They’re taking a page from his book.
A new show will bring the diary of 17th century British writer Samuel Pepys to singing, dancing life on the stage of the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Nov. 14. “17c” will demonstrate that the 300-year-old daily routine of the famous diarist mirrors the behavior of modern-day people on social media, said the show’s director and choreographer.
“I love that he wrote about his everyday interactions and his emotions. He wrote it all down and it still rings true to today with how people use FaceBook and Instagram, and how we don’t feel anything happens unless it is recorded in some way,” said Annie-B Parson. “This diary was meant to be private but his feelings and motivations, and what was happening in his life is similar to stuff we deal with today.”
The 70-minute show uses a mix of dance, songs, diary readings, and scripted scenes to tell its story, accompanied by clips of pop music and film scores. The cast includes five actors, with one playing Pepys’s wife, and three portraying different aspects of Pepys’s identity, including a version of what the writer would be like in a modern setting.
Pepys was working as a naval administrator during the decade he kept the diary, and wrote in detail about the most mundane aspects of his life, including his clothes, the weather, and how he thought others perceived him.
But Parson, who studied his diary off and on for 10 years, said that Pepys was also a Harvey Weinstein–like harasser of women.
“I saw what a creep he is. He was philanderer and a groper,” she said. “And he writes so vividly and honestly in an uncensored way. I was in awe when I learned that he was fondling women and raping women that were less powerful than him.”
Parsons says her show will explore all sides of Pepys, including his flaws, his strengths, and how he fit into his world.
“I don’t want to tell people what to think but I want them to see the whole picture and think how the past and present relate to each other,” she said. “Now we’re in a time where there are revelations on how men treat women in workplace, but I also want people to think about that in the context of a diarist of who lived 300 years ago — the piece gives you an opportunity to think.”
“17c” at BAM Harvey Theater [651 Fulton St. between Rockwell and Ashland places in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. Nov. 14–18 at 7:30 pm. $30.
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