PCS Blog

Capturing Hearts: Love Notes from “Cyrano”

Posted by Alice Hodge | 26 March 2015

By Cyrano Director Jane Jones

I have been asked to reflect upon Cyrano and why this character has managed, time and again, to capture the hearts of thousands of people for so many, many years. When Chris Coleman first offered me this job, I immediately remembered my own personal introduction to the story. I was a freshman acting major at Virginia Commonwealth University and a note was left for me at my dorm early in the fall semester. It was an invitation and ticket to attend a performance of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Virginia Museum Theatre the following evening, from a very attractive graduate student (an older man!). "Meet me on the terrace afterwards and we can howl at the moon." Of course I went, and sat enthralled as the magic of this story unfolded before my eyes. I had never experienced anything like it. The romance was almost unbearable for me ... and the attractive graduate student was playing Christian! That night after the show, overwhelmed and trembling by the mystique and glory of the performance, I met him on the terrace of the museum and we literally waltzed by the light of a full moon. I remember feeling alive and grown up in a way I had never imagined. I fell in love that night. With the legend of Cyrano, with the seduction of a life in the theater, with the poetry and language of the classics, and certainly with that man.

As I prepared to direct this production, I heard from many of my friends: "Oh, that's so and so's favorite play." It happened so many times, I took notice. Cyrano is one of those male characters that kidnaps many a wayward heart; especially for male character actors. It is a "bucket" role, as we like to say in the biz. With that in mind, I reached out to several theater artists who had expressed enthusiastic ardor for this unlikely hero. What follows is the writing of just such a fan. I think he says it beautifully:

I first encountered Cyrano when I was 11 years old. I used to call my best friend ‘big nose,’ inspired by Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Close to the end of high school, I realized how much this hurt his feelings. I’d heard there was a hero in a play with a big nose, so I bought him the play as a gift. I wanted him to know he was a hero to me.

What I found in Cyrano was the kind of hero I had always hoped I would be. One who is first a defender – not an attacker – and one who shared with me the debilitating fear of rejection. 

In Cyrano, I was captivated by a hero that didn’t know he was one. As a young actor, I was also utterly formed by the extraordinary scale of his poetry, imagery and passion. He himself is the first to say that acting must be played truthfully and without pretense. That cue from his very first scene sets up a man who means what he says, and means extraordinary things. I’m sure so many of us feel that we are not capable of such extraordinary feeling and expression, but Cyrano demands it of us. That value has completely informed me throughout my life in the theater; in my own work and in what I want from others.

Selflessness is uncommonly rare in most of our heroes, yet Cyrano's quest is entirely for Roxanne's fulfillment. The string that makes it ring so true, and tragic, is that his selflessness is linked to his extreme doubt in himself. The great defender of beauty despises his own image. It’s awful that self-hatred is something that contributes so much to his greatest virtue of selflessness, but that’s what makes Cyrano fit into our flawed world – and particularly into my own conflicted heart.  I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

And ultimately, I always think of my friend, whose nose was actually not that big.

- Actor Andrew McGinn, Cyrano


Jane Jones is the founder of Book-It and founding co-artistic director of Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle with Myra Platt. In her 25 years of staging literature, she has performed, adapted and directed works by such literary giants as Charles Dickens, Eudora Welty, Edith Wharton, Raymond Carver, Jim Lynch, Amy Bloom, John Irving, John Steinbeck and Jane Austen. Her directing credits include work with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Portland Center Stage (Drammy Award, Best Production and Best Director, Twelfth Night), Mark Taper Forum (Ovation Award, Best Director with Tom Hulce, The Cider House Rules), Atlantic Theatre Company, NYC (Drama Desk Nomination) and Book-It. Favorite Book-It productions include Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Uncensored, The House of Mirth, The Awakening, Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant, Truth Like the Sun, A Tale of Two Cities, Howard's End and Pride and Prejudice. In 2008, she and Co-Artistic Director Myra Platt were honored to be named by the Seattle Times among seven Unsung Heroes and Uncommon Genius for their 20-year contribution to life in the Puget Sound region. She is a recipient of the 2009 Women's University Club Brava Award, a 2010 Women of Influence Award from Puget Sound Business Journal, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation's 20th Anniversary Founders Award. Jane was a finalist for Stage Directors and Choreographers’ 2012 Zelda Fichandler Award.



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