Staging ‘Persona’ may be tricky, but Harbor Stage’s Kropf can adapt

WELLFLEET — In 1999 Robert Kropf, then a recent grad of Harvard’s prestigious ART/MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training, was trying to make his way as an actor in New York and just “not having a very good time.” He drove up to Wellfleet to audition at a tiny former fishing shack that local thespians had transformed into the adventurous Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. He got the gig, fell in love with both locale and community, and — rehired year after year — never really left.

When WHAT moved on to a fancy purpose-built theater off Route 6 in 2007, Kropf and a cadre of his closest actor friends plotted a takeover of the rundown waterside property. It took them a while to realize their dream, but Harbor Stage Company — now in its sixth season — has triumphed as a critical darling.


Starting with the inaugural season’s “Hedda Gabler” in 2012 (starring Brenda Withers), Kropf has emerged as a gifted adaptor — of the classics, and now of Ingmar Bergman’s iconic 1966 film “Persona.” The play runs through Sept. 2. When we spoke, about 10 days before opening night, Kropf and cohorts were still hammering out the ending. Directing by day, performing nightly in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and all the while continuing to serve as the company’s artistic director, Kropf was also busy crafting yet another adaptation for next season.

Q. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the ART Institute has been in the news of late. They’re going on hiatus to reassess.

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A. I do know, because I’m a victim of the massive loan that is still hanging over my head! I’m still working to pay that off.

Q. That’s nearly two decades! Have you found your MLA [master of liberal arts degree] to be useful?

A. The degree itself? I wasn’t trying to teach or anything, so it hasn’t hurt me. And I had a great experience there — I worked with amazing teachers. Those were the [Robert] Brustein years. It was a very different animal.


Q. What motivated you to start writing adaptations?

A. It was for the company. I wanted to pare down “Miss Julie,” and legally you can’t, with someone else’s translation: It’s protected. I wrote to Bob Brustein, and he said that the only way around it,…

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