by Heather A. Beasley, Cyrano dramaturg
NOTE: This is the first in a series of blog posts about the making of Cyrano, to be performed at Lone Tree Arts Center April 21-30. For tickets, visit www.lonetreeartscenter.org.
You may be familiar with the romantic hero with the big nose, Cyrano de Bergerac? BETC’s contemporary stage version of this beloved story has its roots in the 1640s, when the French siege of Arras created the backdrop for this swashbuckling romance.
In the final decade of the Thirty Years’ War, King Louis XIII himself was involved in the siege of the Spanish town of Arras. Although the French were besieging the city, the French troops were starving because the Spanish had cut their supply lines. The siege dragged on through the summer. On August 2 the supply lines were finally restored, leading to a successful French attack and the surrender of the city on August 9, 1640. French playwright and philosopher Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was a soldier in the final battles against the city, and was seriously although not mortally wounded in the fighting. He lived on to write several plays, volumes of poetry, and two science fiction novels.
More than two centuries later, tired of the gritty realism popular on French stages in the late 1890s, Edmond Rostand sought a great romantic hero for his newest play. He embroidered the tale of the siege of Arras, and of Cyrano de Bergerac, into a play that became one of France’s greatest stage successes. He researched the Gascony Guard, their role in the siege, and the Parisian theatre companies that Cyrano wrote for, and created a larger-than-life love story based on real history. From Captain le Bret to Comte de Guiche, and including the lovely Roxane, the characters in the play are based on living people, although the love story itself is a fiction.
Contemporary playwrights Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner collaborated on this adaptation of Cyrano. They turned a thirty-character play into a version with just nine actors, but kept the story in the historical time period in which it was set. In a new century, in this new translation, we bring Cyrano to audiences still hungry for a great love story. This tale may inspire a new generation to believe that a courageous, idealistic poet can win the heart and soul of a beautiful, intellectual woman.