"Why The Three Musketeers?" by John Heimbuch

The Three Musketeers

I first encountered The Three Musketeers via the Disney-produced movie version in 1993. As a fifteen year old boy, and part of their ideal viewing demographic, I was immediately captivated by its spirit of adventure, the bravura, the banter. Soon afterward, I read the novel and was delighted by the humor, and its use of history, the back and forth of its intrigue, and panache. For the next few years, I watched as many screen and stage adaptations as I could find. I read fencing manuals, studied stage combat, and even ran a long-standing roleplaying campaign (loosely) inspired by the books. And when I finished college, I stepped away from this obsession, and turned my attention elsewhere.

When I first suggested writing a new stage adaptation of The Three Musketeers in 2012, I was in the midst of an emotionally turbulent year of loss and change. I was excited to take on something playful, light-hearted, and adventurous -- perhaps as a way to reconnect with my younger, more optimistic self.

I bought a new copy of the book, and began reading it aloud to director Amy Rummenie. For the next several months, we were quite literally on the same page. We reveled in the thrilling moments and bogged down in the boring parts, we delighted in Dumas' humor and rolled our eyes at his overblown melodrama. I also found a lot more nuance than I noticed in my teen years. The spirit of adventure was still there, but beneath the bluster and bravura that so intrigued me when I was younger, I found characters filled with depression, desperation, uncertainty, and fear.

I also became aware of the immense challenge I faced in distilling this six hundred page novel into a relatively faithful two hour stage play for ten actors. The book was filled with complex political machinations and a carefully nuanced plot. It had hundreds of characters, a constantly shifting point of view, and some surprisingly unscrupulous heroes. What had I done!? I had no idea how to begin. I was terrified by the immensity of the task. But a musketeer cannot let himself be daunted by insurmountable odds. He must persevere. With panache.

Sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, I worked my way through the book, cutting, shaping, honing, clarifying, and rewriting. I removed the boring bits, honed the melodrama, and tried to leave the original plot intact wherever possible. With the help of the director, cast, creative team, and some helpful readers, I've worked to craft a performance text that's truer to the book than any other adaptation I've seen or read, but not without a few delightful liberties of my own. I hope you enjoy our theatrical romp through this epic adventure.

All for one, and one for all!

The Three Musketeers show page

Production History

Walking Shadow Theatre Company

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