Adapting The Three Musketeers

An Article by Emma Capron

In the very near future, auditions will be held for Swamp Meadow’s production of The Three Musketeers. This play, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, was adapted for the stage by the Swamp Meadow’s own Heather Christie. Christie has been involved in  the theatre since the very beginning on all sides, from acting and directing to writing and working backstage. I was able to get her thoughts on her recent involvement in writing this new adaptation of The Three Musketeers.

When I asked Christie about why she chose this novel for stage adaptation, she had a simple answer. “I wanted to do a production of The Three Musketeers,” she said, “but I couldn’t find any satisfactory adaptations.” Christie therefore decided  to tackle the project for herself. She stated that The Three Musketeers is “easily my favorite novel,” so the project was not too difficult for her.

Christie’s connection to this particular novel caused her to seriously consider how to convey the story’s themes and complex storyline, while staying within a reasonable timeframe. Christie wanted to remain true to Dumas’ intentions, telling me that many other adaptations “turn the musketeers into characters akin to the Three Stooges, which loses an immense part of the story. Other adaptations add characters or scenes or switch around the events of the book, at which I honestly shudder and cringe.” Christie wanted to avoid this kind of alteration in her writing. “Dumas wrote the book the way he wanted it, and he told the story he felt should be told,” she eloquently stated.

While discussing her thoughts regarding the content of the new adaptation, Christie told me how she actually wrote the script. “You start with the main theme of the scene, what happens, who says things that are important, etc. Then you try to visualize it onstage,” she said. Christie’s process was focused on turning her vision into a unified play that would convey Dumas’ ideas. Instead of consulting outside plays or films, she chose to rely on the magic of Dumas’ original words. Christie took two or three months to write her adaptation of the novel, telling me that she simply went through her “well-thumbed” copy of the novel, and wrote scenes based off important dialogue and storylines. “Really, I went through the book page by page and wrote the adaptation that way,” as Christie phrased it. While writing the adaptation, though, Christie did have to make some difficult decisions about how much to cut. For Christie, “The biggest blow was the stories of Aramis and Porthos.” These important characters have a great deal of interaction with the play’s antagonist, Milady de Winter. To preserve crucial plot twists between other characters and the villain, much of the two characters’ backstories had to be edited out, but overall Christie did her best to “remain true to the story.”

I also was able to find out what Christie’s involvement in the actual production would be. “I approached Swamp Meadow before even adapting the play,” she said. Originally, Christie wanted to direct the production she authored. Then she “was accepted into a graduate program  in Scotland, and [is] now in Glasgow studying for a master’s degree.” She expects that her involvement will be one of “hearing progress as rehearsals go and offering advice or suggestions where needed.” She also will be unable to see any of the performances but trusts that “SMCT can send me a copy of pictures and a video tape!” While she cannot be physically present with the people who will be bringing her play to life, Christie positively stated “I will certainly be there in spirit every step of the way!”

It is exciting whenever someone in the Swamp Meadow family steps forward to write a new adaptation. It promises to be a thrilling experience, and this writer can personally attest that Christie’s adaptations are an absolute treat in which to be involved. She is a very talented and dedicated young woman who has been a very helpful and fun member of Swamp Meadow for years. Her new adaptation promises to delight and thrill audiences, as well as the cast and crew.

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