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World-Traveling Brit Directs Play in White River Junction

State of the Arts

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Published March 18, 2009 at 9:26 a.m.


Giles Ramsay
  • Giles Ramsay

Giles Ramsay is a prolific fellow: The London-based director and playwright regularly stages theatrical productions on three continents. But Ramsay, 43, has never staged an American play in the U.S. — until this month, when he directs The Glass Menagerie in Vermont.

The award-winning Tennessee Williams drama from 1944, which opens March 27 at Northern Stage in White River Junction, tells the story of a St. Louis family through the eyes of a struggling poet. Northern Stage Founding Artistic Director Brooke Ciardelli says Ramsay has an impressive working knowledge of American theater history and brings a fresh perspective to Williams’ quintessentially American script.

Menagerie isn’t Ramsay and Ciardelli’s first collaboration. Three years ago, the British director helped bring Northern Stage productions of the one-man play I Am My Own Wife to theater festivals in Scotland and Zimbabwe. In 2007, actors from that African nation, where Ramsay has worked for years, performed a version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses at Dartmouth College. And in February, Ciardelli taught at a new playwrights’ festival at Ramsay’s English alma mater, Durham University.

Collaborating across continents can be tricky. Earlier this month, Ramsay flew to Vermont from Zimbabwe, where he’s directing the Sophocles play Oedipus Tyrannus. On April 6, he returns to see Oedipus, which he is staging with Developing Artists, a nonprofit he founded in 2001 to support actors in developing countries.

Ciardelli reports that she and Ramsay are already developing a new production. In a year or two, Northern Stage will present scenes from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, a 14th century collection of tales written after the plague known as the Black Death. The show will feature an international cast from countries where Ramsay already works. Scripts will be workshopped via video blog.

Northern Stage and Developing Artists may have different missions, Ciardelli notes, but she and Ramsay have remarkably similar sensibilities. “It is as pure a collaboration as I’ve ever experienced,” she enthuses. “We’re both in this for the right reasons — we really want to make a difference on the planet — and we help each other expand the scope of impact that each of our organizations could have.”

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