“Fingersmith” finds new life on the stage

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Author Sarah Waters writes sweeping historical fiction, often with queer characters right at the heart of the story. Her 2002 epic romance/mystery novel, Fingersmith, is one of her most popular, and has even received the mini-series treatment by the BBC. There is certainly something about Waters’s novels that lend themselves to a more visual format (Tipping the Velvet, The Night Watch and Affinity were also adapted for the screen) so it was no surprise that a stage adaptation of Fingersmith would be in the cards. The famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival (arguably one of the finest repertory playhouses in the country) is currently bringing Sue Trinder, Maude Lilly and their star crossed love affair to their audiences this season. Alexa Junge, an Emmy-nominated screenwriter and playwright, adapted the novel for the stage.

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According to Director Bill Rauch, “Sarah (Waters) and her agents were surprised that an American theatre, on the West Coast of the United States, in rural Southern Oregon, would want to adapt a British novel. But I’ll tell you, when I read the book, I became as passionate an advocate as Alexa, the playwright, for theatricalizing the story.”

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This production, which opened on February 21st and runs through July, is the world premiere of the stage production. Whittling down a nearly 600 page novel into a three-hour play is no easy feat, but Fingersmith is already getting rave reviews.  Accomplished stage actresses Sarah Bruner (Sue) and Erica Sullivan (Maud) breathe life into Waters’ fascinating characters, making Fingersmith one of the company’s must-see productions this year.

Fingersmith is playing now through July 9th in the Angus Bowmer Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

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