By Caitlin Howle
While the story of Buddy Cianci, and the book The Prince of Providence are not new, the play is. This world premiere production is the result of a four-year-long process — a labor of love and dedication that has had our staff and our resident acting company beyond excited.
Associate Artistic Director Tyler Dobrowsky has been working on the project since its inception. “We first approached Mike Stanton, author of the book The Prince of Providence, back in December of 2015 to talk about acquiring the rights to his best-selling book. At the time the rights were still held by someone else, so we had to wait for them to expire before we could commission the play.”
So why The Prince of Providence? Everyone knows Buddy’s story in this state — why bring it to life on the stage? Tyler continues,
“I think a lot of what makes Trinity Rep great is our connection to Providence and to the people of Rhode Island. And Buddy is
truly the single most interesting, fascinating, and dynamic story in Rhode Island’s recent history. It’s practically Shakespearean in its scope. I think it’s our responsibility to tell these kinds of stories. That’s why theater exists, after all, to help chronicle the stories of our time. We’re not looking to glorify him, or to tear him down, but as Hamlet says, ‘…hold the mirror up to nature, show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.’”
After Trinity Rep decided to pursue the project, a few things had to happen. First and foremost, the film rights had to run out, which they did. They had been licensed shortly after the book had been published. After the meeting with Mike in 2015, and acquiring the rights to his book a few years later, Trinity Rep commissioned George Brant to write the play. George’s work was last seen on the Trinity Rep stage with his world-premiere Into the Breeches! in 2018, and he is a former local, having lived in Providence for eight years in the 2000s.
George was tasked with taking the original work and turning it into a theatrical event. When asked about the difference between writing Breeches and The Prince of Providence, he said: “When writing something original, there’s an awful lot of time spent finding a subject you feel strongly about and then dreaming up the story and the characters. In some ways it’s easier to work on an adaptation, as you already have the characters and plot worked out for you. That said, adapting nonfiction sources presents its own challenges. You have to figure out what the spine of your story will be and winnow down the events and characters that contribute that to that story.”
After the play was written, it was brought to a workshop at Trinity Rep in the summer of 2018 where actors from our resident acting company read through it, which allowed for George to hear it and then take time to revise his script. Tyler says of the reading, “After that first reading, the room was buzzing with excitement… it was a thrilling adaptation, and we knew we wanted to produce it immediately.”
In the spring of 2019 Trinity Rep announced that we would kick off the 2019-20 Season with the show. Director Taibi Magar was tapped to direct. Taibi is a 2014 graduate of the Brown/ Trinity Rep MFA program in directing who has gone on to considerable success. In addition to winning an Obie Award, she also directed Underground Railroad Game, which was named one of the 25 best plays since Angels in America by the New York Times. Here at Trinity Rep she directed last season’s The Song of Summer, as well as A Christmas Carol (2014) and The Hunchback of Seville (2016). She knows Trinity Rep’s acting company, has ties to Providence and Rhode Island (she makes Providence her home when she’s not travelling throughout the country for directing projects), and knows first-hand how special this story is to this community.