Return to the HomepageProductions and VideosOrder Videos
Who is Globalstage?Backstage with ElizabethContact Us!
Elizabeth and Preston Discuss the Current Show...cyrano the play

Postcards from the Road Elizabeth and Preston Discuss the Current Show
ELIZABETH: The play we have just seen, Cyrano, is based on the French classic, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Rostand was born in 1868 in the lovely seaside town of Marseilles, France. His favorite hobby as a child was designing stage sets and costumes for his little puppet theatre. It's no wonder that he grew up to be such a famous playwright. Do you know what a 'playwright' is, Preston?


PRESTON: I think it's a person who writes plays.

ELIZABETH: Exactly. When Edmond Rostand wrote Cyrano de Bergerac, many of his friends thought the play would be a flop. In fact, there was so little money available for the production that Rostand himself had to make the costumes. Just before the first performance, he went backstage to apologize to the lead actor, Constant Coquelin, for the negative criticism he was sure the play would receive. However, it was a wonderful success and immediately made him famous.

PRESTON: I thought Cyrano was really a true story.

ELIZABETH: You're almost right. Although Rostand probably made up the story of the funny romantic dual between Cyrano, Roxane, and Christian, he actually based the play on a real person, Savanien Cyrano de Bergerac. This real 'Cyrano de Bergerac' lived in Perigord, France during the 1600s, had a long nose, was an accomplished sword fighter, and became a playwright.

PRESTON: I thought the part about his long nose in the play was funny. Even though he just pretended to have a long nose, it seemed like it was the main thing that kept him from expressing his feelings for Roxane.

ELIZABETH: Yes, it was strange, or tragic, as some would say, that Cyrano was able to beautifully express his thoughts for Roxane, but he lent all of his thoughts and poetry to Christian. Because Cyrano thought of himself as ugly, not as handsome as Christian, he could never express his true love for Roxane.

PRESTON: But he wasn't ugly at all.

ELIZABETH: He wasn't ugly. That was the point. But he thought he was ugly. And I do think we become who we think we are. Somebody tells you you're ugly and it stays with you for the rest of your life. Some people don't even bother to think, 'well maybe I'm not ugly after all.' We place such great importance on appearance. In the beginning of the play, Roxane falls in love with Christian for his good looks and the letters he gave her. Remember, at one point she says that "he can't possibly be a nitwit, he looks like a Greek god."

PRESTON: Yes. But Roxane seemed to care more about Christian's letters, and it was Cyrano who wrote the letters.

ELIZABETH: Yes. It was Cyrano who wrote the letters; it was Cyrano's heart speaking. Don't you think he should have been more confident in his talent for expressing his thoughts and feelings so poetically?

PRESTON: Well, sure, but most guys don't think that way. Do you think it's a good thing to express yourself the way he did?

ELIZABETH: Yes, it's definitely a gift to express words and thoughts well. We refer to that as being "articulate." You know some people are simply born articulate. I'm sure Shakespeare was. But for most of us, it takes a lot of work. It's well worth it, however. I think one way to develop the ability to speak well is to do a lot of reading and a lot of writing and possibly even train yourself to give speeches. All of that does really help.

PRESTON: I think I'd rather work on my sword fighting. Did you like the war scene? I liked it a lot, especially the dueling.

ELIZABETH: I enjoyed it as well. Cyrano was very brave when he was going out to war, but it's ironic that he wasn't brave enough to express himself in front of Roxane. The story of Cyrano makes us think about life and having self confidence in who we are.

PRESTON: I guess I learned a lot from this play.

ELIZABETH: Well, hopefully you'll continue to discover and enjoy new things from our upcoming plays. It's fun to discuss them with you, Preston. You're a great learner and thinker!

PRESTON: Does that mean I'm "articu--cullous?" How do you pronounce that word?

ELIZABETH: "Articulate"&(AR-tick-uu-let)&You're certainly getting there!

ELIZABETH: Preston, what did you learn about Pinocchio by watching the play? pinocchio

PRESTON: Well, Pinocchio started out as an unruly, selfish, disobedient, lazy puppet. But by the end, he became courageous, obedient, compassionate and serious about his worka real boy.

ELIZABETH: I think we all can relate to that, we all make mistakes. Mistakes are an important part of learning. Mistakes are a part of growing up. But then we always have our parents to fall back on when things get rough. We all need a safe place where we can count on somebody.

PRESTON: In the play, Pinocchio's father, Gepetto, was always there for him. He even sold his coat so that Pinocchio could go to school.

ELIZABETH: Yes! He represented love and security for Pinocchio. Gepetto's love for Pinocchio was unconditional.

PRESTON: What does unconditional mean?

ELIZABETH: Unconditional love is when you love someone without limit and without needing something in return from them. Another theme in Pinocchio was represented by the cricket. Do you know what that was?

PRESTON: Well, he kept saying how important it was to tell the truth.

ELIZABETH: Yes! Telling lies makes life too complicated. Besides, if you can't be depended upon to tell the truth, people learn not to trust you. He was the voice of conscience, which is what we all have inside us that tells us the difference between right and wrong.

PRESTON: What about the fox and cat, what did they represent? They lied, cheated and stole.

ELIZABETH: Well, we all meet stumbling blocks along life's road. And Pinocchio was gullible and greedy enough to go along with them. He also went along with whatever his ne'er-do-well friends wanted to do. We are all susceptible to peer pressure. It takes courage to just be yourself and not follow the crowd.

PRESTON: Yes, I suppose we don't want to be different. But I think that courage involves danger. Like when Pinocchio went into the sea to save the blue fairy. What about the blue fairy&what did she stand for?

ELIZABETH: I think she represented what the Greeks used to call "Deus ex Machina". Literally this means a god who comes out of a box. I told you once that the Greeks were the first people we know of to write plays. Well, often they found that the plot got so complicated that they did not know how to resolve it. So they resorted to Deus ex Machina. God came out of a box and solved the lot.

PRESTON: Well, that doesn't happen in real life.

ELIZABETH: No, but on the stage we are given what writers call "poetic license". The playwright can do anything he or she likes in order to get the point across.

PRESTON: Like making a puppet become human.

ELIZABETH: But, don't most of us behave like puppets at first? We are so easily manipulated. We all have to go through the process of becoming human. I expect we could call Pinocchio a search for identity, or an exploration of what it means to be human.

PRESTON: How did the person who wrote Pinocchio think of all this?

ELIZABETH: Do you know who the author of Pinocchio is? His name is Carlo Collodi, but like many writers of his time, that was just his pen-name, or the name he used to write his stories. His real name was Carlo Lorenzini and he was born in Florence, Italy. He wrote several novels and founded two newspapers. He especially liked writing stories for children.

PRESTON: So did he write about the character of Pinocchio for his newspaper?

ELIZABETH: Very good guess. The series he wrote about Pinocchio was called "Storia di un Burattino" which is Italian for "Story of a Puppet." He thought the lesson of a puppet who has no real sense of right or wrong would be a good way to teach children about how important it is to listen to your parents, go to school, respect people, not tell lies, and try to be a good human being. In many ways, it's a story about morality and what it means to be human

PRESTON: And what does it mean to be 'human?'

ELIZABETH: I'll leave that for you to explore for yourself. For now, we'll just keep watching plays and see what else they make us think about. Sound o.k.?

PRESTON: O.K.! Now I can teach you something, Elizabeth. Do you know how to say goodbye in Italian? It's "CIAO!~" (That's pronounced "chow!")


ELIZABETH: Frankenstein is a story about a monster. Many people think that Frankenstein is the name of the monster. Actually, the monster in the story has no name. It's the person who creates the monster who is called Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein.

The English author Mary Shelley wrote the novel our play is based on in 1816, when she was only 19 years old. At the time, she was married to the great Romantic poet, Percival Bysshe Shelley. What a name, try saying that ten times in a row.

PRESTON: Percival Bysshe Shelley& Percival Bysshe Shelley&

ELIZABETH: Quite a tongue twister isn't it? Well Percival was a Romantic poet.

PRESTON: Romantic, ugh!

ELIZABETH: Oh, Romantic in this sense doesn't have anything to do with kissing and hugging. The Romantic movement started in the late 18th century. That should strike a bell for all of us. It was about the time when America was born and the Declaration of Independence was written, and democracy sprouted. Up until this time, writers concerned themselves with lofty subjects like heaven and angels and kings and heroes of old. It was believed that humans were essentially bad and had to be frightened into being good.  With the Romantic movement, people began to write about common, ordinary people and things. They wrote about shepherds and skylarks and nightingales and about their childhood, and their feelings and dreams. They also suggested that mankind was good and that people became bad because of the way they were treated by society.

Most writers were, of course, men. Women writers were most rare and unusual. Women were expected to sit around doing embroidery, and were considered incapable of doing anything intellectual. Yet it was a woman who wrote the first science fiction novel.

PRESTON: You're kidding. What was it?


PRESTON: Wow! That's really cool.

ELIZABETH: Perhaps we should take a lesson from Mary. Just because something hasn't been done before, doesn't mean we shouldn't try to attempt it ourselves. She created this story 200 years ago and it still continues to fascinate us. Two hundred years is a long time.

PRESTON: That's two centuries.

ELIZABETH: Yes indeed. Speaking of the play, as we are watching, I want you to remember that at the beginning of the last century when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, science was still somewhat primitive and mysterious and there was a great interest in how to create artificial life. There was a rumor that a man called Dr. Darwin had put a piece of vermicelli (noodle) in a jar and after a long time it had started to wiggle. Well, it sounds far out, but when I was a little girl, an old lady told me that if I put a cookie in a tin and left it long enough it would turn into a mouse.

PRESTON: Did you try it?

ELIZABETH: Heavens, no. I was horrified of mice. Besides, I ate all the cookies I came across. I wasn't a very responsible person then. Which reminds me, as you watch this play, I would like you to think about the responsibility of scientists. Is the creator responsible for the thing he creates, especially if it is destructive? This is an important moral issue.

PRESTON: Professor, moral issues usually mean a lecture, but this sounds like it might be fun.

ELIZABETH: Thinking is always fun. I would like you to think too about the romantic idea that we become evil because of the way we are treated. Again, a moral issue.

PRESTON: Well, you know when you talk about people being born good and then becoming bad, I wonder if this has something to do with how Frankenstein was treated. I wonder if the monster would have done the terrible things he did if Victor had treated him differently.

ELIZABETH: I found myself wondering about that, too. Psychologists tell us that we all need love in order to develop morally. Most of us get this from our mothers and fathers. But the monster gets no love from Victor. Had Victor loved him, perhaps things would have turned out quite differently. Because he refused to love the monster, Victor lost many of the people he did love, his brother, his friend, and actually, in the original story, he loses Elizabeth as well.

PRESTON: You know, Victor is not a bad guy. But he is not good either. He is sort of in-between. He starts out okay, by trying to get rid of death, but he can't handle what happens.

ELIZABETH: Who do you think is the hero of the play?

PRESTON: I suppose the monster is. He is the one who teaches the lesson that you can't mess around with life without messing up other people's lives. You have to be responsible.

ELIZABETH: Yes, which brings us back to responsibility. There is a wonderful line in the play when Dr. Waldham says, "Science is not just a plaything, young man. A scientist is responsible for whatever he does, and how it affects the whole human race." Do you agree?

DO YOU AGREE? Let Elizabeth and Preston know what you think by sending them a note on the Postcards from the Road page. They will write you back.

Home | Who is Globalstage | Productions and Videos | Backstage with Elizabeth
Order Videos | Contact Us