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Page to Stage

The Craft of Adaptation

Vincent Murphy

Publication Year: 2013

At last, for those who adapt literature into scripts, a how-to book that illuminates the process of creating a stageworthy play. Page to Stage describes the essential steps for constructing adaptations for any theatrical venue, from the college classroom to a professionally produced production. Acclaimed director Vincent Murphy offers students in theater, literary studies, and creative writing a clear and easy-to-use guidebook on adaptation. Its step-by-step process will be valuable to professional theater artists as well, and for script writers in any medium. Murphy defines six essential building blocks and strategies for a successful adaptation, including theme, dialogue, character, imagery, storyline, and action. Exercises at the end of each chapter lead readers through the transformation process, from choosing their material to creating their own adaptations. The book provides case studies of successful adaptations, including The Grapes of Wrath (adaptation by Frank Galati) and the author's own adaptations of stories by Samuel Beckett and John Barth. Also included is practical information on building collaborative relationships, acquiring rights, and getting your adaptation produced.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgements

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pp. iii-vii


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. 1-14

This book is about making plays from literature. It is a primer on the art of adaptation. I focus on techniques and strategies you can use to adapt literature into stageworthy plays. To guide you, I have analyzed projects that have been successfully adapted from an array of novels, short stories, poems, autobiographies, and ...

Part One: The Six Building Blocks

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1. Find Literature That Compels You and Define Its Theme

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pp. 17-34

We carry stories with us, beginning with the tales read to us in infancy. We wrote novice reports in junior high school on Silas Marner, The Color Purple, or Catcher in the Rye. These stories were all prologue for the fiction, nonfiction, poetry, New Yorker articles, and other reading we’ve done since. And anyone ...

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2. Select Dialogue and Narrative

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pp. 35-59

Along with the stage’s ability to find unique environments and dramatic structures for telling a story, theater’s advantage over literature is its provocative ability to represent multiple points of view with living bodies and live images. Depending on the skill and intention of the writer, a play invites its audience ...

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3. Identify Principal Characters and Primary Relationships

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pp. 60-74

Characters have confided their secrets and revealed their contradictions to their original author. As adaptors, we must share the hidden diary of their motivations, making our own choices about what to reveal about the characters and how by selecting actions and dialogue that illuminate them. Theater, the ...

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4. Choose an Evocative Stageable Image

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pp. 75-89

Theater exists in the three-dimensional present. When we experience great theater, it can be a production of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town in a high school auditorium, where the searing innocence shines through; the Broadway musical Chicago with its sassy sexuality; or Franca Rame’s Tomorrow’s News in an ...

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5. Construct the Storyline

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pp. 90-104

As John Barth puts it, “The story of our life is not our life, it is our story.” Just as personality is too immense to define but character can and must be captured to be playable, so constructing a storyline involves making choices as you build your script. Even a play based on a biography cannot include everything ...

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6. Craft Playable Actions

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pp. 105-120

Theater is doing. It lives and moves in real time, and things have to happen during that time for your play to be theater. Earlier chapters have touched on the need for actions in your script, and chapter 5 in particular explored the necessity of adding action to storyline. An action is what happens, the actual ...

Part Two: Sturdy Construction: Yours, Mine, & Master Adaptors

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7. Balancing the Blocks

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pp. 123-143

There is an intensely delicate balance to the building blocks. Creating three-dimensional characters with complex relationships and vital conflicts in a stageworthy environment takes playmaking choices that resonate with each other while striking that balance. The raw power of live theater allows ...

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8. Two Case Studies: Enough and Me and My Shadow

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pp. 144-159

To give you a glimpse of the myriad ways that the details can play out in the process of adapting literature, this chapter takes you through case studies of two of my own adaptations. My initial engagement with the first, Enough, evolved from both happy accidents and my proactively finding ...

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9. Partnership and Performance

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pp. 160-176

Theater demands collaboration. It is a meeting of author’s text, designer’s vision, and director’s staging in the real space where actor and audience encounter one another. Theater is not an interior esthetic experience like reading a novel or even a play. It is a communal joining at the place where the ...

Appendix: Adaptations by Vincent Murphy

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p. 177-177


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pp. 179-180


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pp. 181-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028795
E-ISBN-10: 0472028790
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051878
Print-ISBN-10: 0472071874

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 12 B&W photos
Publication Year: 2013