After more than three decades and millions of copies sold, the popular Pulitzer Prize-winning comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces is coming to the stage. Shelton Street Theatrical LLC, the company holding the rights to the work, have announced the cult classic will be adapted for the theater by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher (Tuesdays with Morrie with Mitch Albom) to be directed by David Esbjornson (Driving Miss Daisy with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones). A series of readings is planned, leading to developmental productions with Broadway as the ultimate goal.
Confederacy was written by New Orleans-based author John Kennedy Toole, who committed suicide in 1969. The manuscript languished for many years until Toole’s mother, with the aide of novelist Walker Percy (The Moviegoer), worked to have it published. The novel was finally put into print in 1980 by LSU Press. The following year it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The story follows the exploits of Ignatius J. Reilly, eccentric historian and modern-day Don Quixote, as he encounters a plethora of bizarre characters in the New Orleans underworld. These include the stripper Darlene and her pet cockatoo; the elderly secretary Miss Trixie; the evil Miss Lee, proprietor of the Night of Joy nightclub; communist-hunter Claude Robichaux; flamboyant partygiver Dorian Greene; and Myrna Minkoff, a beatnik from New York who fascinates Ignatius.
“This great novel has never broken through, on stage or on screen,” say the producers, Bob Guza and John Hardy, in a statement. “In fact, it has only seen an extremely few, contractually limited, regional stage productions and has completely, famously, defied being made into a motion picture. It almost sounds like a confederacy against A Confederacy. Now we’re aiming to finally launch Ignatius, although we prefer to say ‘unleash Ignatius!’”
The show will join a long list of Broadway productions based on novels. This includes recent musicals like The Bridges of Madison County, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Big Fish, the long-running The Phantom of the Opera, the revived Les Miserables, the play A Time to Kill, and Off-Broadway shows like 50 Shades! The Musical and the revue Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man.