When I was first approached to direct the American premiere of a play that, for some unknown reason, had never managed to cross the ocean from England despite its reputed long history of popularity and success in that country, I was fairly sure I would open up its “dusty” pages and find a simple, quaint museum piece. Was I ever wrong! From Cassandra’s first line at the top of Act One, the play blossomed before me, with complex, humorous and deeply moving storylines and characters. The play came to life, quite literally, in my hands. It was as if the characters were just waiting for someone to lift them from the pages to allow them to leap, in one, fully-fleshed, technicolor breath onto a stage. Any reluctance I had felt before reading the play melted, and I couldn’t wait to leap in myself. And so, in 2004, with a wonderful group of actors, I directed the first-ever production of I Capture the Castle for American audiences in Los Angeles, California. The production’s success, coupled with my love for the script, impelled me to send it to Bonnie Monte, in the hope that she would consider it for The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. I did not want the play’s life in America to end, and I was, am, convinced that it can enjoy the same popularity here as it has in Great Britain, if only people could see it! To my utter delight, that opportunity now lies before you.
Dodie Smith, also the author of One Hundred and One Dalmations, wrote I Capture the Castle in novel form first, though she originally conceived the story as a play. Even though the characters made their debut in a book, they were conceived dramatically, and so the tale’s voyage to dramatic form was a natural evolution, which Ms. Smith completed soon after the novel appeared. In doing so, she used a device seldom seen during that time in British
theatre; the use of numerous, short, interlocking scenes linked by a transitional narrative. This conceit allowed her to reign in the story’s arc from t he original novel, culling from it the best dramatic moments, while never sacrificing its full scope and steady heartbeat.
I think this is why the characters jumped so quickly and assuredly from the page into my director’s imagination. They were always meant to be on stage. And they are here now, back again, for you, sparkling with their budding passions, rekindled dreams, and longing hearts. I know they will capture your hearts.
- Cameron Watson