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by Hallie Gordon

The Steppenwolf for Young Adults 2011/12 season offers an exploration of the process by which a piece of literature evolves through adaptation and reinterpretation. I want us to explore the way original work can be born from the ideas and themes of a classic text—how the compelling work of one artist can prompt the bold response and fresh story of another. We are thrilled to involve students in this intergenerational conversation across time and across forms, from the book by Carson McCullers to Rebecca Gilman’s play The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter and our second production this winter, Sarah Gubbins’ artistic response, fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life. I want to engage our audience in a discussion about literary and artistic achievements across generations, artists building upon the legacy of the cultural heritage bestowed upon them by the artists who have come before—the old becomes new, the classic rendered contemporary. Carson McCullers wrote The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter when she was only 23 and it was first published in 1940. Over 70 years later we are still drawn to it— it has come to be regarded as classic. Why do we keep returning to this book? Because of her deft characterization and profound understanding of loneliness and isolation? Because of her vividly drawn “outsider” characters we can identify with? Because of her courage in her unsparing portrayal of these troubled people? There are different ways of defining a “classic.” Does it stand the test of time? Are the themes universal? Are its characters people we recognize? The definition that caught my eye was that a classic is “a work that makes connections.” While studying a classic, you can discover its different influences from other writers’ pieces of art. A classic is by its nature informed by its history of ideas. Our history is rich and complex—in ways both beautiful and devastating—and whether we sense it or not, it continues to exert an influence upon our lives. It’s an old friend that will never let us forget and a new friend that offers a different lens through which to look at the world and create new meaning. I hope you all enjoy The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, the classic, and come back to see how it has inspired a new generation with the play fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life. Enjoy this season for Young Adults! Hallie Gordon Artistic and Educational Director of Steppenwolf for Young Adults