Marlboro College

NewsPress Release: 3/4/02Marlboro College Hosts a Theater Adaptation of "The Sea Wall"

MARLBORO, VT - Theater director/producer Ellen Seeling and her company from Bates College will present an adaptation of "The Sea Wall," a novel by Marguerite Duras, at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14, in the Whittemore Theater of Marlboro College. The production combines live actors with various styles of puppetry.

Seeling, assistant professor of theater at Bates, wrote this adaptation of the novel, which is set in colonial Indochina and is "full of metaphorical images that translate well to puppetry," she says.

The protagonist is a French widow depicted by a bunraku-style puppet -- a life-size figure directly manipulated by two people. The power of puppetry, according to Seeling, is that the audience quickly stops noticing that it is the puppeteers, not the puppet, who are acting. "It makes it magical that way," she says.

The puppeteers responsible for operating the widow are sophomores Saida Cooper, of St. Albans, Maine, and Mark Gaworecki, of Essex Junction, Vermont.

Other puppetry techniques represented in the production include shadow puppets and hand puppets, which will be used to simulate a movie being shown. At the other extreme, 10 puppeteers will manipulate a 14-foot puppet. At some points in the action, Seeling says, nearly all 14 cast members are operating puppets.

Published in France in 1950 as "Un Barrage contre le Pacifique," the novel is said to be substantially based on Duras' own experiences growing up in Indochina, where she was born to French parents. It tells the story of a widow who invests her savings in a worthless tract of land and stubbornly fights against poverty and the fading attachments of her children ‹ a fight symbolized by the sea wall erected in vain to keep the flood tides of the Pacific from destroying her family's rice paddies each year.

The novel was Duras' third. She went on to write 40 novels in all and several plays, and also wrote and directed films. Her best-known works are the 1984 novel, "The Lover," and the screenplay for the 1959 film, "Hiroshima Mon Amour."

Seeling explains that Duras herself wrote a version of "The Sea Wall" for the stage, titled "The Eden Cinema." "It was an honor," Seeling says, to obtain the rights from the Duras estate to adapt the novel.

Admission is free, and Whittemore Theater is fully accessible. For more information, please call (802) 257-4333 or visit the college online at

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