The Secret Rapture

By David Hare
Poster design by Bill Burgard

November 15 - 17 at 8 PM
November 18 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre

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From Our Newsletter
A New Breed of British Playwright
David Hare's career as a playwright began accidentally. In 1969 he was working as an actor for Britain's Portable Theatre when a playwright failed to deliver a script for a performance four days hence. The result, Hare said, was "a piece as silly as you'd expect of something concocted in four days by someone who'd never really thought about writing a play before. It was a primitive satire on the unlikelihood of a revolution in Britain." Hare was subsequently hailed by London's Evening Standard as England's most promising new playwright. Between 1978 and 1999 Great Britain's National Theatre produced 12 of his plays, and in 1984 they appointed him associate director. Hare's most recent work, "The Zinc Bed," opened at the Royal Court Theatre in the fall of 2000.

Like many British playwrights born in the 1940s, Hare has always been interested in drama as a vehicle for political commentary. His social consciousness, especially in regard to Britain's postcolonial status and class structure, plays a prominent role in each of his plays. Yet, Hare manages to weave his political commentary through the interpersonal relationships portrayed in his work. Joan FitzPatrick Dean explains that "invariably his plays chronicle the state of British society with an unremitting focus on the bonds between the private and the public, the personal and political."

Hare's many awards include the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize for the most promising literary work written by a Briton under the age of 30 (1974); a British Academy of Film and Television Award for the best play of the year (1978); a New York Critics Circle Award for best foreign play (1983); and the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival (1985).

"The Secret Rapture," one of Hare's most successful and controversial works, is representative of the complex, exhilarating, and sometimes mystifying opus Hare has created. The play begins with a family in crisis after the death of their patriarch, Robert. Robert's daughter Isobel is pressured by her sister to hire their alcoholic stepmother (a role written for Hare's one-time girlfriend, Blair Brown) to work in her small design firm. The firm and family disintegrate simultaneously, and the audience is forced to address questions of integrity, family, and the pursuit of wealth.

"The Secret Rapture" was the source of the war of words between "New York Times" critic Frank Rich and the playwright in 1989. Rich penned a brutal critique of Hare's self-directed production. Hare responded with his own scathing denunciation of Rich, and Rich ultimately praised the writing of the play, but still could not approve of the production itself as anything more than a "pallid imitation of life."

Our own production of Hare's incendiary satire will surely give Rich a run for his money. "The Secret Rapture" will reveal itself exactly as Hare intended it: biting, fierce, and vibrantly alive.




Press Release
EXPLORING THE FAMILY DYNAMIC: DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND DRAMA PRESENTS DAVID HARE'S "THE SECRET RAPTURE"



ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan's Department of Theatre and Drama presents David Hare's "The Secret Rapture" at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. The show will run for four performances, November 15-17, 8:00, and November 18, 2:00. Theatre Department faculty member John Neville-Andrews will direct.

David Hare is perhaps best known to American audiences for his 1998 play "The Blue Room," which earned international attention due to a bare-all performance by Nicole Kidman. His body of work, however, spans three decades and has earned him a reputation, according to The "New York Times" Review of Books, as "the finest British dramatist of his generation." His playwriting career began in 1969 while he was working as an actor for Britain's Portable Theatre. Stepping in when another playwright failed to deliver a script on time, Hare's gift for writing dialogue made others take notice. He was immediately commissioned to write his first full-length play, for which he won the Evening Standard's Drama Award for most promising new playwright. His extraordinary theatrical portfolio includes "Plenty," "Racing Demon," "Skylight," "Amy's View" and "The Judas Kiss." Between 1978 and 1999 Great Britain's National Theatre produced 12 of his plays, and in 1984 they appointed him associate director. He has also written seven feature films (including the adaptation of "Damage" directed by Louis Malle), as well as five produced teleplays, two books and various other projects.

Written in 1988, "The Secret Rapture" is one of David Hare's most successful and controversial works. The play tells the story of a family in crisis after the death of their patriarch, Robert. Robert's daughter Isobel is pressured by her sister to hire their alcoholic stepmother (a role written for Hare's one-time girlfriend, Blair Brown) to work in her small design firm. Hare builds the rest of the plot on the theme that "good people bring out the worst in us." As the firm and family disintegrate simultaneously, the audience is forced to address questions of integrity, family, and the pursuit of wealth. Like many British playwrights born in the 1940s, Hare has always been interested in drama as a vehicle for political commentary. His plays all address British postcolonial status and class structure, and Hare additionally uses this play to address the alarming effects of Thatcherism. "Good playwrights describe the collision between people and ideas," he adds.

"The Secret Rapture" is also notable for being the source of the war of words between" New York Times" critic Frank Rich and the playwright in 1989. Rich penned a brutal critique of Hare's self-directed Broadway production. Hare responded with his own scathing denunciation of Rich, and Rich ultimately praised the writing of the play, but still could not approve of the production itself as anything more than a "pallid imitation of life."

Mr. Neville-Andrews, who has acted in the play but has never directed it before, believes that it is Hare's gift for dramatic tension and balance that makes his plays so exceptional. "As you're watching the play," says Mr. Neville-Andrews, "you develop a set of assumptions from the scene that you're watching about what will happen next. But rarely are those assumptions realized. Hare throws in lots of turns. It's a complex play with a real air of mystery."

Joining John Neville-Andrews on the production team are scenic/lighting designer Gary Decker and costume designer Jessica Hahn. Both Mr. Decker and Ms. Hahn are faculty members of the UM Department of Theatre and Drama. They have worked together previously on performances including "To Kill a Mockingbird," "A Little Night Music" and "Grand Hotel."

Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $7 with ID. Tickets are available at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League on UM Central Campus. The Ticket Office is open from 10am-6pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted.

The Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, located within the Michigan League at 911 North University, is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.
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Program
Click here to view the The Secret Rapture program as a PDF file




Production Photographs

Audra Ewing as Isobel and Jason Smith as Irwin Elizabeth Hoyt as Marion and Robert Weiner as Tom


Kallie Matteson as Rhonda Julie Strassel as Katherine


Jason Smith and Audra Ewing