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Reporting on movies, film festivals, film production, premieres, movie events, industry trends and plays from around the world

The Global Film Village: Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia in Los Angeles

by Marla Lewin

The play “Arcadia” is set at the English estate of the Coverlys, a family of the nobility, and bounces back and forth between 1809 and the present day. Arcadia refers to the classical Greek state of mind which is pastorial and harmonius.  There is little of that actually in the play where both classic and present day characters look for love, relics, and recommendation and confirmation of their talents.

There is repeated mention of poet, playboy Lord Byron himself, though we never see him. He is a major character in this play. Byron's fame, his brilliant writing and his penchant for married women, are etched throughout these intermingling lives.  There is no difference in the time periods as we are all subject to the classic and basic desires of money, fame and lusty love.


The character of Thomasina Coverly is based on Lord Byron's daughter who created the calculator, though she never met her father. Byron died an early death, never knowing old age, and living boldly. He was ever ready to fight duels and obsessed with conquering women, men or parts of ancient Greece in the name of democracy.  There are pieces of all of these characters dancing out a mystery across time.  Why do so many die young? Are we all eternal? One man in the play is biten by a monkey and dies.

In 1809, the estate is undergoing landscape re-design, changing its look from Classical to Gothic. Lady Thomasina Coverly, the young daughter of the estate’s owners, has exceptional mathematical abilities, and   is being tutored by Septimus Hodge, notable as much for his active libido as well as his erudition. Hodge’s old school chum, Lord Byron is visiting. He leaves the Coverly estate and England suddenly under mysterious circumstances. Why? Complicating matters is the copious amount of inappropriate copulations and evidence of a duel over a ladies honor. There’s also a mad hermit who lives on the grounds for decades after, working out mysterious mathematical equations. Is he a spurned lover or an unhinged survivor of a past love affair gone wrong?

In the present day, the descendants of the original Coverlys occupy the estate and are likewise eccentric. Two literary scholars attempt to unravel the mysteries of what exactly occurred on the estate in 1809. Did Lord Byron commit murder? If not, then who was responsible for another poet’s death? Who was the mysterious hermit? In our own time as in 1809, sex will prove to be distractive to the mystery and other more scholarly pursuits.

“Arcadia” won the 1995 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play and the 1994 Olivier Award. Its playwright, Tom Stoppard, has won the Tony four times, for “The Coast of Utopia,” “Travesties,” “The Real Thing,” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”

Barbara Schofield directs the Sierra Madre Playhouse production. She directed last season’s well-received Sierra Madre production of “Proof,” and frequently works with Open Fist Theatre.

Gigi Bermingham (Ovation Award, L.A. Weekly Award, Garland Award, LADCC Natalie Schafer Award winner) and Benjamin Burdick (L.A. Weekly Award winner) portray the modern literary “detectives.” The cast also includes Phil Apoian, Kendra Chell, John Combs, Mark Cross, Alexandra Goodman, Aaron Michael Jackson, T.J. Marchbank, Paul Romero, Liam Swan and Felicia Tabrizi.

The Sierra Madre Playhouse has begun devoting part of its season to selected plays that provide more challenges to its audience and its artists, thereby attracting a higher caliber of performer. The Playhouse went professional when it became a signatory to union agreements some years ago. It’s begun the next phase of its development seeking to become one of the Southland‘s best places to see theatre. Don't miss Tom Stoppard's Arcadia which has been called one of the greatest plays of our decade and the direction and performances are top notch. 


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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.


Los Angeles

United States

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