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Notes for Staging Finnegans Wake

Ulysses in Nighttown (New York, 1958) was first presented at the offBroadway Rooftop Theater and later taken on tour to London and the continent. Introductory material has been taken from two of the book's early episodes; but the adaptor, Marjorie Barkentin, draws most of her material from a single chapter, the "nighttown" or "Circe" sequence. Like Mr. McClelland she omits much that is extraneous to the conflicts treated, but she does not distort Joyce's meaning or change the mood of the chapter, the most vivid and stageworthy in the entire book. Elsewhere in the novel we find only brief snippets of existence contributing to a larger progression. In this chapter there is a clear dramatic development; there are easily defined conflicts, complex character interrelationships; and there is a satisfactory if ambiguous resolution. Elsewhere, the effects hang on literary techniques alien to the stage, and the drama takes place mainly within the minds of the protagonists. Here the content of the brains of the two exhausted heroes, their inner drama is projected in the form of dialogue and mime against the tawdry substance of the night world with its witches' sabbath of whores and males in rut. Secret meditations and hidden urges become overt, if almost surrealistically conceived, activity. Nowhere else in Ulysses are the internal and the external aspects of events so thoroughly integrated; nowhere else are action and reaction so mingled as to make visible all facets of behavior. It is here that the themes meet and interlock, that the essence of the day's experience is reconstituted and given point.