Failing the literature test, students Brandon, Abbey, Tyler, Hannah, Steve, Kristen, Nick and Lily decide to impress their teacher by performing "Great Expectations." Will Mrs. Eliot go for it, especially after being told by Tyler that he’d rather be at the dentist? With only eight actors, the students dash from one role to another trying to re-enact major scenes to show off their knowledge of the great work. When the plot gets too complicated for the classroom, the students stop and just explain it in their own hilarious terms. And when the action gets to be too much for the stage, they improvise with whatever they can get their hands on -- including a spork. Simple costume pieces, modern accessories, and an easy classroom set make this play perfect for any setting. About an hour.
PLAYWRIGHT BURTON BUMGARNER TALKS ABOUT
NOT SO GREAT EXPECTATIONS
1. What inspired you to write this adaptation?
I first read “Great Expectations” in my 9th grade language arts class. I trace my love of reading to that particular experience. On my own I read other Dickens novels: “Oliver Twist”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “David Copperfield” and my all time favorite “Nicholas Nickleby”. I recently re-read “Great Expectations” and thought it would make a good Monty Python-type comedy for students, and it may help them to enjoy Dickens’ version of the story.
2. What's your favorite part or line in the play? Why?
I like the anachronisms which are so out of character for Dickens, but so in character for students: chocolate cream pies, double cheeseburgers, donuts, silly string, the Panama Canal, Great Gatsby, etc.
On being asked why he didn’t read the novel the character Nick answers: “It has a lot of big words and long sentences, and I have a short attention span. At least I THINK I have a short attention span. They told me I had a short … uh … what was the question?”
3. What was the most difficult part in creating this adaptation?
“Great Expectations” is one of the best loved novels in the English language. Its structure, weaving of sub-plots and characters are magnificent. With all of the subplots and characters it was difficult to determine what to omit. I have never seen a film adaptation that does justice to the novel. There just isn’t enough time in either a film or stage adaptation to cover it all. Deciding what to include, what to omit and how to tie it together was challenging. Making it kind of silly was fun.