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Full Circle

  • Feb 11, 2000

  • Loeb Drama Center

  • Run Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes, with 1 intermission

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A hilarious bravura vaudeville romp! Out of the chaos of high speed capitalism and crashing economies emerges a hapless single woman caring for an abandoned baby. Based on an ancient Chinese fable, Charles Mee’s Full Circle is set in turbulent 1989 East Germany after the fall of Communism. Part uproarious spectacle, part touching fairy tale, the play captures the heartbeat of a world up for grabs. Acclaimed director Robert Woodruff returns to the A.R.T. to stage this ironic, often hilarious romp.

Full Circle was originally produced under the title The Berlin Circle as a world premiere by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, Martha Lavey, Artistic Director, Michael Gennaro, Executive Director.

SYNOPSIS

The year is 1989, the place East Berlin. A performance at the Berliner Ensemble is drawing to a close, watched by Erich Honecker, First Secretary of the Communist Party, and Pamela Dalrymple, a wealthy American tourist.

A group of students burst into the theater and announce that the revolution has begun and the Berlin Wall is falling. Honecker and his wife are rushed from the building, leaving Pamela with their newborn baby.

Pamela employs one of the students, Dulle Griet, as her au pair and childminder. The two women wander through the chaotic streets of Berlin, visiting first the celebrations at the Wall, then the State Museum, where Pamela takes possession of the famous Pergamon Altar. Soon they attract the attention of a pair of guards who identify the baby as Honecker’s and resolve to chase Pamela and Dulle Griet across the rioting country.

Credits

Creative team

by

Charles L. Mee

America  Repertory Theater: Cardenio, bobrauschenbergamerica (directed by Anne Bogart), Snow in June (directed by Chen Shi-Zheng), Full Circle (directed by Robert Woodruff), The Trojan Women: A Love Story (directed by Robert Woodruff at the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University), and Orestes (directed by Tina Landau at the A.R.T. Institute). He is the only playwright member of the SITI Company, for whom he has written Orestes 2.0, bobrauschenbergamerica, Hotel Cassiopeia, soot and spit (the musical), and Under Construction. He has also written Vienna: Lusthaus, A Perfect Wedding, and a number of other plays in addition to his works inspired by Greek plays, including Big Love, True Love, and others. His plays have been performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York Theatre Workshop, the Public Theatre, Lincoln Center, the Humana Festival, Steppenwolf, and other venues in the United States as well as in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna, Istanbul, and elsewhere. Among other awards, he is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His complete works are available on the internet at www.charlesmee.org. He is also the author of A Nearly Normal Life, a memoir of his struggle with polio. His work is made possible by the support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher and Richard B. Fisher.

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Directed by

Robert Woodruff

Directed by

Robert Woodruff

A.R.T.: Artistic Director, 2002-07. Directed Britannicus, Orpheus X, Island of Slaves, Olly's Prison, OedipusSound of a Voice, Highway Ulysses, Richard IIFull Circle (2000 Elliot Norton Award for Best Director) and In the Jungle of Cities (1998 Elliot Norton Award for Best Director). A.R.T./MXAT Institute: directed Charles L. Mee's Trojan Women A Love Story.

Robert Woodruff is one of the country's most versatile stage directors. His theatrical vocabulary encompasses a remarkable range of styles, from the naturalistic simplicity of his productions of Shepard and Bond to his baroque deconstructions of Shakespeare and Brecht. Woodruff collaborates with living playwrights and revisits the masterpieces of the classical canon with equal flair. His body of work resists categorization, and is united only by the power of his imagination and the rigor that he demands of his actors and designers. After thirty years of directing, Woodruff continues to develop fresh dramatic forms with each production.

Woodruff was born in Brooklyn in 1947 and spent his childhood on Long Island. After gaining a B.A. in political science at the University of Buffalo he began graduate studies at the City College of New York. In 1971, disenchanted with the reactionary New York theatre establishment, he moved to San Francisco to seek out new writers and artistic collaborators. The following year he co-founded the Eureka Theatre, where he served as Artistic and Resident Director until 1978.

In 1976 Woodruff established his second theatre, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, a summer forum for the development of new plays that is still flourishing. It was here that Woodruff first worked with the writer Sam Shepard, on a libretto that Shepard had developed for the national bicentennial celebrations, The Sad Lament of Pecos Bill. The thirty-three year-old playwright was still better known in London than the States, and his collaborations with Woodruff marked a turning point in both men's careers. For the next five years Woodruff was virtually the sole director of Shepard's work, staging the American premiere of Curse of the Starving Class at the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1978, the world premieres of Buried Child (1978) and True West (1980) in San Francisco and New York, and the touring productions of Tongues and Savage/Love, which Shepard co-authored with the performer Joseph Chaikin.

While staging Shepard's naturalistic family dramas, Woodruff developed an unadorned directorial style that emphasized textual precision and subtlety of performance over elaborate stagecraft. From time to time he still draws on this minimalist form, in his recent New York revival of Edward Bond's Saved, for example, and in domestic interludes in Richard II, Full Circle, and In the Jungle of Cities, where time slows almost to a halt, and the most mundane details take on poetic significance.

In 1983 Woodruff staged The Comedy of Errors with the The Flying Karamazov Brothers at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and at Lincoln Center in New York City. The production was the first in which Woodruff's directorial hand was immediately visible, and audiences were astonished to find fire-eaters, acrobats, and jugglers delivering Shakespeare's language. His formal experimentation continued with a series of major productions at the La Jolla Playhouse in California, and other regional houses including the Mark Taper Forum, the Guthrie Theatre, and the American Conservatory Theatre. Although he continued to stage new plays, he developed a reputation as one of a handful of progressive directors who enjoy working with classic texts from every period.

At La Jolla, Woodruff's productions included radical deconstructions of The Tempest, Happy Days, and Man's a Man, the first part of his cycle of Brecht's early plays that continued with Baal (1990) at Trinity Repertory Company, and In the Jungle of Cities (1998) at A.R.T. Woodruff is particularly adept at unpacking the visceral poetry of Brecht's sprawling epics. Writing in the Boston Globe, Kevin Kelly described Baal as "fiery onslaught. It burns right in front of you, scorches everything it touches, and draws you into the roar of its out-of-control furnace. It may be the single most brilliant Brecht I've ever seen."

Woodruff's investigation of the classics continued with Julius Caesar, The Duchess of Malfi, Medea, and The Changeling. The latter two he staged in Israel, where he has established a considerable body of work. Although these revivals were stylistically very different from each other, they all challenged conventional notions of scale and design. Woodruff frequently avoids a unified aesthetic style in his productions, preferring to create startling visual and aural juxtapositions that shed new light on canonical texts. "Unity is overrated," he once said. "Defining a whole and making all its pieces correspond to that oneness can lead to a stifling politeness. I'd rather take each moment and make it burn, make that color very bright."

One of Woodruff's greatest strengths as a director is his ability to collaborate. Whether staging the first production of a new play or reviving a classical masterpiece, his writers, actors, and designers work with him as equals. He has built firm relationships with some of the world's finest playwrights, performers, and artists, including the scenic designers Douglas Stein and George Tsypin, who have contributed much to Woodruff's visual style. Although he has a strong aesthetic vision, Woodruff allows his collaborators an unusual latitude in shaping each production. "I don't try to control, I try to encourage," he once told an interviewer. "There's something I like about avoiding agreements. Obviously the set designer and the costume designer have to talk about color, but I would almost like to have them separate, to make their own statement. If everybody responds to the material in a way that's true to them, what emerges is the resonance of all those voices rather than the agreement of all those voices. It has to be more interesting."

In recent years, one of Woodruff's chief collaborators has been the playwright Charles L. Mee, who shares his taste for collage composition. Woodruff's A.R.T. production of Mee's Full Circle was a fine example of the director's mature style - a patchwork of dramatic forms that continuously subverted the audience's expectations, forcing them into a new encounter with apparently familiar material, and providing an ironic commentary on Mee's text and the political eruption that it dramatizes. As Full Circle admirably demonstrated, although Woodruff's reputation is as a director of intensely introspective tragedies, he is equally at home in a world of dazzling vaudeville.

Although he lives in New York, Woodruff seldom directs there, preferring the more generous schedules of the larger regional theatres. "You can't do The Comedy of Errors with nineteen vaudevillians in Manhattan," he once said. Since 1997 he has taught directing and acting as Assistant Professor at Columbia University, and has earned a reputation as one of the nation's most committed and popular mentors. In 1983 he told Scott Cummings, then a student at the Yale School of Drama, that one of his greatest regrets about theatre in the States was the lack of formal apprenticeship. "As a director that's very difficult," he said, "because of the responsibility you assume with your role. Directing is by its very nature a master craft. It takes years." Eighteen years later, Robert Woodruff has become one of the undisputed master-craftsmen of the American theatre. It is a great privilege that he has agreed to make A.R.T. his artistic home, and we are thrilled to participate in the next chapter of his remarkable career. 

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Set design by

Riccardo Hernandez

Riccardo Hernandez

Set design by

Riccardo Hernandez

A.R.T.: Over twenty productions, including most recently, Jagged Little PillThe White Card, Arrabal, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Prometheus Bound, Best of Both Worlds, The Seagull, Julius Caesar, Britannicus, and Marat/Sade. Broadway: Indecent, The Gin Game; The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess; The People in the Picture; Caroline, or Change, National Theatre London; Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, Old Vic; Topdog/Underdog, Royal Court; Bells Are Ringing; Parade (directed by Hal Prince, Tony, Drama Desk nominations); Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, The Tempest. Recent productions include: The Skin of Our Teeth, TFANA; The Invisible Hand (Henry Hewes Design Award); Red Speedo (Drama Desk Nomination); Grounded (directed by Julie Taymor). International: Théâtre du Châtelet, Avignon (Cour d’honneur Palais des Papes); Oslo, National Theatre; Abbey Theatre. Recipient, Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Design. Hernandez is on the faculty at Yale School of Drama.

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Costume design by

Catherine Zuber

Costume design by

Catherine Zuber

Catherine Zuber has created the costumes for Richard II, The Doctor's Dilemma, and over forty other A.R.T. productions including Three Farces and a Funeral, Antigone, Loot, The Idiots Karamazov, Ivanov, Phaedra, The Merchant of Venice, Valparaiso, The Imaginary Invalid, The Taming of the Shrew, Peter Pan and Wendy, The Bacchae, Man and Superman, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Woyzeck, The Wild Duck, The Naked Eye, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Tartuffe, Ubu Rock, Waiting for Godot, The Oresteia, Shlemiel the First, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, A Touch of the Poet, What the Butler Saw, The Cherry Orchard, and Orphée. Ms. Zuber's credits include work at Lincoln Center, The Joseph Papp Public Theater, Goodman Theatre, The Guthrie Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage Company, La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Houston Grand Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera, among others. Her Broadway credits include The Triumph of Love (Connecticut Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk nomination), Ivanov (Drama Desk nomination), The Sound of Music, Twelfth Night, The Red Shoes, London Assurance, The Rose Tattoo, and Philadelphia Here I Come. Ms. Zuber was the recipient of the 1997 Obie Award for sustained achievement in design. She is the costume designer for La Fête des Vignerons de 1999, the massive Festival of the Winegrowers in Vevey, Switzerland.

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Lighting design by

Michael Chybowski

Lighting design by

Michael Chybowski

Lighting designer, Lady with a Lapdog. The American Repertory Theater's resident lighting designer (1997–2001). AntigoneFull Circle, Loot, The Idiots Karamazov, The Master Builder, Phaedra, The Bacchae, In the Jungle of Cities, The Taming of the Shrew, The Imaginary Invalid, and The Wild Duck at the A.R.T. Other: Moby Dick and Other Stories with Laurie Anderson, The Grey Zone (Long Wharf Theatre), Andrei Belgrader's production of Waiting for Godot (Classic Stage Company), Cymbeline (New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacorte Theatre), Playboy of the Western World (Steppenwolf Theatre), and the original production of Wit. For the Mark Morris Dance Group, he has designed over thirty dances, including Four Saints in Three Acts for English National Opera and Falling Down Stairs, which toured the U.S. with cellist Yo Yo Ma. Nominated for an American Theatre Wing design award for his lighting of David Rabe's A Question of Mercy and also for The Grey Zone by Tim Blake Nelson. Received a 1999 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence, the American Theatre Wing Design Award, and the Lucille Lortel Award for 1999.

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Sound design by

Christopher Walker

Sound design by

Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker has composed music and designed sound for We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!, Phaedra, Beckett Trio: Eh Joe, Ghost Trio, and Nacht und Traüme, and An Evening of Beckett, and designed sound for The King Stag, Loot, The Idiots Karamazov, Ivanov, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Charlie in the House of Rue, The Merchant of Venice, Valparaiso, The Taming of the Shrew, The Bacchae, The Wild Duck, Woyzeck, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Wild Duck, Alice in Bed, Slaughter City, Buried Child, Ubu Rock, The Threepenny Opera, The Accident, Demons, Waiting for Godot, The Oresteia, Hot 'n' Throbbing, The America Play, A Touch of the Poet, The Cherry Orchard, What the Butler Saw, and Those the River Keeps at the A.R.T. Previously he composed music and designed sound for productions at the Intiman Theatre, the Bathhouse Theatre, and the Alice B. Theatre. He also scores for dance and has composed for the Allegro Dance Festival, the Bumbershoot Festival, and On The Boards.

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Puppet design by

Ruth Pongstaphone

Movement by

Doug Elkins

Translator/Ursula Karen MacDonald
Herman John Douglas Thompson
Honecker Alvin Epstein
Modrow/Cook Jonathan Hova
Heiner Müller Will LeBow
Christa Laura Knight
Pamela Dalrymple Mary Schultz
Dulle Griet Mirjana Jokovic
Warren Stephen Rowe
Mr. Market/Werner Remo Airaldi, Frank Avoletta
with Boni B Alvarez, William Church, Evan Zes