I started my work as the Director of the show by looking, first, at the Robert Burns’ poem that inspired Steinbeck’s title, “To A Mouse.” A beautiful piece of poetry by Scotland’s greatest poet, “To A Mouse” includes two stanzas that have a direct influence on my approach to Of Mice and Men.
The narrator of Burns’ poem says, to the frightened mouse;
“I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal.”
Later, the narrator says;
“Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear.”
Steinbeck’s story, like Burns’ poem, is an exploration of loneliness and isolation and our innate human desire to be connected to someone else. George and Lennie are more than just “friends,” more than protector and protected; they are also a symbol of our desperate human need to be close to another person, to be understood and appreciated, to be protected and to be loved, to feel safe in a world that does not care about our struggles. Surrounding them, in the bunkhouse and all around the farm, are people who are profoundly isolated, desperately lonely, and both George and Lennie are forced to struggle with the suspicions, fears and (at times) cruelty that is born out of that deep, deep isolation.
I also want to connect the story to the time that it was originally written (during the Great Depression) through the use of projected images of photography from the time and through the use of folk music written during the 1920s and 1930s. Both the photography and the music are from the period, but I also believe they have something to say to audiences today. Yes, the people in the photos may have been struggling during the Great Depression, but are they really that much different from the people we see on our streets and in our communities today? Yes, the music may have been written and performed in the 1930s, but the topics and issues addressed sound remarkably modern. Pay careful attention to the images and the songs…you may just find something familiar and immediate.
Our mission as a theatre company is to examine the classics of drama in new and innovative ways, to respond to these works with a view towards helping re-invigorate them for a modern audience, to question our assumptions and help our audiences think and experience these works in new, and often, surprising ways. I hope that this production will do just that; help you to explore and experience Of Mice and Men in ways that are surprising, provocative and moving. I love this story, this play and these characters and I hope you will, too.