I love telling stories. In dance, as in music, they offer an opportunity to examine characters and situations from a new perspective, to move beyond the “he said, she said,” and look under the hood, as it were.
In Edna Ferber’s The Afternoon of a Faun we follow a young and enigmatic car mechanic as he wanders Chicago on an afternoon off from his work at the Ideal Garage. As a lover of poetry, mythology, music, and dance, the story immediately struck me—in the course of twenty-one pages she takes a beloved (and perhaps well-worn) subject and imagines it anew with fantastic visuals, sounds and textures. Ferber was inspired to write the story in 1921 after going to the symphony:
Just why the story of a garage mechanic on his afternoon off should have appeared in so many short-story anthologies in the past twenty-five years is a baffling question. William Allen White and I were strolling along Fifty-seventh Street one brilliant New York spring afternoon. We had just heard the New York Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall play The Afternoon of a Faun.
“Might make a nice story,” I said, still under the spell of the sensuous music. “tough young kid with his girl in the park on a hot summer afternoon.”
“Write it,” said Bill.
So I did.
Stephen Mallarmé’s 1877 poem, L'Après-midi d'un faune, inspired Debussy to compose a bucolic environment filled with streams, sun, and sky. What does Ferber’s Cityscape sound like? For this project, I am looking for a partner and collaborator who can help bring Ferber’s story to life on stage. The final composition and ballet need not follow the story’s action scene by scene, nor linearly, could be placed in a later time-period if preferred, and could be influenced by a myriad of sources and inspirations.
I have provided Edna Ferber’s 1921 short story as well as a collection of writing, music and dance from throughout history that is related to the story.
In addition, I have provided The Dancing Girls, another short story by Ferber published in 1920. It shares similar motifs and themes, but places much of the narrative in dance halls (mentioned in passing in “Faun”) before and during WWI.
- The Pan and Syrinx tale from Ovid’s Metamorphosis
- L'Après-midi d'un faune, Stéphane Mallarmé’s 1877 poem in original French and English translation
Download #1 Download #2
- Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Claude Debussy’s 1894 symphonic poem in both sheet music and recording
- L'Après-midi d'un faune, Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1912 ballet
- L'Après-midi d'un faune, William Faulkner’s 1919 poem
- Afternoon of a Faun (excerpt), Jerome Robbins’ 1953 ballet
Music referenced in Ferber’s The Afternoon of a Faun:
- There's a Long, Long Trail a Winding, Stoddard King and Alonzo "Zo" Elliott’s 1913 song
Watch #1 Watch #2
- My Mammy, Walter Donaldson, Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis’ 1918 song
- Gimme Love, unfound, possibly fictional—contains jazz measures stolen from Mendelssohn’s Spring Song
- Songs Without Words, Book 5, Op. 62, No. 6, Allegretto grazioso: Frühlingslied ("Spring Song") (A major) 1842-44, Felix Mendelssohn
- Tommy Toddle, unfound (possibly fictional)