Adapting movies for the stage at Fringe Festival

Stage plays being adapted to film has been common practice since the earliest days of silent cinema. But the relationship rarely takes place in the reverse. Dutch theater director Ivo van Hove has done his part to right that balance, adapting films by John Cassavetes, Luchino Visconti, Pier Paolo Pasolini and other renowned filmmakers for the stage.

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“I’m 56 and I’ve been making theater since my 20s, so I’ve done a lot,” van Hove says. “At a certain moment in my life I wanted to challenge myself and I did that by starting to bring film scripts to the stage. I only do film scripts which deal with subjects that I don’t find in such an extreme way — so well refined or written — in a normal theater play.”

The major cinematic influence for van Hove has been legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the company for which van Hove serves as artistic director, has previously adapted both “Cries and Whispers” and “Scenes From a Marriage” from Bergman’s oeuvre.

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At this year’s Fringe Festival, van Hove’s take on two more Bergman works: “After the Rehearsal” and “Persona” will have their U.S. premieres.

“I think that Bergman is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century,” van Hove says. “Although his work can be very pessimistic, hard, bitter and cynical sometimes, it’s also very human.”

He was also, of course, a consummate theater artist; the sparse dialogue of “Persona” in particular makes it a difficult translation, but that was part of the appeal to the director. “Every production that I do is a reinvention,” van Hove continues. “It only makes sense to make theater if it talks about issues that are of importance for people today. For me, to recreate a piece of Moliere the way it was done in the 17th century makes no sense at all.”

See the films at the Roxy

While the two films, “After the Rehearsal” and “Persona,” were never intended to be paired, both deal with the struggles of theater artists, which resonated with van Hove. For those who are unfamiliar or who need a refresher on the source material, the Philadelphia Film Society will screen both this week at the Roxy Theater.

“Both texts, in different ways, talk about the same theme,” van Hove says. “What’s the importance of theater, and of art in general, for society and for an individual in society? That’s the beauty of bringing these two plays together: for an audience, there’s a lot of thinking to do and a lot of emotions to go through during the evening.”

‘After the Rehearsal / Persona’
Sept. 3-5, 8 p.m.
23rd Street Armory
22 S. 23rd St.
$35, 215-413-1318

‘After the Rehearsal,’ Aug. 24-25
‘Persona,’ Aug. 26-27
PFS Roxy Theater
2023 Sansom St.
$9-$13, 267-639-9508

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