Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Conversation with Amlin Gray, Playwright and Dramaturg

“A dramaturg oversees the literary integrity of the play,” Amlin Gray told me. “Dramaturgs do historical research to place the lines of the play in context. They do more than that. They make adaptations to the play. Often they are translators.

"As a dramaturg, I do a lot of translation and adaptation as well as historical and literary research.”
I’d never heard of a dramaturg. Amlin Gray opened a window to behind the scenes at the theater. I wondered if the research was mostly to help costume designers.
“No,” he said. “ Or partly. Costume and scene designers are usually very good researchers on their own. Primarily though, a dramaturg assists the actors and the director with background material, context, and literary flow”.

As a dramaturg, it helps to have experience as a playwright. Amlin Gray is a playwright. He downplayed it in our conversation, not even mentioning that he’d won the prestigious Obie Award for exceptional achievement. He won that award for his play, How I Got That Story, about a war correspondent in Vietnam.
Gray did talk some about his plays when we chatted about Joyce Carol Oates.

“She’s amazing,” said Gray. “She still teaches and she writes about a book a week!
"I worked on a play with her once,” said Gray. “Not exactly with her. Nagle Jackson was the artistic director at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton. He adapted the Tragical History of Dr. Faustus for production as Faustus in Hell. Of course, that’s a tale that has been told and retold. Christopher Marlowe in the 16th century. Goethe in the 18th century. As opera, as symphony, as novel, poetry, plays.
“For Faust in Hell, Nagle Jackson commissioned 7 playwrights, each to write a short piece for one of the 7 sins. I wrote for Greed. Oates wrote for Lust.”
The other sins? The other playwrights?
“Edward Albee was Envy. His piece was great. Jean-Claude Vanitallie wrote Pride. Rommulus Linney – Rage. Christopher Durang – Sloth. John Guare – Gluttony. It was a great line-up of playwrights.”
Gray told me which piece he liked best of the seven. “It was brilliant, really brilliant,” he said, but I’ve irresponsibly forgotten which sin, which playwright. I do remember his admiration for everyone though, and his pleasure at meeting with them. “We were all brought together at the last to fine-tune before the production.”

From what languages does Gray translate?
“Spanish, German, French.”
Did he say Greek also, or did I just read that somewhere? I asked him later. “I don’t think I said Greek because I don’t have the same command of Greek I have of the other languages. One time though, I was asked to translate and adapt Sophocles. I used a dictionary and a grammar, but I was surprised at how much Greek I remembered from college.”

Amlin Gray talked enthusiastically about a few of his projects - being playwright in residence at Milwaukie Repertory Theater and his adaptation there of Don Quixote for young people, his interest in covert plots within the ostensible plot, teaching at Sarah Lawrence, his specialty in Shakespeare. He told how Shakespeare’s fairies, “in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, for instance, are a little more sinister, have a little more edge to them then generally recognized today.”
Although Amlin Gray specializes in Shakespeare, his interests are broad ranging.
“I adore Japanese theater. Kabuki is just so extravagant and then on the other hand, Noh plays are so austere.”

Gray enjoys much. He reads widely and deeply. His enthusiasms are contagious. Now I want to see all his plays. We talked in riverrun, so of course we talked about books too.
“I buy too many books,” said Gray.

How well I know (and admire) this characteristic! riverrun salutes all of us who buy too many books, and offers a special salute to Amlin Gray.

synopses, production history, and purchase information for these Amlin Gray plays:
Founding Fathers, How I Got That Story, Kingdom Come, Monkey's Teeth, Pirates, Villanous Company, Bindle Stiff, The Dream Chain, The Fantod, Outlanders, Wormwood

Sarah Lawrence faculty bio (alphabetical, skip down to Gray)

commentary on the 2004 revival of How I Got That Story

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