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In September 2010, the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y hosted a reading from The Great Gatsby and a conversation with members of Elevator Repair Service, whose Gatz, a word-for-word rendering of the novel, is now playing at The Public Theater. Before actor Scott Shepherd, the star of the show, read some passages from the book, Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public, offered these introductory remarks about the production:
It is an utterly original theatrical evening. . . . The entire piece takes place in what looks like a very rundown, vaguely 1980-ish insurance office in the seediest part of Manhattan, from wood paneling to those battered metal file-cabinets and those awful metal desks that you know no one ever loved, that no one ever wanted, they just inherited. And yet over the course of the evening, Elevator Repair Service brings The Great Gatsby alive. . . . Somehow the fact that we’re hearing the novel aloud, that we’re seeing it sitting with a couple hundred of our fellow citizens, going through it (as only performance can) at the same time as the rest of the audience—and then that seedy insurance office itself . . . all of these things end up landing the ideas, the themes, the lyricism of The Great Gatsby with a power that, well, you just have to experience to believe. . . . By placing this tale of wealth and ambition in the context of this dirty, failed, desolate business, it brings home the poignancy of the contrast between America’s image of itself, its desired image of itself, and its reality in a way that’s not literal at all but immensely moving and powerful.
After Mr. Shepherd’s reading, he and John Collins, the director of Gatz and the founding artistic director of Elevator Repair Service, spoke about the genesis of the project.
Unterberg Poetry Center webcasts and access to our archive are made possible in part by the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.