Based on Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre, San Francisco’s Word for Word is an innovative professional theater company that transforms short works of fiction into fully staged pieces of theater without changing a word of the original text. Spark follows the entire process as Word for Word develops and stages “The Fall River Axe Murders.”
Founded by JoAnne Winter and Susan Harloe, Word for Word made its official debut in 1993 with Edith Wharton’s “Xingu” at the Fort Mason Center’s Bayfront Theatre. Since then, Word for Word has become a permanent Z Space program, staging more than 60 pieces that include works by Tobias Wolfe, Barbara Kingsolver, Langston Hughes, Julia Alvarez and Upton Sinclair.
For their 10th anniversary, Word for Word has chosen author Angela Carter’s gothic deconstruction of the infamous Lizzie Borden murders, “The Fall River Axe Murders.” This special production includes all 10 charter members of Word for Word and is directed by Amy Freed, who directed the group’s first production and has since gone on to a successful career as both director and playwright (“The Beard of Avon”).
Dedicated to the written word, Word for Word will not edit the author’s original text — even pages of background descriptions and all the “he saids” and “she saids” get acted out on stage. So with each production, problematic sections arise and need to be imaginatively worked out. “The Fall River Axe Murders” is no exception with a nonlinear timeline and constantly shifting points of view, but these challenges are what make this theater company’s work genius.