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Great Expectations

Sep 14 – Nov 9
Gilliam Stage at Barter Theatre

Adapted by Catherine Bush

From the original book by Charles Dickens

In a humorous and moving adaptation of Dickens’ tale, Barter’s Playwright-in-Residence Catherine Bush amazes audiences as the story comes bursting to life in a stylized and fast-paced world that is sure to leave you gasping for breath and on your feet with excitement. Pip, a poor orphan child in 19th century England, is mysteriously plucked from obscurity by the wealthy and decaying Miss Havisham, changing his life forever. A secretive benefactor, unrequited love, and a series of great expectations plague Pip as he attempts to discover whether people can change who they truly are.

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Director's Notes



Barter commissioned this script as a gift for all of us.

When we started brewing it, I had been recently acquainted with the incredible production of a different Dickensian novel, Nicholas Nickleby, that was done by the Royal Shakespeare Company back in the 1980’s; I loved the show’s focus on the actor, its celebration of the theatrical, and its sheer audacity.

Inspired, I went back to my favorite Dickens, Great Expectations, for a look, and what struck me right away was how Dickens had captured something that felt simultaneously so true to his time/place and to ours. He puts his finger on something palpable about growing up: a special brew of ambition, yearning, heartache, excitement, and struggle that I feel around me everyday here and now.

What do you do when you have enormous ambitions for your life, but those ambitions give you deeply complicated feelings about where you come from? How do you achieve great things and still honor your home?

I think Dickens hit upon something universal here—we all push back against our families and homes as we are figuring out who we are going to be; we all struggle in some way between our need to achieve and our need for home. It also struck me and struck me hard how Appalachian it felt to me. It reminded me of so many of the conversations I have had with young people here who have such a desire to fly away and such a fierce love of exactly where they are. The phrase I often heard them worry about was one you all will recognize: “Risin’ above your raisin’.”

It occurred to me that the journey of Pip in this story has deep resonance for us. Pip comes from a rural place; he dreams of becoming something else and sometimes feels guilty that he wants that; he struggles between love of where he comes from and trying to distance himself from it. Pip in this play talks directly to us; he confides in us about what it feels like to strive and sometimes fail and what it is to finally discover what it means to reach as far as you can and also love who you actually are.

It’s a gift to be reminded that we aren’t alone in this, no matter when and where we were born. For aren’t we all walking around with that young person inside us who knows what it is to yearn for success and home at the same time? Aren’t we all a messy and beautiful combination of our authentic selves and our great expectations?

Katy Brown


Cast & Credits


Pip:Shaan Sharma

Compeyson/Estella:Brandy Drzymkowski

Mrs. Joe/Biddy/Soldier #2:Katherine Lyle

Joe/Uncle Pumblechook/Bentley Drummle/Soldier #3:Justin Tyler Lewis

Magwitch/Mr. Jaggers/Matthew Pocket/Father:Nicholas Piper

Soldier #1/Miss Havisham/Herbert:Rusty Allen

Clara/Servan/Musician – Violinist:Bethany Dawson


Director: Katy Brown

Original Music: Dax Dupuy

Costumes Designer:Lee Martin

Lighting Designer:Andrew Morehouse

Music Director:Lee Harris

Music Coach and special arrangements:Brandy Drzymkowski

Dialect Coach:Zacchaeus Kimbrell

Fight Choreographer and Fight Captain:Justin Tyler Lewis

Stage Manager:Sara Douglas

Corporate Sponsor:

Bristol Regional Medical Center

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