Nov 16, 2016: Colloquium

Neil Wechsler & Nathan Heidelberger

UB English Department colloquium presentation with Neil Wechsler and Nathan Heidelberger, including a scene reading with new, original music.

Playwright Neil Wechsler and composer Nathan Heidelberger discussed their ongoing collaboration, The Faust Project, an adaptation of both parts of Goethe's Faust. The talk focused on the adaptation process, particularly the unique challenges that come with trying to condense Goethe's sweeping original—about seventeen hours' worth of theater—down to an eighty-minute presentation for just four actors with musical accompaniment.

Students Shaun Nowicki and Niko Feliciano read a scene from near the end of the play with Nowicki reading the part of Faust and Feliciano reading the part of Care.

Participants were the first to hear new music composed by Heidelberger--even Wechsler had not heard it yet--and students were invited to read the scene for which the new piece was composed. This served to highlight Wechsler and Heidelberger's approach and illustrate the central importance of the relationship between Faust and Mephistopheles to the progression of the play. 

The deep and lasting impact of the Faust story on both literature and music provided both playwright and composer with an amazing, and often overwhelming, repository of inspiration and possibilities for their adaptation. They talked about how they are approaching their task. Discussion ranged from the difficulties involved in selecting an appropriate translation of Goethe, to the challenges of working with live music and the particular technical limitations of the minimal staging at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. It was an enlightening look into the process of creative collaboration.

The final performances of The Faust Project will take place on February 3 and 4, 2017, at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, with support from the UB Creative Arts Initiative.