Red Letter Theater's PHEDRA'S LOVE Plays 8/27-30 At Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater
Notoriously scandalous British playwright Sarah Kane radically reworks Seneca's classical tragedy of incest and unrequited lust in the highly anticipated production of Red Letter Theater's Phaedra's Love, a brutal dark comedy exploring the themes of obsession, desire, and honesty. First debuted at the Gate, London in 1996, this regional premiere is directed and designed by Red Letter Theater Artistic Director David Hanzal, and features a host of some of the Twin Cities' favorite actors plus some wonderful new faces. Hailed as a play "delivered with punch and laced with black humor" (Financial Times) with writing that is "both daring and accomplished" (Time Out) and bursting with "sulphurous dialogue... full of reeking toughness" (Evening Standard), Phaedra's Love is "pure theater. Or rather, impure theater: dirty, alarming, dangerous" (Observer). Phaedra's Love also serves as the inaugural production of Red Letter Theater. This activity made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council through an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature.
Red Letter Theater presents the regional premiere of PHAEDRA'S LOVE, by Sarah Kane, August 27-30, 2009 at the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Ticket Prices $12, $10 students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more
General admission: 612.825.8949 (Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater box office)
Thursday, August 27 7:00 P.M. - opening
Friday, August 28 7:00 P.M.
Saturday, August 29 7:00 P.M.
Sunday, August 30 7:00 P.M. - ASL-interpreted performance & post-show discussion; closing
Doors open at 6:00 P.M. on all performances for dining and drinking.
Phaedra's Love is Sarah Kane's contemporary, radical reworking of Seneca's classical tragedy. Hippolytus (Nicholas Leeman), the spoiled prince, is driven to a reclusive life. Emotions, love in particular, and need of any type are an unbearable threat to him. His uncontrollable sexual impulse, which would otherwise draw him into contact with others, must express itself in masturbation and the humiliation of his sexual partners. Phaedra (Heather Stone), his stepmother, is desperately in love with him. Her drive to submit herself to the impossibility of her desire, to lose herself within it, is the opposite of Hippolytus. Phaedra's longing for Hippolytus forms the second of the twin impulses that move this contemporary royal family towards a violent destruction. With additional performances by Helen Buron, Kayla Hambek, Peter Heeringa, Eva Nelson, Jonathan Peterson, Steve Ramirez, Andrew Sass, Linda Saetre, Larissa Shea, this Red Letter production will also feature wigs by David Pipho, who previously designed for the Jungle Theater's critically-acclaimed production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, cutting-edge fashion designs by local artist Megan Wannarka, and an original score by experimental percussionist Dylan Jack.
About the Playwright- Sarah Kane (February 3, 1971 - February 20, 1999)
October 1989: Kane begins studying drama at Bristol University. In the course of her studies, she writes three twenty-minute monologues - Comic Monologue, Starved, and What She Said.
July 1992: Kane graduates from Bristol University with a First Class Honors Degree.
October 1992: Kane begins an MA in playwrighting at Birmingham University.
July 1993: After her first year at Birmingham, Kane completes the first two scenes of Blasted, which are given a workshop performance.
March 1994: Kane becomes a literary associate at the Bush Theatre in London, where she works while finishing Blasted.
January 18, 1995: Blasted, directed by James McDonald, debuts at The Royal Court Theatre Upstairs. The play's graphic portrayal of rape and violence stirs huge controversy among critics and the public, sending Kane to the front pages of newspapers and tabloids.
October 1995: Skin, an eleven-minute film written by Kane and directed by Vincent O'Connell, is first screened at the London Film Festival. It is eventually aired on Channel 4, a British television station, in June 1997.
May 15, 1996: Phaedra's Love, directed by Kane herself, debuts at the Gate Theatre.
April 30, 1998: Cleansed, directed by James McDonald, debuts at The Royal Court Theatre Downstairs. At the time, it is the most expensive production in the Royal Court's history. With Cleansed, Kane moves even farther away from realism with its pared dialogue and emphasis on theatrical and poetic imagery.
August 13, 1998: Crave, directed by Vicky Featherstone, debuts at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. The play marks a drastic shift in Kane's style and craft. Much in contrast to her past works, she completely does away with setting, linear plot, and stage directions. Even the characters are stripped down, each one designated only by a letter (C, M, B, A). In turn, Kane focuses even more on a minimalist and lyrical approach to language.
February 20, 1999: Having been treated for depression throughout her life, Sarah Kane commits suicide in the midst of treatment at the London's King's College Hospital.
June 23, 2000: 4.48 Psychosis, completed just before her death and directed by James McDonald, debuts at the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. Kane continues to hone in on what she started in Crave, as 4.48 Psychosis completely forsakes any notion of plot, character, or specific time and place, instead presenting the audience with language not exchanged between people, but exchanged solitarily within the mind.
In-yer-face theater, according to Aleks Sierz, who coined the term, is "a theater of sensation; it jolts both actors and spectators out of conventional responses, touching nerves and provoking alarm." Most often known for their vulgar, albeit shocking, portrayals of violence, rape, and other cultural taboos, these artists, referred to as the "New Brutalists" by other scholars, willingly create discomfort and confrontation with their audiences. As Sierz says, "Unlike the type of theater that allows us to sit back and contemplate what we see in detachment, the best in-yer-face theater takes us on an emotional journey, getting under our skin. In other words, it is experiential, not speculative."
In the beginning of the 1990s, very little new drama was being produced in England, to the point that in 1994, eighty-seven prominent British playwrights petitioned the Guardian as a way of enlightening the public of this issue. Even Michael Billington, long time Guardian critic, feared that the British stage was turning into a "dusty museum." This unrest, though, led to the rise of a new crop of young playwrights, including Mark Ravenhill, Rebecca Prichard, and Sarah Kane, who began debuting new works at small, yet highly respected, theaters like the Royal Court and the Gate Theatre. These new plays completely veered away from traditionAl West End theater with their aggressive and experiential subject matter.
Although Kane's inclusion in this movement may seem indisputable, Kane was among the first to disagree: "I do not believe in movements. Movements define retrospectively and always on the grounds of imitation. . . . The media look for movements, even invent them." She specifically recalled that "Blasted was considered the beginning of a movement called ‘New Brutalism.' Someone said to a Scottish playwright that you couldn't call his work ‘New Writing,' because the play wasn't brutal enough. That is exactly the problem with movements, because there are exclusive rather than inclusive." It has been highly debated whether or not Kane's first play Blasted initiated in-yer-face theater. Whether it did or not, or whether such a movement even exists, the cultural impact of Blasted cannot be overstressed. The play's unconventional and blunt portrayal of rape shocked London's audiences and divided its critics, some heralding Kane as a new voice of the British stage, most writing off the play's graphic imagery as mere adolescent shock tactics. The bombastic media coverage sent Kane to the front pages of newspapers and tabloids. For better or worse, Blasted was the first time in over a decade that a piece of theater attained such mainstream attention, even if Kane herself never intended for the calamitous upheaval generated by the production.