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From Paul Russell in NYC:
Hello Ms. Knighton:

I am about to direct The Scarlet Pimpernel for the Barter Theatre. I look forward to this venture.

As I have been doing extensive research on the French Revolution, The Reign of Terror, Europe's response to the activities in France, the source material in comparison with your adaptation one of the lingering questions I have is about the year in which the musical is placed, 1794.

I am presenting Pimpernel with a nod to historical and a "nothing is as it seems" perspective. Hopefully deluding some uninformed audience members that Percy and his band of mercenaries existed. Doing so without smothering the fun and adventure that is the musical.

With this historical perspective, our production will have a minimal backstory, presented with projections during the prologue, about the events in France. Historically, all time line indicators point to 1792-ish as to a more realistic timeline for the musical of Pimpernel. By 1794 France and Britain had been at war for over a year, the Comedie Francaise had been closed for two years since 1792 and the Reign of Terror came to an end mid summer 1794, shortly after Robespierre's execution.

What timeline incidents and factors did you and the creative team encounter which prompted placing the musical in 1794?



Thursday, 15 December 2005

Dear Mr. Russell,

I have to apologize - profusely - for not having answered you in June. Both my daughters were married between May and September, and most of the rest of my life fell by the wayside as a result. I realize that this response comes too late to influence anything you might have done with your production of Pimpernel for the Barter, but perhaps you may still be interested in my thoughts regarding the time issue.

I vacillated a lot in the beginning about when to set the show. My final decision was made based on the fact that I wanted the action to fall right before Robespierre's execution. I wanted there to be a feeling of great urgency. Robespierre knows that if he fails his head will roll, and thus puts extraordinary pressure on Chauvelin. When we did the second production of Pimpernel, the new director and I came up with the idea of seeing Marguerite actually perform on the stage. I wanted very much for the audience to see her as a working actress, someone who was strong, beautiful and capable of theatrical deception. I also thought it would be exciting to see the theatre closed down right in front of the audience. Thus, we tinkered with the actual date of the closing of the Comedie Francaise. We chalked several issues such as this up to poetic license. I hope this answers your question. There are naturally more details involved, but maybe this will give you the general ideas behind my decisions. Again, please forgive me for taking so long to respond to your letter. I hope the Barter production went well.

Best to you,

Nan Knighton
 
 

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