created and performed by Theater Reconstruction Ensemble
after Booth Tarkington and Orson Welles
conceived and directed by John Kurzynowski
In 1919 Booth Tarkington was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Magnificent Ambersons, "a typical story of an American family and town - the great Ambersons that locally ruled the roost and vanished virtually in a day as the town spread and darkened into a city."
In 1939 legendary auteur Orson Welles first adapted The Magnificent Ambersons for a one-hour radio drama performed by his Mercury Players on The Campbell Playhouse.
In 1941 Welles began production on a film adaptation - his follow-up to Citizen Kane - featuring Mercury Players Ray Collins, Joseph Cotten, and Agnes Moorehead, with Welles providing narration. His adaptation featured a radically altered ending, which Cotten described as "more Chekhov than Tarkington."
In 1942 Welles traveled to South America to direct a propaganda film and lost control of the editing of The Magnificent Ambersons to RKO. The final version released to audiences differed significantly from his rough cut of the film - more than an hour of footage was cut by the studio, which also shot and substituted the novel's original ending. Although Welles' extensive notes for how he wished the film to be cut have survived, the excised footage was destroyed. A print of the rough cut sent to Welles in Brazil has yet to be found and is generally considered to be lost. Welles later reflected, "They destroyed Ambersons, and the picture itself destroyed me. I didn't get a job as a director for years afterwards."
In 2017 members of Theater Reconstruction Ensemble began working on a theatrical investigation into the trajectory of The Magnificent Ambersons from page to screen, drawing inspiration from Tarkington's original novel and Welles' film adaptation. Company member Jon Riddleberger described the project as "more Welles than Chekhov." Artistic Director John Kurzynowski traveled to Manhattan to direct a propaganda play and lost control of the editing of The Magnificent Magnificent Ambersons. The final version differs significantly from his rough draft of the play. This original draft has been lost by careless interns, but what remains will surely destroy both the reputation of those magnificent Ambersons and the lives of the artists attempting to bring their story to life. Kurzynowski recently predicted, "I won't get a job as a director for years afterwards."
The Magnificent Magnificent Ambersons is being developed over the course of TRE's 2017-2018 season dedicated to nurturing our company's artistic process. There is no production timeline currently in place.