Kurt Vonnegut makes me proud to be a Hoosier. I’ve been reading him since I was 16 (when I was still merely a Land of Lincolner). I was visiting my older sister at the University of Illinois (where she lived in an honest-to-goodness co-ed dorm!), and someone handed me a copy of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. A book they were reading in college—it was like literary contraband! So I long associated Vonnegut with the intellectual freedoms and social experimentation of college in the 1970s. Only later, when I myself became a transplanted Hoosier, did I learn that Vonnegut was a native Hoosier, and that was a lovely discovery. It made so many other things about his writing deeper.
We’ve been looking for an opportunity to put some Vonnegut onstage for a long time. His piquant drawing of character, his wry sense of humor, his affinity for dialogue, the warmth of his satire, the way in which his Indiana upbringing infuses his work with a sense of well-being and common sense—all these make his writing delightful for any audience, but a particular gift for Hoosiers. Now, thankfully, here we are, staging three of his early short stories, in a lovely, easy-going adaptation by Aaron Posner. These stories were written in the early sixties and originally published in the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. In 1968, they were included in a collection titled Welcome to the Monkey House, which was, for many decades, my (and surely many in my generation’s) favorite collection of short stories.
These three early love stories may strike Vonnegut enthusiasts as rather on the tame side of Vonnegut, and that is true. “Long Walk to Forever” (which Vonnegut claimed he wanted to title “Hell to Get Along With”) is at least in part autobiographical. “Who Am I This Time?” springboards from Vonnegut’s fascination with the theatre—you might recall he wrote some plays. “Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son” debunks the glamor of fame and wistfully looks at the cost of a broken marriage and its impact on children, something Vonnegut also knew about first hand. Vonnegut’s prodigious storytelling abilities and his mastery for weaving human story and character in winsome, humor-filled detail create a veritable smorgasbord for actors!
In hopes of inspiring a Vonnegut reading renaissance, I’d like to recommend my favorite recent collections: God Bless You, Doctor Kevorkian (1999), featuring radio shows Vonnegut wrote for NPR, makes me laugh so hard, it’s dangerous. A Man without a Country (2005) shares Vonnegut’s thoughts on the condition of the American soul; and the posthumously published If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Advice for the Young (2013) focuses on speeches Vonnegut gave at various graduations and awards ceremonies. These books, as with all of his collections, inspire raucous laughter; they are easy to dip into and hard to put down. You should run out and buy them at the Vonnegut Memorial Library or Indy Reads, two partners in our current enterprise. Thanks to them both!
We hope to see you at the IRT for Kurt Vonnegut’s Who Am I This Time? (& Other Conundrums of Love), which starts performances next week (January 28) and runs through February 23. For more information and to purchase tickets, please go to our web site, www.irtive.com
Executive Artistic Director