“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” a musical adaptation of the 1935 opera, will open Aug. 17 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. If successful, it will move to Broadway in the winter. Director Diane Paulus is working with Suzan-Lori Parks, who has won both a Pulitzer and a MacArthur Genius Grant for her writing. The NYT reports:
Ms. Paulus said that her first decision was to try to recruit Ms. Parks to work with her on “excavating and shaping and modernizing the story and particularly Bess.”A representative of Ira Gershwin's estate sent Paulus a recording of Janis Joplin singing "Summertime," with a note: "Be bold." I can't wait.
“I’m sorry, but to ask an audience these days to invest three hours in a show requires having your heroine be an understandable and fully rounded character,” Ms. Paulus said of Bess, whose motives and viewpoints are muddied in the opera, where she is largely an appendage of Porgy or Crown.
That this production is unquestionably Bess’s story as much as Porgy’s may be due, Ms. Paulus and Ms. Parks said, to the number of women in charge: The musician Diedre L. Murray adapted the work with Ms. Parks, while Nancy Harrington is the production stage manager and Sheilah Walker conducts the 19-member orchestra.