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Fact vs. Fiction

 By A. Nora Long, Associate Artistic Director 

“There are many inaccuracies in Schindler’s biography.”

 Gertie, played by the divine Maureen Keiller tells us this in the second act of 33 Variations. This is true. When Beethoven tells us that Schubert was arrested, this is also true….sort of. Much of 33 Variations is rooted in the thorough and thoughtful research of its author, Moisés Kaufman, but this is not a docu-drama. Kaufman strives to use the variation form in music as a dramatic structural device, on which he imagines the lives of characters from history and of his own invention.

In my research for the production, I often struggled to seek out the line between fiction and fact, but even the real-life details are shrouded in doubt. Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s unpaid private secretary, is often much maligned by contemporary historians for his many fictions, and the destruction and manipulation of many of Beethoven’s original papers. However, time and again, we see those people closest to the great men and women of the past deliberately obscuring pieces of their lives, and thereby constructing the identities of famous personalities we know.

James Andreassi, our Beethoven doppelganger, sent along this article from The New York Timesthat explores this very complicated notion. What are we allowed to know about our artists? What, if anything, should be private? If someone submits a piece of themselves to the public, does that mean they should expect to leave their whole lives open to scrutiny? To paraphrase Elizabeth Bishop, is art really worth that much?

What do you think?

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