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PROPOSAL - The Great Gatsby

Updated: Jun 6

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby 

Adapted by Simon Levy

Directed by Laura Blackwell

Vision Statement

I have loved The Great Gatsby since reading it in 9th grade. It is a timeless story of misguided love, privilege, and the harsh reality of “The American Dream”. Even though it is set in 1922, the themes are still just as meaningful and prevalent in today’s society. We get to witness the lives of these very real characters through the lens of Daisy’s cousin, Nick, who describes himself as a man “within and without”. Nick, aware of his advantages, aims to make his own way in the world and meets Jay Gatsby, who has worked to improve his situation for the woman he loves only to be literally shot down due to her wilfull ignorance and privileges. We still see this happening every day from politicians, celebrities, and those one-percenters who own the world. The cover-ups and lies often fall on those who are merely chasing that elusive slice of the pie. What I find fascinating about this story and this very closely adapted script, is the viewpoint we as the audience get to experience. We are guided through this world by a narrator who, because of his own experiences and desires, sees people for how they really are and the heart within them. 

I have held onto this script for over five years because I wanted to submit it at the right time. I originally was aiming for 2022, 100 years since the play is set, but due to the pandemic, I held off so I could make sure that it was safe enough to put it on how I have envisioned it. 2025 is the 100 year anniversary since The Great Gatsby was published, so it only made sense for me to submit it now. Though the book was not acknowledged as much of an achievement upon its first publication, its recognition and popularity grew, making it a staple on many required reading lists. It has become known as one of the Great American Novels, but as the nation becomes more divided, these classics are scrutinized by those who wish to censor educational materials. The Great Gatsby has been added to several “Banned Books” lists over the past 20 years or so and I want to fight back by sharing this beautiful story in any way that I can. I am hoping for the early fall time slot, because the play takes place in summer and early fall, but also because according to the American Library Association, the nationwide event, “Banned Books Week”, is held at the end of September. This event brings awareness to the rising threat and harm of book censorship. It is my wish to partner up with the Corvallis public library, OSU library, and local bookstores to promote this production and consequently the importance of supporting the freedom of open access to information. We must speak up for that freedom not only in books, but also in theater. 

Along with my dream of fighting censorship, I have a very clear vision for this production. Obviously, when you think of The Great Gatsby, you picture the glamor of the 1920s flapper lifestyle. I hope to recreate that, but with touches of industrial grit. I want to simulate an atmosphere for the audience as if they are attending a party at Gatsby’s mansion on a warm summer evening. I hope to have a live jazz trio or quartet playing in the lobby before the show, as well as flappers interacting and dancing with the patrons. I will need a choreographer to work with the flappers so they can know and teach those classic 1920s dance steps. During the show, those flappers, when appropriate, will also help with scene changes so we stay in the world instead of cutting to blackouts. I don’t picture a fully interactive or immersive experience as I have found that immersive theater tends to alienate some audiences and make them anxious. I simply want to create the excitement of 1920s lavishness and frivolity, and then let their imaginations and our talented team whisk them away with the story. 

For my set, I picture scaffolding and Einstein light bulbs, juxtaposed with thin, white, billowing curtains, art deco furniture pieces, and chandeliers. The most iconic Gatsby image is the billboard of the ever present eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. I want that billboard hanging against The Majestic’s brick back wall constantly throughout the play- hopefully hand painted by either myself and/or a skilled volunteer. One of my biggest challenges will be Gatsby’s yellow Rolls Royce that plays a crucial part in Myrtle’s death scene. I have the idea of recreating the front part of the car, with working headlights, and playing that moment as a silhouette against the headlights shining out towards the audience. I am confident that my team is going to be able to make this goal possible and it is much more attainable/affordable than trying to get a whole 1922 Rolls Royce on the stage! 

Another challenge I have found is the use of flashbacks telling Gatsby and Daisy’s history. Instead of having cast members come out on the stage and act out the story, I want to pre record them and project the footage onto the set and walls like an old, flickery, silent film. This will be accompanied by “Gatsby’s Love Theme”, an original composition we will have written for this production. It is my hope to have that same jazz trio or quartet from the lobby on stage playing that theme and underscoring as needed throughout the play.

As far as casting, I am open to actors of any race and gender identity. Due to what Tom and Daisy represent within the themes of the story, and Tom’s scripted lines against non-white groups, they are the only two characters who I will specifically look at white passing actors for. All other cast members are flexible. I’m hoping for a diverse cast and encourage anyone to audition. The 1920s were a time when society pushed the boundaries of gender roles and questioned racial discrimination laws and I want to celebrate that! There are roles for people ages 14+ as long as there is parental permission due to some of the show’s content. I will not cast anyone under the age of 18 for the leads due to the scripted romantic intimacy, as well as George who has to wield a gun at the end of the show. 

For costumes, I don’t believe in the necessity to have a full costume change each scene. There is of course, a great need for flapper style dresses. Those, I think will be easy enough to procure from The Majestic and perhaps other surrounding theaters in the area. Gatsby will need his classic pink suit, another strange but manageable need. I see base costumes with adjustments and added accessories as needed to keep the costume budget down. I am hopeful that some of my actors are willing to cut their hair into bobs or wear wigs that we already have in stock. Prop needs are fairly minimal and due to the popularity of the time period, most likely easily attained. I am flexible within my vision due to necessary budgeting, however, I am confident that my creative team and I can bring this vision to life.

I have been dreaming of doing this show for years and have been waiting to utilize The Majestic’s beautiful space. I am ready to share with the community my excitement and passion for this story, these characters, and the heartbreaking but hopeful message it leaves us all with. 

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