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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

The Bard: Directing & Adapting Literary Classics

Among Richard Rose's original adaptations is <em>Frankenstein</em>. Shown are Nicholas Piper and Eugene Wolf.
Among Richard Rose's original adaptations is Frankenstein. Shown are Nicholas Piper and Eugene Wolf.

December 28, 2011

A! Magazine: What are the high points of your tenure at Barter? Have there been any low points?

RICHARD ROSE: There are lots of high points, and many that you may not expect me to mention:
• expansion and touring of The Barter Players,
• founding and success of the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights,
The Shaping of America series,
• Porterfield Square and the "Midsummer Play" fountain/sculpture by fantasy artist Charles Vess,
• the number, scope, variety and success of Barter's world premiere plays throughout the last 20 years,
• our exchange with Russian theatres in 1996,
• re-establishment of the resident acting company,
• re-establishment of Barter as one of the nation's premiere regional theatres,
• renovation of Barter Theatre, Barter Stage II, and the building of Barter Café.

As to low points, fortunately, like an NFL quarterback, I've been blessed with a very bad memory, plus the ability to see every struggle as a learning experience and the stubborness to work through any difficulty until it turns to success — or at least until it is the best that it can be. So, I don't see low points. Every challenge is an opportunity as well. I think we've successfully seized every opportunity that we had the ability to seize and made the best of every challenge put before us.

A! Magazine: Approximately how many productions have you directed? As you look back, which ones are you most proud of?

RICHARD ROSE: I've directed well over 100 productions in my tenure thus far at Barter. Trying to choose one production over another is sort of like saying you like one of your children more than you do another.

[Editor's Note: Rose has directed such plays as Driving Miss Daisy, To Kill a Mockingbird, Keep on the Sunny Side, Fiddler on the Roof, Déjà Vu, Wit, My Fair Lady, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Camelot, Sundown, Patient A, and Death of a Salesman.]

You must enjoy adapting literary classics. Are you a playwright at heart?
I do not and have never considered myself a "playwright." I do like adapting literary works, which is a lot more like directing and editing than what I think a playwright does. I have great respect for the work of playwrights, who use infinite creativity and imagination to create original works for the theatre. I am but a mere adaptor.

What I do think I do well in adapting works is capture both the flavor and the intent of the original works from which my adaptations are created. I do not really attempt to make the work my own, as a playwright will.

I instead truly try to bring the original work to life and to show the audience that the piece of literature is relevant in today's world.

[Editor's Note: Rose's original adaptations of plays include It's a Wonderful Life, A Modern Christmas Carol, Wuthering Heights, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Frankenstein and Dracula.]

Barter: Looking Back, Looking Forward