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 Theater Reconstruction Ensemble began to collectively investigate and reconstruct each step of the Ambersons' journey from page to screen in order to better understand the oft tumultuous and challenging process of adaptation that occurs throughout most artistic practices. How does an artist even begin to adapt the product of one particular art form into that of another? And how does the reconstruction of such a tempestuous and well-documented process of adaptation affect our own theatrical practice as a contemporary ensemble of artists interested in deviating from traditional customs and forms?
Untitled Magnificent Ambersons Project is currently in development by the ensemble. There is no production timeline in place. Stay tuned for more updates regarding work-in-progress showings.