New Pittsburgh Playhouse Stages Fresh Adaptation Of A Classic Hemingway Tale

Feb 4, 2019

A fresh take on an American classic is premiering at Point Park University’s new Pittsburgh Playhouse.

The latest stage adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" comes from the author’s friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner. It’s the first major production on the mainstage of the new facility and, according to artistic director Ron Lindblom, represents what the theater was designed to accomplish.

“The goal of opening the new Pittsburgh Playhouse has always been to be a national artistic laboratory,” Lindblom said, “to serve the arts in the same way that the Robotics Institute of [Carnegie Mellon University] serves the scientific community nationally.”

Students in Point Park’s business school worked on marketing for the show, Lindblom said, alongside communications majors, professional technicians and a Tony Award-winning actor. He said he hopes the collaboration serves as a model for future productions.

“We have the ability to create new works for much cheaper than you’d be able to do this in Los Angeles or New York” Lindblom said. “We’re far enough away from New York that we can develop new works without killing them in the process with reviews, but we’re also close enough that if we want that New York attention, we can bring them in.”

Lindblom said he was approached by New York City-based RWS Entertainment Group — founded by PPU grad Ryan Stana — and asked to consider the stage adaptation of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Tackling such a classic, he said, had its challenges.

Cellist Simon Cummings, left, and David Cabot, right, who plays Ernest Hemingway in the latest production of "The Old Man and the Sea." The show runs through Feb. 17 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse downtown.
Credit John Altdorfer / Point Park University

“When you’re given this piece and your antagonist is, you know, a 14-foot fish, putting that on stage requires a little bit of imagination, a little bit of creativity,” Lindblom said.

Hotchner, who is 101 years old, was involved throughout the production process, Lindblom said, noting that he’d promised Hemingway that he’d someday write a stage version of the story. In this adaptation, Hemingway is a character, rather than a narrator, as has been the case in the movie versions.

“We wanted to take this play and make it a visceral experience for the audience,” Lindblom said. “To experience Hemingway not just intellectually, but viscerally.”

The Old Man and the Sea runs through Feb. 17.