PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With The Bridges of Madison County Writer Marsha Norman

By Adam Hetrick
14 Feb 2014

My memory of the film is that I was devastated for Francesca. But you and Jason give Robert a deeply emotional moment in this eleven o'clock number that allows us to understand and feel his loss.
MN: I think he loses big. He has a song at the end of the musical called, "It All Falls Away," as he's tearing up every photograph he's ever taken. He's ill. Everything doesn't matter; none of it matters except the four days in [her] arms. And that's just this incredible feeling that I think people feel, I think people have felt, and I've experienced with crying in the audience.

How vital was the Williamstown Theatre Festival production to the work that you're doing in New York?
MN: We had to take out about 11 to 13 minutes. That's a lot of time to take out of a musical. And it's not about the time, it's about knowing that the musical feels like it naturally ends at the right time and that's what we want — when the reconciliations have been made. That is a feeling that comes from kid's stories; there is a feeling that this is where the end is. You don't have to be told.

This adaptation has also allowed you to flesh out and create some new roles with Jason. What has your collaboration been like?
MN: Well, it's beautiful being with Jason; it's beautiful being with Bart. Bart's an extraordinary director and he's willing to look a line syllable by syllable and figure out what that means in that moment. There's this moment that we worked on for a couple days in Williamstown where Francesca actually decides [about the relationship], and I had a very strong feeling of what I wanted, and Bart had a very strong feeling about what he wanted, and Jason was like, "This is a scene. I don't know anything about scenes." [Laughs]. Of course he knows about scenes, but he didn't have any music in it yet. And the three of us worked together with absolute trust and peace. There was no one dominating, no one saying, "This is my show. Get out of here, go have lunch, come back and I'll show it to you." It was like, "What did you really intend? How can I put that on the stage?" And we did need Jason to give us that emotional underpinning to allow you to feel that emotion that she was feeling that moment of making the decision.

The book and film were such a phenomenon. Were you at all concerned about comparisons?
MN: I didn't think about it that way, but I guess you're right. People didn't just see the movie. I think that would be much harder because there would be a sense of comparison. Even with The Color Purple there was a sense of, "Well, you didn't make Mister like this." And Color Purple was also a film, so I guess this is getting to be my thing. [Laughs]. A big novel made into a film, and then turned into a musical. I think people wanted another experience of what they felt. They just didn't want to read it again, or go to the movie again. They didn't want to rent the movie again; they wanted to come and have another experience.