January 28, 2016
Stage production of Bolaño’s 2666 to debut this February
by Chad Felix
Back in March of last year, we reported that—thanks to the generosity of Powerball winner Roy Cockrum—Roberto Bolaño’s massive and massively good final novel, 2666, would be adapted for the stage by the Goodman Theatre.
Now, less than a year later, it’s ready. Next month, on Saturday, February 6th, Bolaño’s opus will debut at the Owen Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
Robert Falls, the theater’s artistic director, spoke with Jennifer Schuessler at The New York Times about the various challenges of bringing a book like Bolaño’s to the stage. As for the project’s origins, he notes that the staging is partly an attempt to figure out why he became “weirdly obsessed” with the novel when he first read it.
Schuessler goes on to explain that Falls first encountered the book in 2006, in Barcelona:
[He] saw posters for the Spanish paperback featuring an image of pink crosses in the desert and the ominously mysterious title. (Its significance is never explained). A Spanish friend told him the story of Mr. Bolaño, who was an obscure avant-garde poet before turning to fiction late in life and shooting to international stardom with “The Savage Detectives” and then near-sanctification with “2666,” which he had rushed to finish before his death from liver failure in 2003, at 50.
When the English translation of “2666” came out in 2008, Mr. Falls “devoured it” and was soon “carrying it everywhere, highlighting and crossing out pages,” he recalled.
Over the next nine years, Falls and Seth Bockley, who was brought on as co-writer and director, and the rest of the crew at the Goodman Theatre worked to convert the challenging 900-page novel (comprised of 5 disparate “books”) into a five-hour drama played by 15 actors in a total of 80 roles. And while Falls admits that the book is “mystifying and unbelievably digressive,” he remains steadfast in his vision for the work:
The challenge we took on wasn’t to be confusing and experimental and wild, but to ask, how do we do what Bolaño did, only in the time-based, 3-D, actor-driven medium of theater?
As for the origins of Falls’s “weird obsession” with the book, he’s still unsure. Maybe we’ll find it up there on the stage.
Tickets to 2666 are available now and start at $25. The show runs through March 13th.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.