1501 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
THE REAL THINGby Tom Stopparddirected by David Muse
Full of wit and heart, The Real Thing explores the tensions between marriage and writing, emotional fidelity and intellectual integrity, high art and pop culture.
About the Play
Henry is a celebrated playwright, his wife is an actress, and his latest play is a Coward-esque take on relationships and adultery. But as the intricate web of off-stage infidelities unfolds, relationships prove much more demanding than a droll retort. A distinguished play about the complexities of commitment, the power of great writing, and the mysterious ways of love, from one of the world’s most celebrated playwrights.
In His Own Words: Tom Stoppard on The Real Thing
I don't know if the play is autobiographical, but a lot of it is auto-something.
Because The Real Thing had an English playwright editorializing about writing and love and marriage and all that, it was perfectly obvious that when he was waving his prejudices around, he was pretty much speaking for me. But then so are the people (in the play) who are contradicting him. That’s what playmaking is; you have to take everybody’s side.
You have certain things to start with, and you start writing a play. And then you get lost in the play a bit, and the play starts doing things which means you’re finding things out, but you don’t know whether that’s the purpose of the play. It’s just the play is difficult to write, and some of the solutions to some of the problems take the play in directions which you couldn’t have written down on a note pad before you started because they just weren’t there to write down. When you’re writing, the problem is the next line.
I don’t know that I have found out anything about love. I haven’t. I mean I don’t think so. To be fair, one does feel quite emotional in getting those pages right. Because if you don’t get emotional, you don’t know if they are right; writing a play in one sense consists in hearing the noise the play makes. So you can’t be detached from it. But you know, like all these things it’s an exercise of the imagination. If the story you’ve written has got you correctly to that point, it shouldn’t be too hard to speak for the character at that moment. I wasn’t conscious of learning anything. It was kind of using what you knew or thought you knew.
It’s kind of a game. You write about a parallel world. You write truthfully about a parallel possibility. That’s the game: This is how it might be if it would be.
When he decided to produce The Real Thing, Artistic Director David Muse, who directs the show, programmed Stoppard’s play for Studio’s most intimate space, the Milton Theatre. In conversations with set designer Jim Noone, they realized that as intimate as the Milton is, Stoppard’s investigation of truth, lies, betrayal, and love could take on more resonance by reconfiguring the space altogether—by staging it in the round. This meant moving seats, re-leveling the floor, and building a turntable to accommodate scene changes, but the goal of all this work is magnify the impact of Stoppard’s master work. “The Real Thing explores art, fidelity, and how passion blurs our perception of love,” says Muse. “Staging this play in the round enhances the intimacy of the audience’s experience, enhancing your sense of eavesdropping on the private moments and messy emotion of Tom Stoppard’s play.”
It takes a lot of imagination, meticulous planning, and a high level of craftsmanship to redesign a theatre space. Staging the play in the round led set designer Jim Noone and director David Muse to include a turntable to assist the scenic changes and create the sense of a world in flux. One of the biggest challenges facing the production team was leveling the floor of the Milton, so that the turntable would spin smoothly. This was a time-consuming project, but one that will provide a sturdy foundation for future productions.
“Because the show is designed to be in the round we are also temporarily taking out the first row of seats. These seats will be relocated to seating risers that we will construct which will give the in-the-round feel. These seats will be replaced at the end of the run of The Real Thing.”
—Jesse Aasheim, Production Manager
This is Resident Stage Manager John Keith Hall’s fourth Studio show in the round. He is always amazed at the “attention to detail and staging that makes a show in–the-round dynamic and fun to watch.”
Director: David Muse
Set Design: James Noone
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Costume Design: Kaye Voyce
Sound Design: Matthew Nielson
Dialect Coach: Gary Logan
Henry: Teagle F. Bougere
Max: Dan Domingues
Debbie: Barrett Doss
Brodie: Tim Getman
Billy: Enrico Nassi
Charlotte: Caroline Bootle Pendergast
Annie: Annie Purcell
About the Playwright