Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Our ensemble is made up of some enthusiastic and committed performers in their 20s. Many of them will most likely wind up in the cast of "The Last Unicorn." But there's one character that I'm sure will have to come from outside our ensemble (as well as several others; Chicago area actors keep an eye out for audition notices!): someone that HAS to be much older and more experienced than the other characters with whom he shares the stage: King Haggard.

This character is very special- he doesn't show up until (in our adaptation) act two, but once he appears he dominates. It's a tough role to cast and a tough role to play- here are some passages from the novel in which he's described:

"Where all the hills are lean as knives,
And nothing grows, not leaves nor lives;
Where hearts are sour as boiled beer-
Haggard is the ruler here."

"He is an old man, stingy as late November, who rules over a barren land by the sea. Some say that the land was green and soft once, before Haggard came, but he touched it and it withered. There is a saying among farmers, when they look on a field lost to fire or locusts or the wind: As 'blighted as Haggard's heart.' They say that there are no lights in his castle, and no fires...."

"He walks in Hagsgate at night, not often, but now and then. Many of us have seen him- tall Haggard, gray as driftwood, prowling alone under an iron moon, picking up dropped coins, broken dishes, spoons, stones, handkerchiefs, rings, stepped-on apples; anything, everything, no reason to it."

And from his own lips:
"Now I must be old- at least I have picked many more things up than I had then, and put them all down again. But I always knew that nothing was worth the investment of my heart, because nothing lasts, and I was right, and so I was always old."

Quite a lot for an actor to live up to. To be someone grim and utterly bored with life, yet somehow magnetic: bored but not boring. A tough challenge, but when we have auditions hopefully we'll find the right actor. One idea I had for Haggard is for him to wear a crown made of gray paper, maybe even newsprint- why would someone to whom wealth is meaningless, who takes no pleasure even in power, care about the trappings of royalty?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Confession

I have a confession to make. One that may shock you, considering. OK, deep breath, here goes:

"The Last Unicorn" is actually not my favorite book by Peter S. Beagle.

Now don't misunderstand me, I think "The Last Unicorn" is a masterpiece. I grew up on both it and the animated movie and it will always have a special place in my heart. But as I got older I moved on to devour most of Peter S. Beagle's other works as well, and I have to tell you, this is my favorite one:

What can I say about it? The (extremely oversimplified) premise: Three women who are infinitely more than they seem gather at an inn to help their elderly wizard friend. One is a storyteller, a warrior and a sailor. One seems to be a woman fled from a deadly monastery that will do anything to punish her for forsaking her vows. And one is as pale and strange as death itself. Throw in a man who can transform into a fox (or is a fox who can transform into a man? Or something else entirely?), otherworldly spirits, great dialogue, love that is stronger than death but not stronger than memory, and a host of other nifty things, and you'll only begin to scratch the surface of why I consider this book to be terrific. You see, there's just so much WORLD in it! You can feel the world in which the novel is set (and it is not even remotely like our world) overflowing and spilling past the pages- you can see thousands of other stories set in the world sneaking around just outside your line of sight as you read. Peter has gone on to write many more stories set in the same world as The Innkeeper's Song, and he's perfectly right to do so- the world he creates in this first novel is so vivid and alive that it must have been begging to be used again.

Why, you might ask, aren't you adapting "The Innkeeper's Song" to the stage?

Well, here's the other thing I love about it- it's told from a billion different points of view- pretty much the entire book is in first person, but the perspective shifts every chapter (or every few pages, and sometimes more than once per page)- you get an in depth prose examination of how just about every character, no matter how minor, experiences the events of the plot. It's awesome, but it's also not really suited to dramatic adaptation. I think it's just about a perfect fantasy novel, and to adapt it into another form would mar too much of what makes the novel great in the first place. While there's definitely a lot of prose I admire that isn't going to be able to fit into the stage version of "The Last Unicorn," "Unicorn" lends itself a lot more to the stage in my opinion. So if you haven't yet, I highly recommend giving "The Innkeeper's Song" a read as well- those of you who love "The Last Unicorn" won't regret it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Allow me to introduce...and a cool announcement

It's possible that some of you who are fans of Promethean (or are only familiar with the movie version of "The Last Unicorn") don't really know much about the author, Peter S. Beagle. Here's a brief bio, courtesy of his business manager, Connor Cochran:

Peter S. Beagle was born in New York City in 1939 and raised in the borough of that city known as the Bronx. He originally proclaimed he would be a writer when 10 years old: subsequent events have proven him either prescient or even more stubborn than hitherto suspected. Today, thanks to classic works such as A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE, THE LAST UNICORN, TAMSIN, and THE INNKEEPER'S SONG, he is acknowledged as America's greatest living fantasy author; and his dazzling abilities with language, characters, and magical storytelling have earned him many millions of fans around the world.

In addition to stories and novels Peter has written numerous teleplays and screenplays, including the animated versions of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE LAST UNICORN, plus the fan-favorite “Sarek” episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. His nonfiction book I SEE BY MY OUTFIT, which recounts a 1963 journey across America on motor scooter, is considered a classic of American travel writing; and he is also a gifted poet, lyricist, and singer/songwriter.

“Two Hearts,” Peter’s sequel story to THE LAST UNICORN, won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

2009 will see a veritable flood of new Peter S. Beagle publishing, including the story collection WE NEVER TALK ABOUT MY BROTHER from Tachyon; a manga-style graphic adaptation of THE LAST UNICORN from EigoManga; and numerous titles from Conlan Press, including two new novels (SUMMERLONG and I’M AFRAID YOU’VE GOT DRAGONS), a STAR TREK memoir (WRITING SAREK), an essay collection, (SMÉAGOL, DÉAGOL, AND BEAGLE: ESSAYS FROM THE HEADWATER OF MY VOICE) three story collections (THE FIRST LAST UNICORN AND OTHER BEGINNINGS; FOUR YEARS, FIVE SEASONS; and THREE FACES OF THE LADY), plus audiobook releases of many of his titles.

For more information on Peter and his works, see or

Oh, and one other, little thing I almost forgot to mention....

Peter is coming to see the show opening weekend.

More details as they get figured out!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

All Hail Groove Coverage (and other covers)

Okay, I'll indulge in an other The Last Unicorn movie-related post. Those of you who know and love the movie probably are very familiar with the title number. Did you know that there are several contemporary covers of the original song? Without further ado:

Groove Coverage (the TECHNO version!!! No, REALLY.):

Declan Galbraith: (probably most faithful to the original in terms of orchestration and sound)

Another cover by Loreena McKennit:

Good to know that the song is so popular- God knows I've been singing it to myself off and on for roughly a quarter of a century.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Two Actresses? What?

Happy President's Day! As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm planning on having two different actresses play the Unicorn and Amalthea, despite one of them being transformed into the other. "Why?" you might ask, and with justification. It seems like most other theatre pieces I can think of that involve transformation (most productions of Jekyll & Hyde, for example) one actor plays both roles. And there's certainly some resonance that could be achieved that way. But I think going with two actresses is the better choice, for both some very practical reasons, and some important thematic ones as well. Reasons include:

1) In act two, Amalthea has to transform back into the Unicorn almost instantly. I'd prefer to have the actress playing the Unicorn simply step onto the stage than bring the action (which is at a climax at that point) to a screeching halt while a quick change happens.

2) If the same actress plays both, she will have to be on stage for nearly every scene in the play. Splitting the responsibility will keep any single cast member from being overwhelmed.

3) The Unicorn is not going to be represented literally, as I explain in this post. If the same actress plays both of them there isn't enough difference between the Unicorn and Amalthea. I'd like them to have striking differences.

4) Now on to more thematically important territory. As a piece of ensemble story theater, this production of "The Last Unicorn" will have a group of characters playing many different parts. One of the reasons for this is I'm interested in exploring the resonance you get when, for example, the same actor that plays Captain Cully also plays Drinn, or the same actors that play Haggard and Lir also play the two Hunters at the beginning of the story. So, I want the same actress that plays the Princess in that brief Prince/Princess (this scene is only in the book, not the movie- movie fans, read the book! I promise you won't regret it) scene to also play Amalthea. I think it creates a pretty cool resonance- it plays with the idea that Schmendrick's magic sort of "borrows" the appearance of the Princess they see before to transform the Unicorn into a human.

5) It allows us to involve the Unicorn's original form more directly in scenes in act two, including when Amalthea has her nightmare, and when Amalthea uses her secret Unicorn powers to disrupt Mabruk's spell. The most important reason for having two actresses play the Unicorn and Amalthea, however, is it makes the following exchange possible, in the act two Kitchen scene:

(The UNICORN appears and speaks in tandem with AMALTHEA.)

UNICORN/AMALTHEA: The magician gave me only the semblance of a human being. But now I am two:

UNICORN: Myself,

AMALTHEA: And this other that you call ‘my lady.’

UNICORN/AMALTHEA: She walks in the castle, she sleeps, she dresses herself, she takes her meals,

AMALTHEA: -and she thinks her own thoughts.

UNICORN: And every day she searches the sea and the sky for something she cannot always remember.

AMALTHEA/UNICORN: What is it that she is seeking?

AMALTHEA: (as the UNICORN exits) She knew a moment ago, but she has forgotten.

Pretty neat, huh?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Inspirational(ly Creepy) Music, part 3- music video edition

Whenever I see this music video it reminds me of the character of Rukh, Mommy Fortuna's son and the showman that give the tours of the midnight carnival. I'm not saying I want Rukh to sound like Tom Waits, but I might pass this along to our eventual costume designer for inspiration. I love the hat and the little cane. And that junk band beat of the song is exactly the kind of music that would be playing if the Midnight Carnival had its own band.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Drum roll if you please....

I'm delighted to announce that we have dates and a venue for "The Last Unicorn"!!!

We will be performing at City Lit Theater, 1020 W Bryn Mawr Ave, on the north side of Chicago. Those of you who have been following Promethean's work will be familiar with it; all of our mainstage productions for seasons two and three (including the upcoming Measure for Measure) have gone up there. For those of you not familiar, it's a lovely, intimate venue (that nevertheless seats roughly 100) on the second floor of the Edgewater Presbyterian church in (of course) the Edgewater neighborhood. It's very near the Bryn Mawr Red Line el stop, and easily reached by Lake Shore Drive by car. As a company we have a very strong relationship with City Lit; like me they're also very fond of doing stage adaptations of literature and I encourage you to check their site out.

And now for the dates:

October 16, 2009 through November 14, 2009

Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.

Official Opening Night: Saturday, October 17 at 8 p.m. (10/16 is a preview)
(There is no Saturday matinee on 10/17)
Additional Press Performance: Monday, October 19 at 7 p.m.

Tickets won't be on sale until later this year (probably not until Measure for Measure closes) but now that we can say when and where, you'll be hearing a lot more about the production. Be sure to keep checking back here at The Last Uniblog for updates!

Aren't you excited? I know I am.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Brushing up my Shakespeare

Hi everyone!
Kind of busy again lately- I'm in Promethean Theatre Ensemble's Evening of Shakespeare, which performs this weekend. We're performing at Let Them Eat Chocolate on Damen near Foster, so if you have a hankering for either me hamming it up, or chocolatey goodness, you should definitely check it out! Here's a link to the info.

Preshow 80s fantasy mix?

Even though (as I've said before, and will probably say again here) the Promethean production of "The Last Unicorn" is a new adaptation of the novel, and not the animated movie, I'm hoping to connect with people for whom seeing the animated movie was a major part of growing up. Hopefully, like me, they saw the movie a bunch as a kid, loved it, and then moved on to encounter the novel as well. In an effort to avoid any kind of brand confusion, the sound design for the show is going to utterly eschew any of the (in my opinion great) songs from the animated movie. But I'm wondering how we can evoke for the audience that idea of reconnecting to a fantasy story from childhood. One idea I had is to make have preshow music that's made up of songs from other fantasy movies or TV shows I knew growing up. What do people think of this? Here's a tentative lineup I dreamed up:

"Dance Magic Dance" from Labyrinth
"The NeverEnding Story" from...well, look, if I have to tell you....
"Flight of Dragons" from "Flight of Dragons"
The theme song to the cartoon "The World of David the Gnome"
The song the princess sings in "The Magic Pony" (the English dub of the Russian film "The Humpbacked Horse")
"Underground" from Labyrinth
Tangerine Dream's "Loved by the Sun" from "Legend"
"The Greatest Adventure" from the animated version of "The Hobbit"
The other David Bowie songs from "Labyrinth", though to be frank I don't like them nearly as much.

Is this a terrible idea or a cool one? Some of these songs are STILL on my playlist and I'm 27. Some of these are clearly a product of their time (i.e. 80. BAD 80s.) but could be a treat for people who recognize them. Any preshow music (if we even HAVE preshow music) is going to have to be decided through discussion with our eventual sound designer, but this is one thought I've had.