Commissioned by ACT (A Contemporary Theatre), Seattle Washington, 1990,
as its contribution to the Goodwill Games Arts Festival*
Adapted by Greg Palmer from a Russian folktale, Fenist, the Bright Falcon
Premiere production directed by David Ira Goldstein
Published by Anchorage Press Plays, part of Dramatic Publishing
As adapted by Greg for both stage and screen, the tale of Fenist, the Bright Falcon
includes not only a quest, "beyond the nine mountains to the tenth kingdom," but also a story within a story. As Anna, a young girl, prepares to marry her sweet but stolid neighbor, Tevdore, a Storyteller arrives at their engagement party. The gift he presents to the couple is a story of magical promise, of Anna and Fenist the falcon-prince.
In best fairy tale fashion, Anna's two older sisters are vain and cold-hearted, but Anna is sweet and thoughtful, "as fresh and beautiful as a clear mountain stream." As the tale begins their father promises gifts when he returns from a trip. Anna asks only for the feather from a falcon. Upon her father's return, alone in her room, Anna drops the feather to the floor, where it is transformed into Fenist, "a man, AND a bird. A falcon, and therefore a Prince."
Fenist is driven away from Anna, and she must leave her home to seek him. With the help of three mysterious sisters, a magical ball, and a spinning wheel, she forges ahead, wearing out three pairs of iron shoes, breaking three iron staffs, and eating three stone loaves on her quest. Arriving at last at the castle of the Tsarevna, who has imprisoned Fenist for his refusal to marry her, Anna must summon all her resolve to outwit the Tsarevna and rescue Fenist.
Anna and Fenist escape the Tsarevna and return to her home. Does her father bless their union? And how does the framing story end? Will this Anna proceed to marry Tevdore, or will she turn her eyes to the mountains? With echoes of Cinderella (those mean sisters) and Rumpelstiltskin
(the wheel that spins gold), and Greg's characteristically droll dialogue, the play tells a story with "no moral" but "a question." And, says the Storyteller, "that's why it's a good story."
The script of The Falcon
is included in Theatre for Young Audiences: 20 Great Plays for Children
, edited by Coleman A. Jennings, with an introduction by Maurice Sendak. St. Martin's Press, 1998.
*This play had an unusual genesis. When the Goodwill Games came to Seattle in May 1990, an arts festival was added, to run concurrently with the athletic events and encourage collaborations and exchanges with artists from the Soviet Union. With only one exception Seattle arts organizations responded to this mandate by simply exchanging productions with organizations in Moscow and other Soviet cities. The exception was The Falcon
, a project in which television producers and actors from Soviet Georgia, and their counterparts from the United States, actually worked together to create a one-hour made-for-television film. After filming was completed in Tbilisi and the Caucasus mountains, the three Georgian actors in the television production—Levan Uchaneishvili, Nugzar Ruhadze, and Ia Parulava—came to Seattle and performed during the Festival itself at ACT, in a stage adaptation of the film script. They were joined by American cast members Carmen Roman and Erika Warmbrunn, plus Michael Winters, replacing Larry Ballard from the film as the Storyteller. Click here
for more details about the television production and screenings.