Just what were Adam and Eve like during the first days of creation? Surprisingly, or maybe not so, they may not have been too unlike men and women today. Adam is content, happily spending his days among the animals in the Garden of Eden. Eve talks — a lot, peppering Adam with questions and looking for ways to improve and change her surroundings.
At least that's how Mark Twain saw it. Penned separately, the diaries contain the American author and humorous observations on the human condition as presented through the innermost early thoughts of Adam and Eve.
Later expanded, revised and merged together by Twain, the diaries were eventually turned into a theater work. And this weekend, two veteran performers will bring the characters to the stage.
Fontaine Dubus, co-founder of the locally based Exit Dance Theatre and owner of The Dance Place in Newburyport, and TV and film actor Charlie Van Eman pair up to present a scripted reading of "The Diaries of Adam & Eve" at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport's Market Square. The two performances tomorrow and Saturday nights serve as a fundraiser for the Newburyport theater.
Dubus, of Newbury, said she and her husband, best-selling author Andre Dubus III, were approached a couple of years ago by the Firehouse to perform David Birney's adaptation of the "Diaries" as a Valentine's Day fundraiser for the arts center. But her husband's schedule just wouldn't allow it.
When the idea was floated again this year, with Van Eman available to play the first man, she agreed. Dubus said she first met Van Eman many years ago through local theater director and producer Marc Clopton when the actor was based in Los Angeles, and she has always respected his work. Her author-husband, however, will be making a special guest appearance.
Van Eman, who now lives in Middleton, has enjoyed roles in TV and film, including in "Drop Dead Diva," "Vampire Diaries," "One Tree Hill," "Prison Break," "CSI Miami," "All My Children" and the film "96 Minutes," which is due out next year.
"He's a very generous actor," Dubus said. "There's no ego. He's very, very open-minded."
Dubus said she was drawn to Twain's work because of its humor. That, she said, and the chance to play such a "juicy part."
Presented as a monologue, the script has Adam and Eve exchanging their diary entries separately, except for a couple of back-and-forth exchanges. The two characters possess a shared confusion, curiosity and naive wonder as they explore a world that men and women now take for granted.
Dubus said the writing plays off the miscommunication and misunderstandings that have plagued men and women since, apparently, day one.
"It's crazy funny," she said. "(Twain) really plays with being brand new and not knowing anything. There's a lot of jokes, a lot of funny things that happen, and then there are the parts that are really moving and sad."
Twain wrote Adam's diary first, in the late 1890s, and is believed to have followed with Eve's diary in the early 1900s after his own wife's death, as sort of an ode to her. Dubus said while she doesn't believe it was Twain's intention that they be turned into theater, the writing does lend itself to the stage.
"He was a funny, funny man and wrote a lot of humorous articles," she said, adding his wry humor carries over to "Diaries" in which he is balanced in his tossing around of male and female stereotypes.
In conjunction with the staged readings, Wenham artist George Wingate is displaying a collection of works in the Firehouse's upstairs gallery titled "Of a Time When Everything Worked: Adam & Eve." The pieces on panel in graphite and acrylic portray what Wingate imagines were Adam and Eve's unexpressed thoughts when they were first discovering the world.
Wingate says his pieces are a convergence of innocence and deep philosophical thought. A reception for his exhibit, which hangs for two days only, will take place Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.
While Van Eman has been visiting and working in Newburyport for 20 years, including presenting some of his plays in development here, this is his first appearance on the Firehouse stage.
Dubus, meanwhile, has performed at the Firehouse numerous times over the years, both as an actress as well as with her dance troupe. But the longtime dance educator says given the demands of work, family and home, she doesn't often have time to do a lot of theater.
"I love acting and really miss it," she said. "When I get these opportunities where I don't have to commit for three months or be on stage for three weeks, I jump at the chance."
IF YOU GO
What: Mark Twain's "The Diaries of Adam & Eve," a staged reading
When: Tomorrow and Saturday, 8 p.m. Reception follows Saturday's show.
Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport
How: Tickets $20. Proceeds support the Firehouse Center. Call 978-462-7336 or visit www.firehouse.org.