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‘The Harper’s Play’ at Jack

Harper’s bizarre! Slope artists turn entire magazine into a play

for The Brooklyn Paper
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This play focuses on the real issues.

A Park Slope arts collective is taking the February 2014 issue of Harper’s Magazine off the shelf and putting it on the stage — articles, ads, and all — at Jack arts center in Clinton Hill from Feb. 5–14.

The writer of “The Harper’s Play” said he penned the production as an examination of how he obsessively reads the magazine, and selected last year’s February edition to highlight because it was filled with great snippets of writing that would translate from page to stage.

“I read the magazine initially and thought it had some interesting theatrical ideas going on, but then had to read it dozens of more times to make sure I got a little bit of everything into the script,” said writer Paul Ketchum, one half of the Chooptown collective, along with Marty Brown, the play’s director.

Ketchum said he structured the adaptation like a variety show, but still tried to find common threads among the magazine’s articles — no small feat given the topics are as disparate as the incarceration of Pussy Riot in a Siberian prison, a romance novel convention in Las Vegas, and the last guillotine execution in France. But the shared themes make for some of the best on-stage moments, he said.

“Getting to weave those themes together was pretty great, especially when it led to humor, which it often did,” said the writer.

But “The Harper’s Play” isn’t a total laugh-fest, added Brown.

“There are parts I find incredibly unnerving, like a series of posts from a message board where parents are trying to place their adoptive children into new homes via the internet,” he said. “But then a lot of Harper’s can read as deeply satirical, so we’re also trying to figure out where the humor lives.”

Even the fundamentals of the magazine are coming to life in this play — so expect scenes that include the advertisements, the masthead, and the Harper’s Index translated to the stage, with a lot of sudden shifts throughout the performance, Brown said.

“One moment you’re in a relationship councilor’s office and then all of a sudden you’re in an advertisement for a senior living facility or whatever,” he said.

“The Harper’s Play” at Jack (505 Waverly Ave. between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Clinton Hill, www.jackny.org). Feb. 5–14 at 8 pm and Feb. 13 at 10:30 pm. $15.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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