All-Star Cast to Bring Copland/Hemingway Work to Life for Benefit Concert



Poster for Nick Adams

Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Morgan Freeman, Brian Dennehy, Robert DeNiro, Alec Baldwin, Joanne Woodward, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and James Naughton will join creative forces for a benefit presentation reviving The World of Nick Adams, a forgotten 1957 work featuring incidental music by Aaron Copland. The November 19th performance at Lincoln Center‘s Avery Fisher Hall benefits the Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, retreats for many thousands of children stricken with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Last performed in 1957, this will be a staged concert version of the work dramatized by A. E. Hotchner based on the famed short stories of Ernest Hemingway and featuring incidental music by Aaron Copland. It was originally produced by the legendary John Houseman for a live broadcast on CBS television. Specifically for this event, Hotchner has reworked his original dramatization into a concert presentation.

Kevin Duncan will produce the event, and Frank Corsaro will direct the star-studded cast. On stage, National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin is set to conduct the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. The Copland House is the creative consultant, with House Artistic Director Michael Boriskin serving as the event’s music advisor.

The production’s storyline is drawn from the experiences of Nick Adams, the semi-autobiographical protagonist of more than 30 Hemingway stories. Copland’s score for chamber orchestra echoes the spare lyricism and grandeur of his film scores and incidental music of the 1930s and 1940s.

Though the work is not well known, the reputations of those involved will more than catch the public’s attention. The event’s Music Advisor Michael Boriskin points out that “a fundraiser like this makes a lot of sense clearly when there are so many celebrated figures involved starting from two American cultural icons like Hemingway and Copland. I think the novelty of it for one is very attractive. This was an interesting instance where two celebrated American creative figures crossed paths through their work.”

Boriskin said he was approached by Hotchner just last spring about the possibility of staging the work. “He wanted to talk about how it would be possible to retrieve the Copland and had asked for musical guidance about the whole project.” The score, housed in the Copland Collection at the Library of Congress, was easily retrieved and in very good shape, “so it was just the usual process of preparing to have the score computerized and then have parts extracted,” Boriskin explains. But on the other hand, “getting everybody together and putting all the elements together has been a huge undertaking.”

According to Boriskin, considerable credit for the success of the project so far goes “to the absolutely crucial contribution of the event’s producer, Kevin Duncan. While this has been an extraordinary team effort, Kevin, who has previously produced several Hole in the Wall Gang Camp events, has really been the key player in coordinating everything and pulling together all of the many elements involved in a remarkably short period of time.”

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camps were first founded by Paul Newman in 1988. These non-profit residential camps are located in Connecticut, New York, Florida, Ireland, and France, with new camps in formation in California, North Carolina, and Israel attended by children from the various countries in the region. All children in all camps are enrolled free of charge. The mission of the camps is to offer camaraderie, joy, and a renewed sense of being a kid to seriously ill children.

Tickets for the benefit concert range in price from $75 to $2,500. The cast and Slatkin have donated their performance fees.