Septime Webre’s latest ballet adaptation of a great American novel, “Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises,” transports audiences to the cafes of 1920s Paris and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Inventive costumes, jazz numbers and dramatic choreography bring one of Hemingway’s most beloved novels to life.

Guests

  • Septime Webre Artistic Director, The Washington Ballet

‘The Sun Also Rises’ Production Stills

From sketch to stage, characters come to life in Septime Webre’s latest ballet, “The Sun Also Rises.” Based on Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel, the production transports audiences to the cafes of 1920s Paris and the infamous “running of the bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. In this video, see how dancers transform costume designs into wearable art.

Credits: Creative and Art Direction by Design Army. Photos by Dean Alexander. Costume Design by Helen Q. Huang. Music composed by Billy Novick. All rights reserved.

Preview The Ballet

Go behind the scenes of Septime Webre’s upcoming world premiere of “Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises.” Video includes dancer interview and rehearsal footage.

Transcript

  • 12:27:03

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFor some, it wouldn't seem possible, a ballet based on a Hemingway novel. But it won't surprise anyone who knows Septime Webre, artistic director of The Washington Ballet. His recent choreographies include adaptations of "The Great Gatsby" and "Alice in Wonderland." His latest ballet transports audiences to Europe in the 1920s. "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises" follows Jake Barnes, an American expatriate living in Paris.

  • 12:27:30

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe spends his time in cafes and night clubs along with the writers and artists whose names will dominate the century. He then travels to Spain where he experiences the drama of bullfights and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, all brought to life through dance and music. Septime Webre joins us in studio. "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises" opens at the Kennedy Center on May 9. It runs through the 12th. Septime Webre, great to see you as always.

  • 12:27:59

    MR. SEPTIME WEBREIt's swell to be here, too.

  • 12:28:01

    NNAMDIAs we said, creating a ballet from a Hemingway novel would seem an impossible task, but you seem to enjoy the challenge. Where did you start? How did this get started?

  • 12:28:10

    WEBREWell, I've been a Hemingway fan since I was, you know, a kid...

  • 12:28:13

    NNAMDIWe will talk about that.

  • 12:28:13

    WEBRE...in my teens and 20s. And I had a good buddy, actually, after doing my "Great Gatsby," a friend who is a businessman in D.C. but taught Hemingway at Yale in the '60s and '70s before going into business. And he gave me a paperback copy of the book and said, you know, Septime, you should really reread this. There's -- he said, you know, kind of backhandedly I suppose, you kind of choreograph the way Hemingway writes, in short, punchy phrases that leave you a little surprised. I guess that was good.

  • 12:28:46

    NNAMDIThat's great analogy, yeah.

  • 12:28:48

    WEBREAnd I read, and I just thought it's an unusual choice, sure. But there's a lot of stuff in there that makes for great storytelling and the glamour of ballet and just -- it's something I could really sink my teeth into.

  • 12:29:01

    NNAMDIAnd it's my understanding that when you reread this novel, you found something striking about the characters and how they related to members of your dance company.

  • 12:29:09

    WEBRESure. Actually, in Brett Ashley, who is a twice divorced modern woman -- British modern woman who shortens her hair, I knew in Sona Kharatian we'd have the perfect Brett Ashley, just is doing it to a tee. And in the kind of brooding Jake Barnes, Jared Nelson is going to be amazing, Brooklyn Mack, a powerful Pedro Romero, this virile, young, virtuosic bull fighter. Luis Torres is the count filled with joie de vivre that no one else can match, light a candle to. And just throughout the whole ballet, things fell into place from a casting prospective.

  • 12:29:49

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation with Septime Webre, artistic director of The Washington Ballet, about his latest production, "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises," give us a call at 800-433-8850. Does Paris in the 20s spark your imagination? How about bullfights in Spain? 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Septime, "The Sun Also Rises" is considered, perhaps, Hemingway's most famous novel. But for those who may have skipped this assignment in high school or if it's been a very long time since they read the book, could you remind us about the story?

  • 12:30:25

    WEBREJake is a journalist who had been injured in World War II. He's 25, an American living on the Left Bank in Paris. And he lives in this world of cafe society, the world that actually Hemingway himself and Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein lived in, that midnight in Paris world. And he's really drinking to deaden his sensibility. He's in love with Brett Ashley, this modern woman. She's a sexually liberated woman, and she leaves body bags strewn about. She's a real man-killer.

  • 12:30:57

    WEBREAnd while they're in love with each other, because of his wound and his emotional wounds, they really can't be together. And he goes to Spain in the bullfights where he feels he can breathe free. And it's -- you know, Hemingway wrote this when he's 25, and he had -- he really invented this modern style, American modern style. And there's an ambivalence about a lot of his writing.

  • 12:31:21

    WEBREAnd then, as such, Jake is ambivalent about the world as he is in this relationship with Brett, and she has relationships with so many other men. But it's all through the lens of this amazing Parisian milieu and then this bullfighting world, quite exciting. At the end, they have to agree to live apart. That is a message of us sort of living our own lives in a solitary way.

  • 12:31:46

    NNAMDIThere's a lot of interest in this period now, and you feel that many of these themes are also timely now. Why?

  • 12:31:53

    WEBREWell, there's a Hemingway moment happening. I think we're, as Americans, looking to our past over the last, you know, 100 years, that we've advanced so quickly. I think we're looking at our past in the same ways that Hemingway and this character Jake were looking at modernity. You know, in the '20s, Americans had -- and the teens, they had to face World War I in Europe, the horrors associated with modernity.

  • 12:32:16

    WEBREAnd people had to wrestle with that fact that they couldn't just be optimistic about the world, but there is a new to cost to this new modernity. Gertrude Stein coined the famous phrase the lost generation for those guys she saw that came back from World War I. And I think we're looking back, you know, times -- lives had been complicated. And at -- in complicated times, we look to see who we are. And I think that books like the "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises" help illuminate a bit about our past and tell us that who we are and that we're OK.

  • 12:32:50

    NNAMDIAre you a Hemingway fan? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Is "The Sun Also Rises," among your favorites? If so, why, and do you see a relationship to the world we're living in today? 800-433-8850. Septime, you've said that when creating a ballet, you've got to distil the essence of a novel. What is the essence for you in "The Sun Also Rises," and what do you want to get at?

  • 12:33:14

    WEBREWell, first there's a great Balanchine quote: "There are no mother-in-laws in ballet." You got to trim the story down. And so the essence of "The Sun Also Rises" is, at least for me, Jake Barnes' wrestling with masculine loneliness even though he lives in this wild world of the Left Bank in Paris which could be life in D.C. on the fast track professionally or life in the contemporary world.

  • 12:33:44

    WEBREAnd that, despite that everyone around you is sort of in high gear, that you got to look to yourself and find some kind of peace with your personal demons and in doing so, you can find some level of human connection. The book is also about honor and courage, two kind of old-fashioned ideas that I think are really important in today's world.

  • 12:34:10

    NNAMDIYou're a big Hemingway fan, but there's also a personal connection here. You are part Cuban, and your parents knew the Hemingways when they lived in Cuba. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What kind of family stories you heard growing up?

  • 12:34:23

    WEBREI wish I could say that my mother and father talked about Hemingway in a lofty way, but what really stands in my mind is...

  • 12:34:30

    NNAMDIThe cats?

  • 12:34:32

    WEBREYeah. Actually, my mother telling me about how when our cats, our family cats were going out of control, how Mary Hemingway, Hemingway's fourth wife, would kvetch to her constantly about those Ernest's damn cats. They're now famous, but at the time, they were just a bunch of alley cats. So that's -- so Hemingway just kind of -- and, of course, "The Old Man and The Sea." And, you know, I grew up, we -- I'm half Cuban but grew up in the Bahamas till I was 12 in the islands. So I connected to some of those stories that -- sort of his Key West and Cuba connection certainly loomed large to me as a kid.

  • 12:35:07

    NNAMDIWhat kind of research did you do for the show?

  • 12:35:09

    WEBREWell, I read the book many times, and working with D.C.-based playwright Karen Zacharias and Bill Lilly, my buddy who taught Hemingway at Yale, we developed a libretto. So that was the basis of it all. But also, just did a lot of -- read quite a number of articles and essays about Hemingway, contemporary ones but also things that he was written about -- that were written about him, you know, in various times during his career, had really seminal conversation with his nephew who is a gallerist in Honolulu and met him last summer and spent some time with him.

  • 12:35:44

    WEBRESo the research was really important and -- to get behind him, but actually, it was getting into the novel that was most important. I spent a lot of time drinking my way through Paris since my teens...

  • 12:35:57

    NNAMDIBut you also happen to run with the bulls.

  • 12:35:59

    WEBREBut that was the big piece. This is -- go to Spain.

  • 12:36:00

    NNAMDIYou ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, last summer, something I've always wanted, well, you to do and come back and tell me about it.

  • 12:36:09

    NNAMDIWhat was it like?

  • 12:36:10

    WEBREWell, that was -- well, it was -- first, the festival was like a seven-day drinking binge for thousands of people. The entire city is beautiful because the entire city wears white. All white with red scarves and barrettes and sashes. And at eight in the morning, the cannon goes, and they go running -- runs through the streets. And the bulls start about 30 seconds or a minute later. The whole thing's over in about under five minutes, so...

  • 12:36:36

    NNAMDIIt's five minutes...

  • 12:36:36

    WEBRE...it's exciting, a thrill.

  • 12:36:37

    NNAMDIIt's a fairly intense five minutes.

  • 12:36:38

    WEBREYeah, for me and those 5,000 other people running. I could see the bull's horn about, you know, 50 yards away. But what was also interesting is the culture surrounding bullfights. I had seen about eight or 10 bull fights in my teens and 20s. I traveled in Mexico a lot in my teens and 20s, and I'd seen Spanish bullfighters fighting in Mexico. But it's been quite a long time, and seeing the Spanish culture and how they revere it and how for them despite the gruesomeness of this sports...

  • 12:37:05

    NNAMDIIsn't that interesting when you saw it as a teen, you noticed the gruesomeness? You probably did not notice as much the artistic content of it.

  • 12:37:12

    WEBRENow, what I really see is the -- as the bullfighting -- bullfight is cultural manifestation. You know, the bull -- the matador is putting himself in the harm's way. He is defying death. He's making himself vulnerable to death. The bull is sort of skirting right by him and brushing his side. And he's opening his arms and his legs, kind of almost taunting death.

  • 12:37:35

    WEBREThere is something for the Spanish people that's heroic about that. It is a metaphor for heroism and honor. And that's what I think Hemingway -- all of his books are about heroism, about heroes and men of honor and courage. And -- or there are counter -- there are sort of anti-heroes perhaps, but courage and honor is something that's really steeped deeply in the bullfighting culture, and you see it.

  • 12:38:00

    WEBREIt's very graceful. And it also relates in posture to what I see in flamenco dancing, in the posturing of flamenco, just a kind of living your life with a bravado. There's a great quote from the book. Hemingway says, "No one lives their life all the way up except the bull fighter." And it's -- you can't help but get sweep -- swept up into that feeling when you're there.

  • 12:38:23

    NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Vian V., (sp?) who says, "I absolutely adore Septime Webre. Eager to see his Hemingway adaptation, but I would have happily paid to watch him run with the bull." That was a heck of an adrenaline rush, wasn't it?

  • 12:38:34

    WEBREI had been drinking a good deal the night before. This was like more like jogging with the bulls.

  • 12:38:40

    NNAMDIOh. I doubt it. Septime Webre is our guest. He is the artistic director of The Washington Ballet. His latest production, "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises," opens at the Kennedy Center on May 9. If you have comments or questions, give us a call, 800-433-8850. Do you enjoy dance or ballet? Does Paris in the '20s spark your imagination? How about bullfights in Spain? 800-433-8850. The action moves from Paris to Spain, from cafes to bullfights. How do you capture those very different environments, those very different scenes?

  • 12:39:15

    WEBREThere is -- there are few things in the world in our lives that can capture atmosphere and sentiment more than music. So it's really in the music that -- apart from costumes and set designs and dance styles, it's the power of the music that tells us we're in Paris in the '20s, with French cafe music and also New York jazz that was being imported to France, African-American vocalists who could have a success in Paris in ways they weren't able to have in New York.

  • 12:39:49

    WEBREThose things tell us we're in Paris. The beautiful Spanish flamenco guitars, the ancient sounding flamenco vocalists, the screaming trumpets announcing bullfighters -- it's in the music that really that atmosphere is created.

  • 12:40:03

    NNAMDILet's listen to the music, one of the tunes from the production. This is from a scene set in Pamplona, Spain. And then you can tell us a little bit about it.

  • 12:40:37

    NNAMDII just like the music so much it could go on forever for me.

  • 12:40:39

    WEBREThat's about the jazziest Spain I've ever heard. Actually, that little track is from France.

  • 12:40:44

    NNAMDIFrom France. Got to be from Paris, yes.

  • 12:40:45

    WEBREActually, you could just imagine a New York musician, some old -- some young guy who's playing this cool jazz who gets a cheap, you know, steerage ship passage to Paris and finds his success, you know, in a club on the left bank, late night, playing this kind of jazz. It kind of has a feeling of that era of young men and women on the street and just having a really grand time in the '20s, with the kind of freedom that that era provided.

  • 12:41:12

    NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls when we come back. If you haven't called yet and you'd like to, the number is 800-433-8850. Do you enjoy dance or ballet? You can also send email to kojo@wamu.org. Go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. As we go into the break, we're going to hear another piece from the ballet. This, I believe, is called "Jake's Theme."

  • 12:43:44

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Septime Webre. He is the artistic director of The Washington Ballet. His latest production is "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises." It opens at the Kennedy Center on May 9. And, Septime, when we went to that break, we were playing some of the music from the production, and Bruce in Silver Spring, Md., has a question about the music. Bruce, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:44:07

    BRUCEYeah. Hi. How -- basically, how does the music support the book and the characters in the book? And the other question I have is, is the dance pure ballet, or is it mixed modern?

  • 12:44:24

    WEBREThe -- Billy Novick is the composer, Boston-based composer, with whom I'm working on Hemingway project, and he also wrote the music for "The Great Gatsby." And we heard in that -- the last selection, "Jake's Theme," you can hear in that a sense of loneliness and also a sense of masculinity. That's kind of important qualities about Jake's character. And you can hear Billy wrote some music that sounds like it's written in the '20s, but it's really seeking to distill who Jake is.

  • 12:44:55

    WEBRELikewise, we have themes for Pedro Romero, for Brett Ashley, a really sexy, kind of strong, independent woman kind of song. He's dropped in a few tunes from the actual tunes from the '20s. For example, the amazing blues singer E. Faye Butler will sing a Bessie Smith song that is kind of raunchy, actually, from the '20s, and she will, I'm sure, blow the roof off the joint. But it's -- but the lyrics support.

  • 12:45:25

    WEBREShe's saying, you got to give me some, and it supports sort of Brett's character as a kind of sexually dominant and kind of independent woman. So, throughout, we've sought to have the music not just be sort of divertissement, that would entertain, but actually sort of it's structured in a way that the story makes sense. In act two, we introduce flamenco guitar and trumpets, so it has a Spanish feel.

  • 12:45:52

    WEBREAnd the -- I mean, like all my choreography, it's ballet-based. I'm a ballet guy. You know, women are on point. But I use a lot of contemporary movement as well and having danced with, you know, a lot of contemporary choreographers in addition to classical ballet. And in act two, we also have some flamenco. The artist Edwin Aparicio, very fine, well-renowned flamenco dancer, will actually come and do about a five-minute number as a kind of flamenco artist entertaining the drunken guys at a taverna.

  • 12:46:21

    NNAMDIBruce, thank you very much for your call. We had the pleasure of having E. Faye Butler on this broadcast on one occasion, and I was there when she received her last Helen Hayes Award. And as she was walking towards the podium, a male voice in the audience shouted, I told you you could do it. And she said, oh, shut up. That's my husband, she said. That was a good moment. She is...

  • 12:46:39

    WEBREYeah. She's quite a gal.

  • 12:46:41

    NNAMDIAnd you mentioned "Gatsby," and I think that's what Joanne in Fairfax, Va., wants to talk about. Joanne, your turn.

  • 12:46:46

    JOANNEHi, Kojo. Hi, Septime. I'm very, very excited about Hemingway because I love "The Great Gatsby." But what I think is a little bit different or what my question is about is there's so many different places in "The Sun Also Rises" in Hemingway's book, and how are you going to make that come alive on stage?

  • 12:47:08

    NNAMDIWell, we talked a little bit about that before, but here's a little bit more.

  • 12:47:12

    WEBREActually, in addition to a set designer and costume designer, we've engaged Aaron Rhyne, amazing video artist, New York-based...

  • 12:47:19

    NNAMDIFirst time that you've used multimedia for a production.

  • 12:47:21

    WEBREYeah. I'm really having a fun time working with Aaron. And through projections, we'll see both Hemingway's sort of typed words on stage, and we'll see -- we've -- there's some clever kind of silent picture themes with silent picture devices for it. So we see some of Hemingway's actual words on stage without having them be spoken. I wanted Hemingway to be present on stage.

  • 12:47:41

    NNAMDIYou wanted to include his language in it.

  • 12:47:43

    WEBREIt's so specific. It's a specific style. It's a very modern, you know, strong, spare style, and I find it very appealing. But also we use the video artist's video projections to suggest space. So we have footage of, you know, Josephine Baker dancing in Paris. We actually have footage of the running of the bulls.

  • 12:48:06

    WEBREOur dancers will be kind of running in slow motion, and above them in a kind of 40-foot freeze across the stage, there's sort of cinema verite style, cropped very close, black-and-white historical footages of the bulls actually running. So this multimedia aspect will help kind of put the place, the dance, in a particular locale, and it's fun for me 'cause I have not done this before. It's uncharted territory.

  • 12:48:32

    NNAMDIJoanne, I know the question in the back of your mind: Will it be as much fun as "Gatsby" was? What do you think about what Septime has said so far? You think it's going to be as much fun?

  • 12:48:40

    JOANNEI think it sounds like it's going to be wonderful, and I can't wait to see it.

  • 12:48:44

    NNAMDIJoanne, thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Mark on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. Mark, your turn.

  • 12:48:51

    MARKHi, Kojo. How are you?

  • 12:48:52

    NNAMDIDoing well.

  • 12:48:54

    MARKGreat. I had the -- heard the story recounted to me from a older gentleman in Norfolk. And he was with Hemingway in Spain during -- and Hemingway took him to a bullfight. And unbeknownst to him, Hemingway had arranged for the most, I guess, the most famous bullfighter in Spain or whatever, to have his friend be his what they call his silver sword. And he was telling the story about how all the women were throwing their shoes at him, and he had to pick up all the shoes. I didn't know if your guest had heard that story. You could maybe sort of expound on it a little.

  • 12:49:32

    NNAMDIThere is no dearth of -- no end of Hemingway stories that you have. Heard that particular?

  • 12:49:37

    WEBREIf I came on the stage to take a bow after the ballet and when ladies threw their shoes at me, I would not get a positive impression...

  • 12:49:45

    WEBRE...of their response to the ballet.

  • 12:49:45

    NNAMDII think so.

  • 12:49:46

    WEBREI don't know about that particular story, but I do know that he idolized bullfighters, and it was one of his great passions. And he wrote treaties about bullfighting and -- called "Death in the Afternoon." And he -- and his bullfighters were his friends. And the character Jake Barnes in the story also idolizes bullfighters. And so he was a regular sort of attendee at the bullfights, and I have no doubt that he would -- had good close relationships with all of them. And I supposed that ladies' pumps story is true too.

  • 12:50:23

    NNAMDIMark, thank you very much for your call. This production is part of a 10-year program you call the American Experience. Can you talk about what your goal is for that?

  • 12:50:31

    WEBREWell, ballet -- the ballet repertoire was developed by, let's say, the dead white guys.

  • 12:50:39

    WEBREAnd, you know, it's a Eurocentric art form, and our canon of narrative ballets inherited from the 19th century are a reflection of the world they came from. And I feel like our American stories -- we really haven't old all our stories on stage. And I think art is at its most powerful when people see themselves on stage.

  • 12:50:58

    WEBREAnd being in our nation's capital, I wanted our -- from time to time for us to develop work that really reflected who we are as Americans. And we started with the Gatsby project and now Hemingway project, two titans of American literature. But next season, we're branching off into other expressions. It won't always be just novels. Next year's iteration is a project called The Jazz/Blues Project.

  • 12:51:23

    NNAMDIThat you're doing with Howard University.

  • 12:51:24

    WEBREYeah. And E. Faye actually is going to sing with us in a tribute to Etta James. So it'll be a very different kind of evening but hopefully as much fun.

  • 12:51:33

    NNAMDIWell, let's talk a little bit more about what you're doing because Arthur in Capitol Heights, Md., has a few words for you. Arthur, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:51:42

    ARTHURHi. Septime, this is Arthur.

  • 12:51:45

    WEBREHi, Arthur.

  • 12:51:45

    ARTHUR(unintelligible) And I just wanted to make everybody know that The Washington Ballet does such an important effort to get children into the ballet period, and it's just remarkable. It's what got me involved with The Washington Ballet. And I think it's so important that what you're doing with kids in D.C. needs to be complimented continuously.

  • 12:52:13

    NNAMDIGlad you brought that up, Arthur. It gives me the opportunity to ask Septime to talk a little bit more about what The Washington Ballet does in terms of education and outreach all over the city. Talk a little bit about those programs.

  • 12:52:24

    WEBREWell, we have two parallel programs. We have a program called The Washington Ballet at THEARC in Anacostia.

  • 12:52:29

    NNAMDIIn Southeast, yes.

  • 12:52:30

    WEBREVery special place. And it's a classical conservatory for kids in that neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C., Ward 7 and Ward 8. And it's been open for about seven years now, and it's going beautifully. And we started with beginners. So we now we have sort of our second and third year of girls on pointe, a whole gaggle of young women in their early teens who have now graduated to the pointe work phase. It's been really special.

  • 12:52:59

    WEBREWe also have a big program called Dance DC, which is the kind of sister program. It's a partnership with the public -- DCPS, wherein public elementary schools throughout the District -- we focus on second and third grade integrated arts curriculum. So pre-ballet but also integrated with what they're learning in school. It might be the life cycle of the butterfly. It might be about the Underground Railroad. It might be some other science topic. And this kind of broader program serves as a feeder to the series of programs at THEARC.

  • 12:53:28

    NNAMDIArthur, thank you very much for your call. Back to "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises." The costumes in this production are both evocative of the era but also unique. Tell us about the costume designer and what kind of direction you gave her.

  • 12:53:41

    WEBREHelen Wang is a brilliant designer. She happens to be head of costume at University of Maryland in College Park, but she's also worked a lot in local theater, at The Studio Theatre, the Woolly Mammoth Theater, et cetera. And I've been a big fan of her work for as long as I've live in D.C., which is 14 years now. And we really like each other a lot and been wanting to work together forever. She comes with -- she was a visual artist and comes with a nimble theatrical mind.

  • 12:54:07

    WEBREIn the past, I've worked largely with ballet designers, and we are, you know, abstract artists, we ballet folk by nature. Helen brings a theatrical perspective. And so everything is -- every design decision is made with a dramaturgical kind of perspective. But I think she had a really fun time with -- particularly the chandelier lady who's at the lido with a, you know, six-foot chandelier on her head, and also with a matador and the women in Spain. It's just very fanciful but also very theatrical and dramatic.

  • 12:54:41

    NNAMDIYou can see a slideshow of the costumes on our website, kojoshow.org, including the chandelier at -- you can see at kojoshow.org. Here is Chris in Silver Spring, Md. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:54:56

    CHRISKojo, thank you. Septime, I just wanted to tell you that you're dong a phenomenal job. My daughter does dance with the Maryland Youth Ballet in Silver Springs. We've seen every production you perform since you've been here. We recently saw "Cinderella." It was fantastic. Anyone that didn't get to see, they really missed a fine performance. And we're both looking forward coming to see "Hemingway." Just keep doing what you're doing, man. And, you know, I hope to see you out and about in the city and congratulate you in person.

  • 12:55:27

    NNAMDIThank you very much on behalf of Septime.

  • 12:55:31

    NNAMDIYes. It's NPR's Ari Shapiro actually performs in this production. For those who don't know about his music background and career, can you talk about that?

  • 12:55:40

    WEBREWell, we all know him because we wake up with him, and we listen to him. He joins me in the shower every morning.

  • 12:55:45

    NNAMDICorrect.

  • 12:55:46

    WEBREBut he also is an occasional guest artist with the fantastic musical group Pink Martini, and he's got this great voice. And so I have cast him as a young 1920s French crooner based on sort of the Maurice Chevalier character.

  • 12:56:02

    NNAMDIYou go, Ari.

  • 12:56:04

    WEBREYeah. And he's -- this crooner who -- actually, we had rehearsal last night for about an hour with him, and we got another rehearsal tonight with him. He actually woos the chandelier lady and much to E. Faye Butler chagrin. And as you might imagine, the tough E. Faye Butler wins out.

  • 12:56:22

    NNAMDIOh, yeah. I can imagine that for sure.

  • 12:56:25

    NNAMDIJake's been damaged by the war, and he's struggling in the scenes in Paris. How do you capture that?

  • 12:56:32

    WEBREYou heard the music, Jake's music. The mood is very, very important, and also it's been convenient to use this device, this video device because we actually see him at typewriter typing. And we have the opportunity briefly to see him -- his words, the language and how he writes and his ambivalence in that writing. And hopefully, the steps themselves are imbued with the right sense. For some like Brett, it means it's sort of tackling life with all its juices and just with the great gusto.

  • 12:57:04

    WEBREIn the case of Jake, it's actually with soulfulness and poetry. His -- while Hemingway wrote in a very clipped way, wouldn't really caught quite a poetic style, almost the anti-poet, Jake as a character actually isn't himself a poet. He just deals with it in a way that I think Hemingway would have thought was a masculine way, which is sort of short and to the point.

  • 12:57:30

    NNAMDIAnd, of course, at the same time, this is Paris in the '20s and Hemingway's world included some of the people you talked about earlier, some of the most famous artists of the 20th century. What would Jake's life have been like?

  • 12:57:42

    WEBREWell, that's one of the great challenges of the production, to capture the loneliness of Jake but also to show this milieu, which is so much damn fun. I mean, they were -- started drinking at 10:00 a.m., and they didn't stop 'till 3:00 in the morning. And it was a very artistic sort of artistic environment, almost like a petri dish of ideas of artists and writers and quick witticisms and on the next bar. It was, I think, quite exciting.

  • 12:58:10

    NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have. You'll simply have to go see "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises" yourself. It's opens at the Kennedy Center on May 9. Septime Webre is the artistic direct of The Washington Ballet. Septime, thank you for stopping by.

  • 12:58:23

    WEBREAlways a pleasure.

  • 12:58:24

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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