The Three Musketeers (2008)

The Three Musketeers (2008)

Jun 1, 2008

The Three Musketeers (2008)

This stage adaptation of the swashbuckling novel is rousing and fun, with elegant costumes and revolving sets. D'Artagnan arrives in Paris and, seeking to join the king's musketeers, goes to see their captain, Tréville. In his haste he offends three of the best musketeers—Porthos, Athos, and Aramis—and challenges each to a duel that afternoon.

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Director's Notes

As I kid I used to roam the neighborhood with two of my best friends, Dorinda and Monica. We were the typical pre-adolescents engaging in benign pranks on the neighbors: draping Mr. Wall's house in toilet paper festoonery; helping ourselves to luscious, mouth-watering cherries from the low-hanging limbs of Mrs. Goni's fruit trees; moving the grinning garden gnome in Mr. Doyle's front yard to his back yard (and then the next night moving it back to the front again). To our credit we also used our powers for good: painting the faded, peeling pickets of Mrs. Deiter's fence; tending the neighborhood cats and dogs when their owners were out of town; toting Mrs. Lombardi's groceries from her driveway to her kitchen. We were known, not unsurprisingly, as The Three Musketeers and at the tender age of ten I had no idea of the implications of the moniker beyond its reference to a delicious nougaty candybar. I sensed that it was a great title - a title of importance and status - a title that the three of us enjoyed and wore with pride. Flash forward to my junior year in high school when, still accompanied by the aforementioned friends, my beloved English teacher handed out worn copies of Dumas' The Three Musketeers to his adoring pupils. A quick glance between D, M, and me said, "This is gonna be good"! And good it was. Nothing will ever quite replace my first read of the classic: romantic, adventurous, thrilling, swashbuckling, this novel had it all. Men, REAL men, falling in love and defending the honor not just of the women they loved but of the king they served. And always, behind their actions, was the brotherly love they had for one another. As I prepare to direct a stage adaptation of what may be my favorite book, I've been musing a lot on the notion of brotherly love and its role in my life. Certainly D, M, and I came by our title honestly. We were inseparable: a fearsome threesome bonded by a common goal of sisterhood - always there for one another, watching each others' backs and defending each other to the limits that our ten[-]year[-]old selves could. And as we aged and engaged in the perils of adolescence, we kept it up through four seasons of high school field hockey, a year of chemistry lab, numerous triple dates, and even a bear attack! But that's another story... My friends and I went our separate ways after high school graduation, and rarely do we get the opportunity to see each other, but twenty years later I still feel the benefits of my association with them. I learned what it is to listen, to support, and to be supported. I learned that no part is more important than the whole. I learned to navigate the politics of "two against one" and the meaning of democracy. I learned the meaning of the phrase, "All for One, and One for All," and I stand ready, right now, to defend them from whatever foe may be right around the corner. May this production remind you of the power and joy of brotherly love. I think I'll go call them right now... - Carolyn Howarth

Production Notes

When Philip asked me to direct The Three Musketeers, I was thrilled because it is based on one of my favorite novels. The adaptation we are using retains the scope and epic majesty of Alexandre Dumas' novel. There are over thirty characters and many opportunities for humor and spectacle. I'm a sucker for swashbuckler romances to begin with, but Musketeers is so much more than that. D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are such very finely drawn characters. Each of them comes from such a different point of view and yet they are all fighting for the same goal. Their reasons for doing so are so disparate, their tactics are completely varied, and yet they truly do fight "as one" on the side of good. In this production, we will keep the design elements based in 17th century France. The story is about historical figures and real political dealings that are specific to that time period. However, this is not a period piece. The story and characters still resonate today, so I reserve the right to use anachronistic design elements that connect our contemporary audience with the story. The universality of this story is the romance, and it is heartbreaking that nobody really ends up with their own true love, either out of political dealings or out of death, but they each hope and fight for the notion of love and happiness. "All for one and one for all."


ACT ONE Young D'Artagnan, fresh from the countryside in the south of France, comes to Paris with one purpose: to become a member of the Musketeers, the King of France's select guard. He meets the eponymous three Musketeers-Athos, Porthos, and Aramis-and manages to offend each. The three Musketeers realize they are set to duel the same young man. D'Artagnan begins to fight Athos, but proves his worth when the Cardinal's guard arrives and tries to arrest the Musketeers for dueling. D'Artagnan fights on the Musketeers' side and from then on is the "Fourth Musketeer." D'Artagnan finds himself embroiled in an international political incident when he falls in love with Constance. Not only is Constance already married-to d'Artagnan's landlord no less-but she is also the Queen's dress maker and knows her secrets. Cardinal Richelieu believes Constance can provide information about the Queen's relationship with the Duke of Buckingham, who has been banished from France and labeled an English spy. D'Artagnan stops the Cardinal's guards from abducting and interrogating his new love. Without the information from Constance, Richelieu puts into action another plan to discredit the queen. When the Cardinal finds out the Queen has given Buckingham twelve diamonds that were originally a present from the King, the Cardinal calls on the alluring Countess de Winter (Milady) to prove that the Queen is in league with Buckingham. Richelieu asks the King to hold a ball and requests the Queen wear the twelve diamonds. He then sends Milady to seduce Buckingham and to steal two of the diamonds. When Constance tells d'Artagnan that the Queen-and the King's power-is in jeopardy, he agrees to go to England and retrieve the twelve diamonds from Buckingham before Milady can steal two. D'Artagnan is joined on his quest by Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, but only the fourth Musketeer makes it to England, unaware if his three friends are dead or captured. When he arrives, Milady has already stolen two of the diamonds. D'Artagnan rushes back to France with the ten remaining diamonds and two look-alikes made by Buckingham's jeweler. Back in France, Richelieu gives the King the two diamonds in an attempt to undermine the King's trust of his new Queen. However, d'Artagnan arrives in time to save the Queen's honor, and find his three friends alive and safe. After this latest disgrace, Richelieu decides d'Artagnan has become too popular to kill but too much of a thorn in his side to be left alone. He directs his supreme agent, Rochefort, to kidnap Constance. ACT TWO Rochefort tells Milady to keep an eye on d'Artagnan by seducing him. Meanwhile, a looming Protestant rebellion at La Rochelle means a battle is imminent. When Buckingham enters the fray by supporting the rebellious Huguenots, Richelieu directs the operations at the front for France. The Musketeers fight side by side with the Cardinal's guards, though not without conflict. The Queen uses her resources to find Constance and hide her away. The Four Musketeers discover Richelieu's plot to have Milady murder Buckingham. Before she is captured, Milady kills Buckingham and Constance. We discover that the Countess de Winter has a sordid past, including being falsely married to Athos. The Four Musketeers oversee her execution. In the final moments of the play, d'Artagnan meets Richelieu face to face. He refuses to bow to the Cardinal's pressure, solidifying his position as a leader of the Musketeers. Along with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, d'Artagnan protects the interests of the crown in the continuing tension between the two ruling factions of France. "All for one, and one for all!"


Thomas Alexandre Dumas: Father and Hero Why did Alexandre Dumas, who wrote Romantic plays and novels in the 19th century, choose to set his novel, The Three Musketeers, amid the political intrigues of 17th century France with its idealistic heroes and absolutist rulers? According to biographer A.C. Bell, early in his career, Dumas "declared history to be nothing more than a nail on which he hung his dramatic canvas," but his dramatic canvas had a purpose: to question absolutism and to establish his identity as his father's son. A brief glance at Dumas' politics and relationship with his father will clarify the appeal of the period. Dumas' father, Thomas Alexandre Dumas, was a war hero, a general in the army of Napoleon. The two men were friends and had a compact to be godfathers to each other's first born sons. However, their relationship went sour when Thomas disagreed with the tactics Napoleon used to invade Egypt in 1798. Dumas tells how his father confronted Napoleon and offered his resignation when the future Emperor's authoritarianism became too much to bear. It is interesting that he chooses this anecdote to illustrate his father's character: it clearly portrays Thomas as an idealistic hero. Indeed, many scholars and Dumas himself have drawn parallels between Thomas and Porthos, the strongest and most honest of the musketeers. Dumas says his father's "strength became proverbial in the army." In The Three Musketeers, Dumas says this of Porthos: "His strength was proverbial among the musketeers." Thomas Alexandre Dumas clearly influenced his son's concept of the hero: he was a model of physical and moral strength. These beliefs made Alexandre Dumas an integral part of the Romantic movement, where individual rights were championed and autocrats like Richelieu were challenged. Historically, Cardinal Richelieu defined centralized autocratic government in Europe, and that is one reason he was a popular villain in Romantic novels and plays. In 1635, Richelieu founded the French Academy which codified the French language and French theatrical practice. Dumas and his fellow Romantics struggled against the Academy and the Classicists, who clung to the art forms still in place from Richelieu's day. They followed the dictum of Dumas' colleague Victor Hugo: "Let us take the hammer to their theories and systems." Dumas' admiration for his father not only influenced his writing but also his actions as a citizen of France. After his early plays and novels, including The Three Musketeers, Dumas continued to fight absolutism through his writing and through political activism. He campaigned openly against Napoleon III in 1850, when the ruler was threatening dictatorship. In a letter to Hugo, he clearly connected this political activity with his literary works: "This isn't only what I say, but what I have been writing for thirty years." Although The Three Musketeers is not explicitly political, the author's liberal views infuse the story. Clearly, there is something wrong with absolutism, as embodied by the villainous Richelieu, and everything right about heroism, as embodied by Thomas Alexandre and his literary descendants, the musketeers. - Jason Bisping, dramaturg


Bob Buckley

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