Why Cyrano? Well, He’s Famous for His Long…Sword!
This year Shakespeare Dallas will venture into uncharted territory and put on a Shakespeare in the Park performance without the Bard. Instead, the season will bring to life the words of Edmond Rostand, a 19th century poet and dramatist who added some panache to the English language with his most famous play, Cyrano de Bergerac.
Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, in case you did not know, was a real-life French dramatist and soldier - today remembered mostly for the many works based on his life and, of course, his remarkably large nose. As you can see in the portrait above, Cyrano’s long nose is a documented fact, and though the plotline of the play Cyrano de Bergerac is entirely fictional, many of the characters and elements are inspired from Cyrano’s actual life.
In Rostand’s play, Cyrano serves as a cadet in the French army, who remains popular in society not only because of his skills with a rapier, but also for his “rapier” wit and charm. However, his poor self-image, thanks to his nose, prevents him from declaring his love for his beautiful cousin Roxanne. Instead, he helps fellow cadet Christian de Neuvillette win her love, using ghost-written letters first and then escalating to night-time meetings, with Cyrano coaching the less articulate Christian word for word. Meanwhile, the love triangle threatens to expand into a square as the villainous Count De Guiche schemes to marry Roxanne off to Viscount Valvert.
Since its premiere, Cyrano de Bergerac has been an instant classic both in its original French and abroad. The play has been consistently performed all over the world from its first year; the most recent Broadway revival was in 2008, starring Daniel Sunjata as Christian, Jennifer Garner as Roxanne, and Kevin Kline as Cyrano. There have also been film versions of the play from the silent era on; the most famous on-screen Cyrano’s include and Gérard Depardieu in an Oscar-award winning 1990 adaption and Steve Martin in the 1987 modernized comedy Roxanne.
When we decided to mix in other classics with our usual Shakespearean fare, we decided Cyrano de Bergerac would be our first almost immediately. Not only has the play influenced countless successors and emerged as a triumph in form, a certain balcony scene connects the play with its predecessors in the Shakespeare oeuvre. We think fans of Shakespeare will love Rostand’s play. Come see for yourself starting June 15th!