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About The Production
Ever since Shakespeare's observation that "all the world's a stage," the theater has provided writers and artists an irresistible metaphor of the human condition

Ever since Shakespeare's observation that "all the world's a stage," the theater has provided writers and artists an irresistible metaphor of the human condition. In ILLUMINATA, director/writer/actor John Turturro explores the classic theme with a surprisingly contemporary love story set in turn-of-the-century New York.

"It's a slender curtain between theater and life," observes the tempestuous diva Celimene (Susan Sarandon), one of the many colorful characters around whom the story of ILLUMINATA swirls. Appropriately enough, ILLUMINATA began as a theater piece, inspired by co-screenwriter Brandon Cole's experience working on the play which eventually became MAC, Turturro's directorial debut and winner of the Camera d'Or prize at Cannes. "I knew there was something about an acting company worth looking into," says Cole, and that was the beginning of a play called 'Imperfect Love,' subsequently re-titled 'Illuminata."' Turturro was immediately attracted to Cole's script, which combined a romantic love story with the structural elements of a classical farce.

In ILLUMINATA, Turturro explores how one co-exists in a relationship that is both public and private and encompasses love and work. "It's a story I know something about," says Turturro, who worked extensively on stage before embarking on a film career. "It's the world I love; it's something that is obviously close to myself, my co-writer Brandon Cole, my designer Donna Zakowska and just about everyone else involved in this particular project. Much of the film is drawn from personal experiences, past and present. If one person becomes famous and the other person goes unnoticed (and not for lack of talent, let's say), what does that do to a relationship, a friendship? I wanted to take the themes of the play and some of its dialogue that we could reapply and turn it into pure cinema. For me, Katherine's (Borowitz) face and sensibility, delicate but strong, intelligent and graceful, and her modesty were the inspiration, the soul of the piece. I tried to build everything around her," continues Turturro.

"I looked at "Rules of the Game"- Jean Renior's masterpiece, read the script of it and was struck by the fact that he was inspired by Georges Feydeau's farces and then took that structure to explore serious themes. This and the intensity of Michael Powell's "The Red Shoes" were the starting points for inspiration for me. If you can entertain someone, make them even laugh perhaps, (and that's a big if) then they, the audience, are open to traveling to new places, new emotions. The world of the theater allows you instant metaphor. Of course, I knew it was all very ambitious but it was a force that took me away and never let go. And we invented a whole new cast of characters to come along with us. We laid out a structure, that I continued to revise after many readings."

"We set it at the turn of the century because it was a time here in America and all over the world when the stage was the dominant form of entertainment... when the theatre was as popular as cinema today." In 1905, New York was teeming with live theatre, including serious drama, musicals, vaudeville, and burlesque. "It's a story that is universal, that could be placed anywhere, that is as modern as it is historical. One that celebrates life in all its forms. And this is what interested me in trying to do it."



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