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07.04.2007
Mies en Scene
Play about birth pangs of the Farnsworth house goes public

 

In architectural terms, The Glass House, a new play about Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, is wrapping up schematic design and progressing to design development. After successful private readings this spring in New York, The Glass House will open to the public for the first time at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for two engagements this summer on July 27 and 28.

 

Produced by two brothers, architect Kyle Bergman and director Evan Bergman, and written by June Finfer, the play looks at the drama behind the country home Mies designed for Dr. Edith Farnsworth, south of Chicago in Plano, Illinois, in 1951. That the Farnsworth House, among the most lauded examples of modernist architecture and perhaps the apotheosis of Mies’ residential work, makes a good dramatic subject is no surprise. Whether the legal battle that erupted between Farnsworth and Mies before the house was completed was motivated more by cost overruns or a spurned lover, and how this house may have influenced another famous modernist glass house (ahem, Philip Johnson), have long intrigued architects, and with this play, is doing the same for nonarchitect audiences.

 

Kyle Bergman came across the play two years ago while looking for material for an architecture film festival, and he and his brother were quickly drawn in. “When we talked about whether to option the play or not,” Bergman remembered, “we asked ourselves, will the drama be interesting to the nonarchitecture world? Ultimately, it’s about relationships between clients and patrons and students and teachers.”

 

Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage Company, was similarly fascinated by the story and after attending the first reading in April, she cleared space in a busy summer schedule to bring the play to the next level of development—the public arena. “What interested me is that it’s a play about the creative process and what Mies went through when he did something groundbreaking,” she said.

 

The hope of the two Bergman brothers— to complete the architecture metaphor— is to finish construction in 2008, or to stage and produce the play either on or off- Broadway sometime next year. (If Barrington Stage’s recent successes are any indication, a bit of the architecture’s drama may reach wider audiences yet: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which premiered at Barrington Stage in 2004, won two Tony awards only a year later.) Rumor has it that Liam Neeson might be interested in playing the part of Mies on Broadway. 

Samantha Topol