SECOND FLOOR OF SARDI'S: A Drink With Douglas Carter Beane

By Robert Simonson
21 Feb 2013

Douglas Carter Beane
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The play came about when Beane got a call from Sundance Institute Playwrights Retreat at Ucross Foundation, the famous film festival's writer-based Wyoming offshoot. "I had to go in without any idea and come back with something. I said, 'I'm not sure I want to do this.' They said, 'You're about to adopt a kid. You're not going to be doing it for 18 years. Do it now and get it out of the way.'" He left with Act One and one scene of Act Two of The Nance under his arm. As part of his research, he went online every morning and, using the New York Times' archive, picked out a copy of the paper from 1937 and perused it. He also worked on getting the era's language just right.

"I had to come up with a style of speaking that sounded like 1937," he said. "So I spent a lot of time in the Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania, where people still think it's the 1930s. And I watched a lot a Turner Classic moves. 'Say, you!' 'Not so fast!' 'What are ya, nuts?!' 'Whattaya, got a hole in your head?'"

Beane considers the play a bit of a departure for him. "I'm interested in period plays now. People expect the contemporary play from me and the sassy line. But I am interested in going into different periods. I love doing research. I love it."

For Cinderella, the research stretched back to the 17th century, to the original 1697 story by Frenchman Charles Perrault. "As I read it, I thought, that's really good," recalled Beane. "It was a really smart story. It wasn't a story where Cinderella was this psychotic waif who was prince-stalking and had foot fetishes. It was social satire. I thought, that's my way in."

With that, he said yes to the offer to rewrite the book, proffered by producer Robyn Goodman, who had been approached by the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization to bring the 1957 television musical to the stage. He had initially turned the project down. "I said no because I didn't want to work with dead people," he said. "And then I didn't want to, because I knew Cinderella was just a minefield for everyone in terms of women's issues."