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The Castle
About the Play:
Version Notes
The Script
The Kafkaesque
The Cast
Press/Reviews
Franz Kafka's The Castle

About The Script
In thinking about various works to offer in future seasons, Manhattan Ensemble Theater had always hoped to have a dramatization of Franz Kafka's magnificent novel The Castle kick off a season. While Kafka's earlier novel, The Trial, had been dramatized frequently (most notably by Andre Gide, Jean-Louis Barrault, Orson Welles, Harold Pinter, Peter Weiss and Garland Wright), the equally well-regarded The Castle had received scant attention from the world's dramatists. Yes, there'd been a film with Maximilian Schell in the late 1960s, but our best research efforts turned up no versions for the stage.

Franz Kafka's The Castle
At the time, we thought we'd need about two years to develop our own brand new dramatization: from commissioning a writer, to workshopping various drafts, to polishing the final product. Instead, to our astonishment, we discovered last spring (2001) that Max Brod himself had written a stage version of Kafka's final masterpiece. Brod was, of course, Kafka's best friend and editor, and the man who refused Kafka's deathbed request that all his writings be burned. Brod's refusal to do his friend's bidding proved to be one of the great gains for world literature.

As editor, Brod had to go through literally roomfuls of unfinished material: ordering and renumbering chapters, creating titles, and in a few cases, pulling excerpts from Kafka's diaries. The editing was particularly arduous with The Castle, given the degree to which the novel was unfinished at the time of Kafka's death.

It was a footnote in Mark Harman's wonderful translation of The Castle (Schocken Books, 1998) that alerted us to the existence of the Brod stage play. No version in English could be found, though we learned that Ingmar Bergman had directed it in Stockholm in 1953 (in Swedish) and that the Habimah had produced it in Tel Aviv in the 1970s. Weeks of searching led to, of all places, the NYU library (just three blocks from the MET facility!), which had a version in German. Staffers Petra Lammers and Aaron Leichter rendered a version in English, which Aaron and I then adapted.

What Aaron and I found was that Brod solved many of the more difficult structural obstacles which The Castle presents to the dramatist. He not only distilled the novel into ten dramatic scenes (we wound up with twelve), but most importantly, he provided the story with an ending. Brod found this ending in, of all places, The Trial, for he used Kafka's most famous parable — the “Before the Law” scene in The Trial's penultimate chapter — as a kind of dream-confrontation between K. and the Castle authorities. Brod used a very truncated version of the parable, and then ended the play with K.'s funeral. We thought it more organic to the novel (and more dramatically interesting) to include the majority of the parable, transpose its setting to the Castle itself, and then wind up with the somewhat open-ended climax you'll witness tonight.

Anytime one adds an ending to a text that had none to begin with, you risk playing with fire — or, at least, the ire of a novel's legion of admirers. As two of those admirers, Aaron and I have taken our lead from Max Brod: by using his basic idea, but also by giving his version of The Castle the ending we wished it to have… here in 2002, in New York City, a very particular place in time, and history.

– David Fishelson, co-adaptor and Artistic Director of MET


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