On a barge in Red Hook, Brooklyn, dockers chant against corrupt union bosses. “We are attacking this ship!” shouts the group leader. An old barrel sits at the edge of the exposed stage, swinging at the feet of the actors.
This is a scene from Brave New World Repertory Theater’s first American production of Arthur Miller’s script, The Hook. The show, which opens at the Waterfront Museum on Friday, follows 1950s coast worker Marty as he battles corruption in the unions that govern Red Hook’s waterfront. Miller based the script on the life of Pete Punt, a local docker who was murdered more than 80 years ago, presumably for standing up to dock officials.
This time, the show returns to the region where it was set, and is performed on board a ship at anchor, straight from the days of the punt.
“The location does 50% of what we do,” said Claire Beckman, the show’s director and artistic director of Brave New World, which specializes in site-specific productions.
“The Hook” was not made for decades. In the 1950s, Miller teamed up with Elia Kazan to pitch the film to Hollywood, but studio executives demanded that the union leaders be communists, so Miller canceled the project. He reused his research to write a play, View from the Bridge, and Kazan revisited the theme to create On the Waterfront, both of which were critically acclaimed. rice field.
It wasn’t until British stage designer Patrick Connellan read about the script in Miller’s autobiography that it was revived. Connellan approached theater director James Daker and playwright Ron Hutchinson, who had previously collaborated on the production, for the premiere. at the Royal & Durngate Theatre, UK, 2015.
Three years later, Connellan visited New York and stopped in Red Hook to explore the roots of the story. He wandered onto a barge at the Waterfront Museum and struck up a conversation with the barge’s owner, telling him about the script.
“I said, why don’t we do ‘The Hook’ here and take it home?” Connellan said.
The ship’s owner, David Sharps, was thrilled. With its close ties to the neighborhood’s history, ‘The Hook’ seemed particularly well suited to the space. The barge also retains fixtures from Punt’s time. A patina outfitting block hangs from the ceiling. Centennial bells clatter as the barge rocks.
Sharps joined Hutchinson and Brave New World, who had previously performed “View from the Bridge” and “On the Waterfront” on the barge, for a reading of “The Hook” in 2019. asked for cooperation. Currently, the full-length performance is delayed due to the influence of the new coronavirus, but we will breathe life into the story. In an early scene, dockers use barge slings to carry crates onto the stage. The character uses his one of the barge hatches for convincing stunts.
Actors sometimes have to contend with the reality of performing on water. “The boat sways a little, so every afternoon someone has to hold my hand,” Hutchinson said. “It just gives the actors a sense that everything was dangerous in Red Hook.”
In the new rendition, Hutchinson and Beckman made significant changes to their 2015 play. They cut characters, rearranged scenes, and formed new endings. The final script is streamlined and runs in about 1 hour and 20 minutes without breaks.
Despite the rework, “The Hook” aims to maintain Miller’s cinematic vision using music, historical photography projections and noir lighting. “It was originally conceived as a screenplay, not a theatrical piece, so we wanted to incorporate as many cinematic elements as possible,” Beckman said.
Her approach helps the play address some of Burge’s directing challenges. To avoid the wooden beam that bisects the stage, the play can be produced by switching scenes on either side of the beam, stitching together short bursts of action like a movie. And to make up for the small cast, the actors often refer to the 90 spectators seated on three sides of the stage as fellow union members.
Paul Bomba, who plays Marty, said, “It’s more like getting them over the fourth wall than breaking the fourth wall.”
Rehearsing and performing on the barge helped Bomba put themselves in the shoes of a 1950s coast worker. “Just being in that environment tells you how you move, how you walk, how you need to keep your balance,” he said. “All those physical factors lead to characterization.”
Beckman hopes the immersive production will draw audiences into Red Hook’s history and spread the story of Pete Punt’s fight against union greed. First, she said, she wanted to honor Punt’s memory.
“I don’t think the punt has gotten what it deserves yet,” Beckman said. “I wanted to make an homage to Punt because I know that was Miller’s intention.”