The Year of Magical Thinking: Circa
The Year of Magical Thinking
By JOAN DIDION
Directed by SUSAN WILSON
Starring: CATHERINE DOWNES
NZ première opens CIRCA TWO - Saturday 11th August 7.30pm
“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”
Wise and profoundly moving, The Year of Magical Thinking is an eloquent, touching journey from contentment, into the underworld of grief, and back.
“This happened on December 30, 2003. That may seem a while ago but it won’t when it happens to you …”
Adapted by Joan Didion herself from her award-winning, best-selling memoir, it is a story of ‘the year spent wishing’ following the sudden and unexpected loss of her beloved husband, John Gregory Dunne, and their only daughter, Quintana. The Year of Magical Thinking speaks beautifully and heart-rendingly of the power love has to give life meaning.
Joan Didion is one of
America’s iconic writers, and her memoir, The Year of
Magical Thinking on which the play is based, is a
stunning book of electric honesty and passion that explores
an intense, personal, yet universal experience. A spare,
lucid, and remarkably moving examination of the year
following her husband’s sudden death just before their
fortieth anniversary, it is the story of Didion’s search
for answers, for relief, and above all for the chance to
change the course of events. Filled with often surprising
insights and more than a dash of humor, it is one of the
most critically acclaimed books of the
For Didion, recasting The Year of Magical Thinking into a play offered a deeper knowledge of what happened to her. "For me, it's part of the process of understanding anything," she says. "Because until I have gotten it outside of myself, I don't understand it."
Didion says that everything in the book was
"reimagined" for the play. "You didn't start with the book,"
she says. "You started with the experiences that had led to
the book and then you recast them from a considerably
Much had changed in the nearly two years since the book was written. Didion's daughter died shortly after she finished writing the book.
"But also I had had a slightly larger perspective than I had had when I was writing the book," Didion says. "When I was writing the book, I did not know whether or not I would survive. When I was writing the play, I knew that I had survived."
"A masterpiece of perception … utterly compelling" - Sunday Times
heartbreaking and wry … the emotions are so genuine we
can’t help but be affected.” -
“Didion has a peerless ear for the music of words in motion” - NY Times
“An indelible portrait of grief and loss … a haunting portrait of a four-decade long marriage.” - NY Times
“Will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband, wife or child” - Economist
and true” -
A play of this extraordinary power, perception and emotional depth requires a very special actress - and we are very fortunate to be starring the wonderful CATHERINE DOWNES:
Catherine says: “When Susan Wilson
invited me to play this role I felt privileged and excitied,
but also hugely challenged and a bit daunted.
How to approach this immense journey, this powerful and intricate weaving of the threads of grief so acutely observed by Joan Didion during her Year of Magical Thinking.
The writing is a kind of subjective journalism - a merciless self-analysis, which is simultaneously richly poetic.
So what is my job here as the actor?
I’m thinking that it is to engage the audience, simply and directly, and to guide us all – myself included – through this deeply personal yet universal journey, using Didion’s blazing torch of a script to brilliantly illuminate the way our mind operates, and where it takes us as we discover “hard, sweet wisdom” through grief.”
THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING
By JOAN DIDION
Directed by SUSAN WILSON
Starring - CATHERINE DOWNES
Set Design: PENNY ANGRICK; Lighting Design: MARCUS MCSHANE; Music Composition: GARETH HOBBS.
11th August – 8 September
1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
$25 SPECIALS - Friday 10th August – 7.30pm; Sunday 12th August – 4.30pm;
AFTER SHOW FORUM – Tuesday 14th August
Tuesday to Saturday - 7.30pm
Sunday – 4.30pm
Ticket Prices: Adults - $46; Concessions - $38; Friends of Circa - $33
Under 25s - $25; Groups 6+ - $39
Theatre 1 Taranaki Street,
Phone 801 7992 www.circa.co.nz
YEAR OF MAGICAL
JOAN DIDION Playwright
Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York. She is the author of five novels and several previous books of non-fiction including: Where I Was From, Political Fictions, The Last Thing He Wanted, After Henry, Miami, Democracy, Salvador, The White Album, A Book of Common Prayer, Play It As It Lays, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, and Run River. Her latest book, Blue Nights, was published in 2011.
She was awarded the National Book Award for Non-Fiction 2005 for The Year of Magical Thinking. In 2007 she received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the Evelyn F Burkey Award from the Writers Guild of America. She has also been awarded two honorary Doctor of Letters degrees – from Harvard in 2009, and Yale in 2011.
The Year of Magical Thinking – the play was first performed on Broadway in March 2007, directed by David Hare and starring Vanessa Redgrave, This production was also performed at The National Theatre in London 2008.
CATHERINE DOWNES Actor
Catherine Downes is one of New Zealand’s finest theatrical talents, working in theatre, film and Television for four decades on both sides of the Tasman as an actress, director and playwright.
Catherine graduated from the Queen Elizabeth II Drama School (now Toi Whakaari) after completing a B.A. in English, Politics and Drama at Victoria University.
For the next three years she worked at the Court, Circa, Downstage and TV then travelled to Europe and established two theatre companies - in Amsterdam and in London, and developed her acclaimed one-woman play, The Case Of Katherine Mansfield, of which she has since played approximately 1000 performances, in six countries, over the last twenty years, winning awards in Britain, NZ and Australia.
In Australia, Catherine became a member of the Nimrod Actors Company in Sydney, where she worked for several years, before returning to NZ.
Recent stage performances include Lady Windermere’s Fan, Vincent in Brixton, The Cherry Orchard, Joyful and Triumphant, Calendar Girls, Collapsing Creation, Four Flat Whites In Italy and A Shortcut to Happiness. Her directing credits include work throughout NZ, International tours, in Australia and for TVNZ. Circa productions include WIT, Speaking in Tongues, The Book Club, Les Parents Terribles, Closer and The Sisters Rosensweig.
From 2006 – 2008 Catherine was Director of Downstage Theatre in Wellington, and prior to this was Artistic Director of The Court Theatre from 2000-2005.
Catherine has won many awards including Best Production and/or Director for Closer, Purapurawhetu, Tzigane, Good Works and Three Tall Women. She was hailed in National Radio’s Millennium‘ Golden Kiwi’ series, and in 1998 was appointed a Member Of The NZ Order Of Merit for her services to the Arts.
SUSAN WILSON Director
Susan is known throughout New Zealand for her work as both an actor and a director. She received the ONZM for her Services to Theatre in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2002. In 1981 she won the Feltex Best Actress award for her role as Beryl in the television series Gliding On a role she continued in the sequel TV series - Market Forces.
Susan is a co-founder of Circa Theatre and a current member of the Circa Council. She has directed over 50 productions including the late Robert Lord’s Bert & Maisy, China Wars, Glorious Ruins, and Joyful & Triumphant, the production which gained her the Director of the Year Award at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in 1992. Susan also directed its return season at the State Opera House, its subsequent national tour and the tours to Sydney, Adelaide, and London.
She again received the Director of the Year Award in 1994 for her production of Angels in America, which opened the new Circa on the Waterfront venue. Other plays which she has directed include Dylan Thomas: Nogood Boyo (Wellington & Sydney), Arcadia (Winner of the Circa production of the Year 1995), Travesties, Rutherford (NZ Festival 2000) The Seagull, The Face Maker (NZ Festival 2002), The Cherry Orchard, Death of a Salesman (winner of Director of the Year 2006 at the Chapman Tripp Awards), Uncle Vanya, seven Roger Hall pantomimes, Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Clean House, Where Are You My Only One?, Ninety, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Circa’s 35th Birthday production, August: Osage County, When the Rain Stops Fallin, and All My Sons.