With many live theater productions big and small being canceled due to social distancing, avid theater lovers may be itching to experience the magic of live performance again. Even though reading is not the same experience as watching a play, certain novels can bring back the feeling or essence of a production. Whether you’re missing the fast-paced rehearsals or the drama of watching a play, here are a few suggestions of readings to scratch that theater itch.
"Fleabag: The Scriptures" by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
You may have seen the television adaption of Phoebe Waller Bridge’s “Fleabag,” but you may not have known it first premiered as a one-woman play. The play and the series follow the tempestuous protagonist Fleabag as she attempts to continue with her life and loves after personal tragedy.
“Fleabag: The Scriptures” combines the scripts of both seasons of the show along with added stage directions. Since the book is formatted in script-form, it’s an ideal companion to the television adaption if you don’t want to miss any of Fleabag’s memorable but fast-paced monologues and dialogue.
"Hag-Seed" by Margaret Atwood
“Hag-Seed” is one novel published in a series of famous Shakespeare works reimagined by prominent authors. In “Hag-Seed,” Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” reworks Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in a modern setting. “Hag-Seed” centers on a fired art director who seeks to enact vengeance on a rival by plotting a plan for his downfall during a production of “The Tempest.”
The plot of the novel is a retelling of “The Tempest” through the director’s production of the show, and makes the reader feel like you’re seeing a play within a play. “Hag-Seed” is filled with drama and theater in various facets of the words, and is another gripping novel by Atwood to enjoy if you’re missing seeing Shakespeare in the park.
"Trust Exercise" by Susan Choi
“Trust Exercise” centers on two teenagers attending an extremely competitive performing arts high school in the 1980s. As the two begin to fall in love, they also must face their invasive teachers’ practices of manipulating love and emotions for art.
A mix of fact and fiction, the structure of the book can lead readers to wonder what is true and what isn’t by the final pages. Dealing with the pressures of performing arts schools, student productions and young-love, “Trust Exercise” gives a more inside, behind-the-scenes look at young artists trying to navigate life, love and art.
"Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott
You don’t need a reason to read “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, but if you feel you do, missing stage productions is good enough. “Little Women,” originally a novel, has been adapted to about every art form possible now, from a musical to a play to several film adaptations. If you’re a fan of Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaption, it’s likely the novel will pull on your heartstrings in the same way.
Alcott’s novel focuses on the relationship of the March sisters throughout their childhood into adulthood, following their relationships, passions and life choices. Along with being adapted into a musical, much of the novel has elements of plays. This is shown with the sisters constantly putting on their own various home productions as Jo, the writer of the family, attempts to become a writer and playwright.
“Little Women” captures a coming-of-age story of a group of creative, driven women attempting to find their own place in the world while hanging on to the glow of their childhood.