Discusses her Direction of  “FAUSTUS”

Exclusive Interview by Iride Aparicio

Pictures Courtesy: San Jose Rep


SAN JOSE, CA  –  Directed by renown Director KIRSTEN BRANDT, from May 9 to June 2nd San José Rep will present The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” a world’s premiere adaptation  of  CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE's drama The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus that was first published in 1604, eleven years after MARLOWE’s death.

His tragedy, about a man by the name of Faustus (“favorite” in Latin) selling his soul to the devil in exchange of power and  knowledge, was so disturbing to many, that when it was first presented, raised more controversy that any other Elizabethan  play.

To learn more about this new production,  CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL  interviewed San José Rep’s Director/Associate Director KIRSTEN BRANDT who will direct the adaptation.

CWB: Let’s talk about Dr. FAUSTUS.

K.B.: Dr. Faustus for me is a play about a common man. Most tragedies are about kings and princes, Faustus is a play about a regular person who is intriguing to me. The play is about the choices this person makes, and unfortunately, he makes a couple of poor choices which is the reason why his life is a tragedy.”

“I find Faustus interesting because people are obsessed with the idea of “what do you sell your soul for?” Faustus wants knowledge, he wants to learn more, which is commendable, but the people just wanted him to perform his little magic tricks because the idea of intellect and trying to grow is not impressed in the world he (Faustus)  lives in, so he is reduced to becoming a court magician, until coming to his end when he suddenly realizes “I had 24 years to make a difference and I got sidetracked.” I think that is the real tragedy of the play. “

“I think it is really fascinating that each act in this play is a journey, and that Marlowe has Faustus visiting an Emperor and then a Duke and then people with different varieties of class, including the Pope, and that in each instance he (Faustus) sees the hypocrisy of those people.”

Since the play has two versions which are called the “A text” (written in 1604) and the “B text” (written in 1626) and the “B text” is  longer, we ask the Director which of the two versions she is going to direct.

K.B: “Most scholars love the “A text”, and most theatre people love the “B text” because it is longer, but it gets really convoluted. What I did is that I took the “B text” compared it with the “A text” and cut it way down, using all the glorious morsels of the “A text” and using lots of multimedia to help the audience fill in the blanks (in the B text”).  By tearing it apart and putting it back, the play now moves quickly and the audience is getting the benefit of the “A text and the “B text.”

C.W.B.  Are you going to show the comic scenes?

K.B. “I am doing this play with four actors, one man and three women playing everybody else. (In his Faustus) Marlowe wanted an expectable with lots of crazy stage directions, but because I only have four people I thought that two of the clowns should be “shadow puppets.” They work with the live actors and are voiced by the actors and I am trying to tie these puppets in the story as puppets. This show is really a high Tech show and we use many high tech devices. It has a Wagnerian effect; the synthesis of what the actors are doing and what the set designer and the costume designer and the lights and video designers are doing and how they have to coexist together.”

“Marlowe’s tragedy is actually a short play but it hard for the audience to follow, so we streamed the effects of Marlowe being erudite. Many productions cut the clowns completely, but I think that they are terrible important to the story of who Faustus is, because they are the social commentary of the play, so I kept them in.”

C.W.B. Are you keeping the dialogue of the play  in blank verse and   prose?

K.B.: “Yes, and my actors are humbled by the text.  It is very difficult, but they are navigating it beautifully with the brake from poetry to prose some times happening  in mid scene. An actor may be speaking in poetry and in the next line he may be speaking in prose. So we have really looked at the text in that manner, in what is the purpose of starting a line one way, and ending it up in a completely different way.”

C.W.B. What can you tells us about Mephistopheles in your version?
K.B.: “He is being played by a woman who is a fantastic actress, and the first time Faustus sees her he calls her Mephistopheles dragon because she comes as a dragon. Mephistopheles in this play  is sexy and powerful and we are playing the “animal” in her, and Faustus  knows that at any moment she can rip him apart. But their  relation is a beautiful one. He (Faustus) only answers to her questions, and she finds him incredible fascinating. There is no romance among them, but they have a bond with each other, so when she has to do “her job” and they separate, it is very moving.”

C.W.B. Will you include the Soliloquies?

K.B.: Yes, the only place I could not cut lines was in  the Soliloquies. They are gorgeous. One cannot do this play without honoring them.
C.W.B. How about Gretchen?
K.B. Here we call her Marguerite and in our show she is a visual. Marguerite is not in the Marlowe’s play.  There is no love interest for Faustus in the Marlowe play, so we simply woven her in with a shadow play and in short vignettes.

C.W.B. Was it hard for you to direct this play?
“Yes. This is probably one of the hardest plays I have ever directed, and I have done a lot of Shakespeare, but to work with four actors who have to switch to play at least ten people each, made it hard. To get all these elements of the play in line, will be my big challenge this week.  I am still working in getting all these elements together harmoniously, without interrupting each other. This is the first time I have directed Marlowe. It is incredible difficult and I have been humbled by him, but it was a worthy adventure.



As Director, KIRSTEN BRANDT  is the recipient of numerous KPBS awards,  a Backstage West Garland Awards and two San Diego Theatre Critics Circle awards. She is a faculty member in the Theatre Arts and Digital Arts News Media Departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As a well-known Director in California, she has directed many plays for S.J. Rep  and other companies.