel,” I started to wonder whether a playwright ever adapts a movie for the stage. Why haven’t we seen “Blade Runner,” Citizen Kane,” or “Psycho” as a drama?  Disney puts its entire repertoire on ice, so why not give some screenplays a run on the stage?

Unsurprisingly but reasonably, money is to blame. The nearly bankrupt MGM should not use this time to pitch a “Hot Tub Time Machine” play; no one would see it. In “Short Film about Movies” by Errol Morris (, which opened the 2002 Academy Awards, one man states his preference for mediocre films over good plays. A cool reception would meet “The Graduate;” most would either ignore it or rent it from Netflix. It seems the only films a company would be willing to put on stage are those with a rabid fans (e.g. children), hence “Shrek the Musical” and “The Lion King.” These are typically hit and miss. While I never liked the movie, “The Lion King” on Broadway was an amazing and memorable experience. Fingers here are crossed for “Up” to hit St. Louis stages soon. Unfortunately, the rabid fan hypothesis can only signal the arrival of a musical about (the horror!) “Twilight,” as well.

True, I’m being unfair. First, the details that make great films do not necessarily translate to the stage. For example, a play cannot seamless crosscut between multiple plotlines, like in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or “Inception.” “Sunshine” on stage would be muddled rather than clever and optimistic. Also, plays adapted from movies debut from time to time; one of my favorite films, “On the Waterfront” hit Broadway 15 years ago to negative reviews. If anything, this exercise offers me some evidence that theatre has something film does not, and I want to experience that with the plots and characters of films, like “Schindler’s List.”  I want to see Oskar Schindler in person, watch his transformation in a more immediate space, and grieve without a screen in the way. Now that would be a powerful play.