For three days in February, the man sometimes called "the greatest living playwright" regaled Penn audiences with stories about peacocks, the use of fireworks in Shakespearean productions, and attempts to incorporate the music of the Rolling Stones into his plays.
The occasion was the 1995-96 Steinberg Symposium and the featured speaker was Tom Stoppard, author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Travesties, and The Real Thing.
But it was his play Arcadia that garnered Stoppard the spotlight at Penn.
Arcadia, last year's New York Drama Critics' Circle Award Winner for Best Play, was the text for the 1995-96 Penn Freshman Reading Project (see Winter '96 issue), and the centerpiece of SAS's Steinberg Symposium. The theme of the year-long symposium was "The Arcadia Project" and included events featuring Penn faculty and Broadway actors, as well as Stoppard.
The Steinberg Symposium - generously funded by Gayfryd and Saul (W'59) Steinberg and presented by SAS - brings writers, artists and scholars to campus for classes, readings, lectures and colloquia for students and the public. This was the first year that the Steinberg Symposium was organized around the Reading Project text.
The three-part symposium began with "The Arcadia Colloquium" on November first. Professor of English Stuart A. Curran; Professor of Mathematics Dennis DeTurck; Chair of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning John Dixon Hunt; and Professor of English Robert Lucid, director of the Steinberg Symposium, discussed from their perspectives the various themes of culture, science, mathematics, literature, history and landscape in Arcadia.
The second part of the symposium was "Arcadia Onstage" on November 28th. Billy Crudup and Jennifer Dundas, who played Septimus the tutor and Thomasina the pupil in the Lincoln Center production of Arcadia, gave an informal performance of selected scenes from the play. Before their performance, they met with theater arts classes, and afterward dined with students to talk about acting and Arcadia.
The symposium ended on a high note with Tom Stoppard, who was enthusiastically received by students, faculty and members of the public while on campus from February sixth through the eighth. He participated in classes on Shakespeare, 20th-century literature, and various aspects of theatre arts. In addition, he met with the Reading Project session leaders to talk about the student reactions to his play.
Stoppard also participated in three events open to the public. His lecture on "Stage Directions" drew over 600 audience members. He also joined panel discussions with SAS faculty and members of the local theater community on "The Landscape of Late Modernism" and "The Theater of Ideas." The symposium concluded with a selection of students and theater professionals dining with Stoppard and attending his play The Real Thing at the Arden Theatre Company in Olde City Philadelphia.