Northern Illinois University

School of Theatre and Dance

Bartleby the Scrivener

from the short story by Herman Melville

adapted by Alexander Gelman

Bartleby the Scrivener, based on the eponymous short story by Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, tells the story of a strangely apathetic clerk, or scrivener, whose boss cannot seem to make him work. Although when first hired, Bartleby works efficiently, he soon inexplicably begins refusing to do tasks. Instead, he simply responds, “I would prefer not to.”

The play is set in Wall Street in the 1850s. The narrator of the story is a successful lawyer who runs his own business assisting the wealthy with mortgages, deeds and bonds. It was he who hired Bartleby and who now finds himself in a very difficult position. Under pressure to continue the success of his company and with the contentment of his other employees running thin, the narrator struggles to get rid of Bartleby—to the point of moving his entire business in order to leave Bartleby behind.

In this production, the boss is played by three actors, two of whom are clowns, the multiplicity of actors showing his inner conflict as he questions why Bartleby will not work and why he himself cannot force him to. The story was adapted for the stage in 2007 by Alexander Gelman and Organic Theatre Company in Chicago.

Sept 27 - October 30, 4-7

O'Connell Theatre

Production Ended