What is the value of a soul? The first recorded legend of Faust dates back to the 16th century and has been told over and over and reinterpreted ever since. This year, five theater companies in St. Louis take on the story in unique ways during the FAUSTival, a four month long celebration of Faust. It is a character “that writers can’t give up on,” according to Lucy Cashion, Artistic Director of Equally Represented Arts (ERA). The character of Faust is an intellectual and a scholar who decides to make a deal with the devil to achieve his ambitions. Mephistopheles grants his wish and they work together to fulfill his every desire, only to have corruption spread across everything they touch.
In ERA’s interpretation of the myth, Goethe’s version gets a modern update where God is the CEO of a bank and pay day loans factor into the seduction of Margaret, Faust’s love interest. In “Faust: Go Down with All the Rest,” they create an immersive experience, teaming up with the band Kid Scientist and performing throughout the concert venue, Foam, while live video feeds keep the audience aware of all the action. Cashion describes it as a “Capitalist tragedy” in the form of a rock-opera that focuses on “the bargain, the commodity, the exchange and wealth part of the myth.”
According to Ellie Schwetye, the mutual interest between ERA and SATE in producing plays based on the Faust legend originally led to the concept. Schwetye is the driving force behind the FAUSTival and the Managing Director and co-Producer of Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble (SATE). “I knew that Midnight Company had done a play based on the Faust myth in the past,” Schwetye explained, so she reached out to them next, with Theatre Nuevo and the Post-Romantics joining onto the project as well. The joint effort serves as both an opportunity for cross-promotion and also a creative challenge for the theater companies. “I love being apart of anything that shares the creative wealth,” Cashion said.
In “AN APOLOGY For The Course And Outcome Of Certain Events Delivered By DOCTOR JOHN FAUSTUS On This His Final Evening and THE HUNCHBACK VARIATIONS” performed by The Midnight Company, Dr. John Faustus gives the audience his side of the story. The third play, “whither should I fly,” explores “prescriptive women’s behavior through witchcraft and multi level marketing,” according to Gabe Taylor, Associate Artistic Director of Theatre Nuevo. SATE’s “Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus By John Wolbers … and Kit Marlowe” makes Faust a woman in a script based off of Christopher Marlowe’s version. Rounding out the set, the Post-Romantics’s “Doomsday Faust” brings in modern politics and delves into the question of what makes a person sell their soul in the pursuit of unlimited power.
The FAUSTival runs from August through December, 2018. For more information, go to www.faustival.org.