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Old Wicked Songs

Old Wicked Songs
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Jon Marans
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 72
Pub. Date: 1996
ISBN-10: 0822215446
ISBN-13: 9780822215448
Cast Size: 2 men

About the Play:

Finalist for Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1996.

Old Wicked Songs is a full-length drama by Jon Marans. An emotionally charged and extremely satisfying drama about a young American piano virtuoso suffering from creative burnout and the equally emotionally fragile voice teacher assigned to help him. Music, humor, and history weave intricately though this Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama, revealing truths that lead the characters and their audience on a tightly winding path until the very end.

Old Wicked Songs is the story of Stephen Hoffman, an American piano prodigy who ventures to Vienna in the spring of 1986 to study, hoping to shatter the artistic block that has plagued his career and reconnect with his music. He is assigned to an elderly vocal teacher, Professor Josef Mashkan, who gives Stephen the "Dichterliebe" song cycle by Robert Schumann. Although Stephen resents having to study simple vocal accompaniment, he slowly realizes that he is in the hands of a master-teacher. It's a grudging realization at best for Stephen, as he and Mashkan approach each other from such opposite ends of experience. It seems impossible at first that they will ever get along, much less work together. Their dichotomies abound: One is European, one American; one old-fashioned, the other modern; one passionate, the other technically precise; and finally, one a seeming anti-Semite, and the other a Jew – a theme partly expressed by the play's allusions to Kurt Waldheim's campaign for Austria's presidency. When Stephen visits Dachau, at the insistence of his Jewish parents, the whitewash of official German history fills him with rage, and he channels this anger into his art – and against Mashkan as well. Stephen soon discovers that Mashkan's anti-Semitic remarks mask a darker history; he is a Holocaust survivor who would rather die than confront his demons. Stephen urges Mashkan to tell his story – for his sake as well as for Stephen's – but eventually, only music – their one common bond – helps release the burning emotions of the teacher and helps melt the frigidity of the student.

Old Wicked Songs was first presented by Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, then in New York City at Playhouse 91, subsequently moving to the Promenade Theater. It was also produced in England, starting at the Bristol Old Vic, then moving to London's West End at the Gielgud Theater starring Bob Hoskins. The play has been produced throughout the United States and translated and produced in a dozen countries around the world.

Cast: 2 men

What people say:

"Mr. Marans' play…is lighted with warmth and humor, and his two protagonists are splendid companions for the evening's journey into the soul." — New York Times

"…one of the best plays of the year, a fascinating exploration of art, guilt, compassion and identity…." — New York Post

"A vivid, beautiful play." — New York Daily News

About the Playwright:

Jon Marans is an American playwright and screenwriter. He is a graduate of Duke University in mathematics and a minor in music.