In the past few years we’ve developed a great relationship with Nashville’s Blackbird Theater. They first invited the Rabbit Room audience to their production of G. K. Chesterton’s Magic, then Greg Greene and Wes Driver (the creative team behind Blackbird) led a theater session at Hutchmoot, and following that they’ve invited us to other productions like Amadeus, Red, Oleanna, and Man and Superman—all plays that reckon with powerful ideas and perspectives on art, faith, ethics, and philosophy.
This year, John Updike’s estate gave Wes permission to develop one of his favorite Updike novels, Roger’s Version, for the stage. That’s a great opportunity for Wes, and I’m super excited that Blackbird has invited the Rabbit Room audience into their theater once again.
The show officially opens on May 30th, but you (yes you, Dear Reader) are invited to a special invitation-only performance on Thursday, May 29th. Better yet, the show is free to Rabbit Room members (click here if you’re not yet a member), and only $5 to non-members. The only caveat is to be aware that it’s a show intended for adults; it contains some strong language and adult situations (no nudity)—solidly PG-13.
If you’re like me, you may not know much about John Updike or his novel, but I sat down with Greg and Wes a couple of weeks ago to talk about the production and it sounds like it’s right up my alley. Below is Wes’s director’s statement about the play, which will give you a good look at the ideas and themes he’s tackling. As I’ve come to expect from Blackbird’s productions, the show should provoke thought, ask big questions, and leave me pondering the performance long after the lights have dimmed.
We’ll be there, and I hope you will be too. Click here for tickets (no need to buy a ticket if you’re a Rabbit Room member—your name will be on the guest list.)
“There are plenty of stories that entertain you. Fewer that genuinely move you. And then there are those very rare ones that, for some reason or other, cut you to the core—or seemingly raid your psyche—expressing your most deeply felt passions and perspectives. The characters are so vivid, you feel like you know them. Intimately. Because, truth be told, they seem to be reflections and extensions of yourself. That’s what Roger’s Version is to me.
Roger’s Version is one of John Updike’s lesser known novels, though no less acclaimed. Renowned more in religious circles than literary, it’s a fierce battle between beliefs, a theological bloodbath. And when I first read it—more than ten years ago now—I wanted to put the thing on stage. Updike’s works are not known for making easy transitions to other media, but so much of this book already played like great drama: the frank unflinching dialogue, the fiery ideological conflicts. To me, it cried out to be staged, to be incarnated. What a privilege that the Updike estate has let me do just that.
It’s an idea-rich, character-driven drama, where Christian history meets modern technology. Where science and religion butt heads and bare teeth—in such surprising ways, too: science is represented by a zealous believer; religion, by a less-than-pious divinity professor. A complex, intellectually demanding look at religious conviction, explored through the lives of damaged, desperate people. Simply put, it’s about faith and infidelity—and, despite conflicts (of beliefs and in our social affairs), that common quest for truth and meaning.” —Wes Driver, Director, Blackbird Theater