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In the Jungle of Cities

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The masterpiece of Brecht's early period is a poetic meditation on the ideals and harsh realities of the American Dream. Set in the bars and flophouses of a warped Brechtian Chicago, In the Jungle of Cities tells the story of "an inexplicable wrestling match between two men" who live only to destroy each other. The visionary director Robert Woodruff explores the rich subtexts and jazz rhythms of this epic work of fantasy, to be performed in an outstanding new translation by Paul Schmidt.

SYNOPSIS

Set in a corrupt 1920s Chicago, Brecht's In the Jungle of Cities  features a ferocious battle between two men. One day, a Maylay named C. Shlink appears in the mundane life of bookstore clerk George Garga, and for no reason challenges him to a fight. Garga, whom Shlink attempts to destroy economically, fights back, refusing to be conquored by a foreigner. In order to put himself on equal economic terms with his enemy, Shlink gives up his fortune. Mary, Garga's sister, falls in love with the newly impoverished Shlink. Enraged by the affair, Garga plots his revenge against Shlink, and the two engage in a fight that ultimately leads to one man's death.

Credits

Creative team

by

Bertolt Brecht

Translated by

Paul Schmidt

Translated by

Paul Schmidt

The late Paul Schmidt (Uncle Vanya translator), whose translations and/or adaptations of Phaedra, The Bacchae and In the Jungle of Cities were staged at the American Repertory Theater in past seasons, was one of the most influential critics, translators, and playwrights of his time. His translations, including plays by Chekhov, Gogol, Genet, Brecht, and Marivaux, have been produced by such directors as Robert Wilson, JoAnne Akalaitis, and Peter Sellars and have won awards in France, Italy, and the United States. His plays have been performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Thalia Theatre in Hamburg, and the Institute for Contemporary Art in London. Dr. Schmidt, who held a Ph.D. in Slavic Literature from Harvard, was a Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Texas and at Wellesley College. He also taught at Harvard, Cornell, and Yale and lectured widely in the United States and abroad. His critical essays appeared in The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and Delos. A recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Dr. Schmidt was the author of Meyerhold at Work, and editor of The Complete Works of Arthur Rimbaud and The Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov. His collected translations of Chekhov's plays were published in 1997.

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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

Robert Pyzocha

Set design by

Robert Pyzocha

Set Designer Robert Pyzocha created the scenery for In the Jungle of Cities. His most recent work includes A Celebration of the American Musical for the "Live for Lincoln Center" series on PBS, Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict at Alice Tully Hall, and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Avery Fisher Hall, all at Lincoln Center. He recently assisted designer George Tsypin on The Peony Pavillion for the Vienna Festival and on two site works for The Earth Center in London. Upcoming projects include Orfeo et Euridice in Virginia, As You Like It in Las Vegas, and a site-specific installation at a private estate in Port Elizabeth, Maine.

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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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George Garga Arliss Howard
John Garga, his father Jeremy Geidt
Mae Garga, his mother Randy Danson
Mary Garga, his sister Leslie Beatty
C. Shlink, a lumber dealer Alvin Epstein
Skinny Justin Campbell
Worm    } Shlink's men Demtrius Conley-Williams
Baboon Harry S. Murphy
C. Maynes, proprietor of a bookshop Joe Owens
Jane Larry, Garga's girlfriend Emma Roberts
A Salvation Army Preacher Kevin Varner
Pat Manky, a friend of the family Leopold Lowe
An Informer Sarah Zwick-Tapley
Pug-Nosed Man Rob Grader