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As a fifth-grader, Aaron Posner was quite the romantic.
He wrote love poems and letters for a friend of his to a girl. The tricky part was, he actually had a crush on the girl himself.
Years later, Posner read “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the classic play by Edmond Rostand in which the protagonist woos the girl of his dreams through a friend.
“Hey, I did that!” he thought.
Posner will have a chance to relive his childhood love triangle as he brings to life his adaptation of “Cyrano,” which opens Tuesday at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Roll Call sat down with Posner to talk about his vision for the production — and what his 10-year-old self would say about it.
Why did you want to direct this play?
I’ve just always loved its passion. There are only a handful of roles that are truly the great roles. To be somebody so passionate and so funny and so flawed all at the same time, and to have that as the center of the story, I think is just so fabulous. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
How did this idea end up coming to the Folger?
I’ve always had this idea that at the center of the play, the core of the story is this triangle of Cyrano, Roxane and Christian. For 20 years, I’ve wanted to do it with a smaller cast, more like a chamber production that still carries the full scope of the story and is done more intimately.
So a few years ago, I thought about it again, and I thought the Folger would be a perfect setting for that. I brought in my friend Michael Hollinger, who is fluent in French and a wonderful playwright, knowing that if we were going to do a smaller cast version, I didn’t want to just cut out people. I wanted to rethink this wonderful play and how to make it not less, but more, by making it more compact. When you make something more compact, it can become stronger, it can become more solid, and hopefully better. That’s been the goal.
How would you describe Cyrano to someone who isn’t familiar with the plot?
It’s a passionate love story. Cyrano is witty, brilliant, passionate and wildly flawed. You can’t help but think of Bill Clinton at times. Great people tend to have great flaws. We are continually engaged by those who are struggling for greatness but who also get their knees knocked out from under them from time to time.
Cyrano’s got this nose. Most of us do have some element, some part of our personality or physicality or psychological makeup that seems debilitating and impossible to overcome. Watching this extraordinary person struggle with this wound, this burden, is a lot of what the piece is about.
What would the fifth-grade version of you think of your version of the play?
I certainly hope that I’m creating a production that that 10-year-old would love. I hope it would be inspiring to him.
I would love to think that if we get everything right, any 10-year-old seeing this production can find in it a desire to step up, a desire to step in, a desire to step forward, a willingness to throw off fears and obstacles and go further into life. That’s what I would like this to be able to do. To inspire anyone to go further into life.
“Cyrano” opens Tuesday at the Folger Shakespeare Library and runs through June 5. Tickets are available at folger.edu.