Tony Award-Winning M. BUTTEFLY Takes Flight at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre
Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi directs a sprawling cast of actors and collaborators in Everyman Theatre's sweeping season opener, M. Butterfly, in performances September 6 - October 8, 2017. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this season, David Henry Hwang's torrid and timeless Tony Award-winning play is a masterful probe of truth, illusion, culture and gender-based on an epic true story.
When powerful French diplomat Rene Gallimard (Resident Company member Bruce Randolph Nelson) becomes enchanted with divine Peking opera star Song Liling (Everyman newcomer Vichet Chum), little can quell the thirst of their intoxicating desire-but this diva is hiding more than her true identity. Converging fact/fiction, male/female and East/West tensions on the stage, M. Butterfly is a gripping fable that proves the allure of fantasy and the power of obsession are a recipe for betrayal.
In an off-stage example of fantasy and reality's blurry divide, Everyman's production of M. Butterfly is informed in part by the unexpected, newfound friendship that formed earlier this summer, between Nelson, Lancisi, and Bernard Boursicot-the real-life man whose personal entanglements inspired the play. The result of a chance meeting with Boursicot's former driver during Lancisi's vacation abroad, Lancisi received an invitation to visit Boursicot in person at his home in France. Weeks later, there he traveled-accompanied by Nelson-joining the former diplomat for an illuminating, six-hour conversation that provided unrestricted access to Boursicot, his remarkable stories, personal photographs, and candid perspective.
"Sometimes life is stranger than fiction," explained Lancisi. "Our adventure in France informed us in many ways about how to approach M. Butterfly and the role of Rene Gallimard. It was also an unbelievably rare chance to speak to the man himself about his life, his love, and to examine closely the human spirit that embodies this play."
"As an actor, I am committed to digging for truth and authenticity in performance," said Nelson. "I believe that, through this astonishing experience and the amazing cast and artistic crew that Vinny has assembled, M. Butterfly accomplishes exactly that."
Spearheading the scenic vision of M. Butterfly is Set Designer Yu-Hsuan Chen, whose acclaimed design for Great Expectations at Everyman Theatre was among last season's highlights. Punctuated with blazing color contrasts and grand, cinematic flourishes, Chen's globe-trotting M. Butterfly sets transform from Paris prison to French embassy to Chinese opera house (and more), capturing each with sweeping flair-and employing the use of four Kurogo (Kabuki theatre stagehands, who appear on stage hooded and clad all in black) as a nod to the Japanese tradition in which the opera Madama Butterfly takes place.
Costume Designer Eric Abele (Noises Off) adds further authenticity to M. Butterfly, integrating vintage kimono fabrics, cultural symbolism, and period fashion detail into each character's dress. Fellow designers include Jay Herzog (Lighting), Fabian Obispo (Sound & Composition), Anne Nesmith (Wigs), Adam Mendelson (Projection), Steve Satta (Dialects) and Jillian Mathews (Props).
Renowned Peking Opera playwright and director Chu Shan Zhu, of the Washington Chu Shan Chinese Opera Institute, brings unprecedented expertise to the Choreography of M. Butterfly, including thrilling scenes of dance, flag-waving and Cultural Revolution reenactment, along with additional consulting for cultural accuracy.
The M. Butterfly supporting cast features Resident Company members Yaegel T. Welch (Dot, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark), as Marc/Man/Consul Sharpless, and Deborah Hazlett (Noises Off, The Roommate) as Helga. Additional cast members include Katharine Ariyan (Renee/Woman at Party/Girl in Magazine), Tuyet Thi Pham (Comrade Chin/Suzuki/Shu-Fang), Christopher Bloch (M. Toulon/Man/Judge) and Brett Messiora and Mika J. Nakano (Dancers/Servants).
M. Butterfly premiered in Washington, DC, in 1988, immediately followed by a Broadway run featuring John Lithgow and BD Wong in the lead roles. It was a finalist for the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and adapted into a 1993 film starring Jeremy Irons and directed by David Cronenberg. A new Broadway revival, directed by Julie Taymor, is scheduled to open following Everyman Theatre's run, this fall.