Advisory Board Member Scott Burson shares his first impressions of Ulysses on Bottles from the First Rehearsal / Meet & Greet.
Although I go to a lot of theater, I haven’t had many opportunities to see professionals work together to put a work on stage. It was a great privilege to sit in on the first rehearsal of Ulysses on Bottles. I had been to a previous reading of the play, so I already knew it had “good bones.” The play is written by an Israeli and probes important questions about the Israel’s “management” of Gaza. Ulysses wants to bring the grandeur of the human spirit — represented by Russian literature — to Gaza. The Israeli authorities do not want to allow this. How can anyone deny others access to the greatness of the human spirit represented by literature? On the other hand, does the quest even make sense, or is it suicidal romanticism? The play was written several years before the conflict of the summer of 2014: incredibly, the play has not been overtaken by events: if anything, the questions it raises are even more cogent. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say the play raises questions that continue to evade resolution.
For me, just recognizing the cast was exciting. A number of Boston’s most accomplished actors are in the production, and it was a pleasure to watch them begin to work with this material, molding complex and authentic characters attempting to wrestle with a Gaza that Israel can neither walk away from or resolve. It was also fascinating to hear sketches about the plans for staging, lighting, and sound design. In the finished production, these aspects are often just part of the fabric of the piece: it was great to be reminded that they don’t just happen, that they are carefully conceived and woven into the final product.
I am looking forward to the production. A great cast and a great script, thoughtfully staged: I expect to leave the theater thinking. I don’t think I will be alone.