Elevator Repair Service's ULYSSES to Premiere at Bard Fisher Center This Summer

Ulysses runs June 20 – July 14.

By: May. 13, 2024
Elevator Repair Service's ULYSSES to Premiere at Bard Fisher Center This Summer
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The Fisher Center at Bard will kick off its 2024 SummerScape festival with the world premiere of Ulysses, from Elevator Repair Service (ERS), which The New York Times has called “one of New York City’s few truly essential theater companies.” Directed by ERS Artistic Director John Collins, with co-direction and dramaturgy by Scott Shepherd and text by James Joyce, Ulysses runs June 20 – July 14 in the Fisher Center’s LUMA Theater, having been rescheduled from last fall due to COVID.

James Joyce’s Ulysses has fascinated, perplexed, scandalized, and/or defeated readers for over a century. ERS takes on this Mount Everest of twentieth-century literature having staged modernist works including Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises—all with highly acclaimed results. 

In the world premiere at the Fisher Center, seven ERS ensemble members—Dee Beasnael (7 Daughters of Eve), OBIE Award-winner Kate Benson (Fondly, Collette Richland), Maggie Hoffman (founding member, Radiohole), Vin Knight (Gatz, The Select (The Sun Also Rises)), OBIE Award-winner Scott Shepherd (Gatz, The Wooster Group), Christopher-Rashee Stevenson (Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge), and Stephanie Weeks (The Whitney Album)—sit down for a sober reading but soon find themselves guzzling pints, getting in brawls, and committing debaucheries as they careen on a fast-forward tour through Joyce’s funhouse of styles. With madcap antics and a densely layered sound design, ERS presents an eclectic sampling from Joyce’s life-affirming masterpiece.

John Collins says, “One of the reasons we like working with literature is because it gives us a big problem of form that we have to grapple with, while also coming with the gravity of these great

novels. We love trying to figure out what to do with this collision of theater and literature, and the challenge is a little different every time. I had always wanted us to take on something that was big and intimidating, something that would require a new and unique approach. I think I got my wish.”

Scott Shepherd said, “Part of the answer to why we're doing this might also be because it’s ridiculous. When we were doing Gatz a frequent joke was ‘What’s next? War and Peace? Ulysses?’ Something we didn’t know how to imagine, that seemed impossible. That’s what was intriguing about it.”

Adds Collins, “‘Why would you ever do this?’ was a great reason to do it.”

Ulysses features set design by dots (The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, Public Obscenities), costume design by Enver Chakartash(Stereophonic, Is This A Room on Broadway) and Assistant Costume Designer Caleb Krieg, lighting design by Marika Kent (ERS’s Seagull) and Assistant Lighting Designer Matt Lazarus, sound design by OBIE Award-winner Ben Williams (The Whitney Album), sound engineering by Gavin Price, projections by Matthew Deinhart (El Amor Brujo, ANIMUS ANIMA//ANIMA ANIMUS) and Assistant Projections Designer Alessandra Cronin, and props by Patrícia Marjorie (Wolf Play, Flex) and Assistant Properties Designer Ned Gaynor. Maurina Lioce (Fondly, Collette Richland; Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge) is the Assistant Director and Stage Manager, and Kelsey Vivian is the Assistant Stage Manager. Hanna Novak of ERS is the producer.  

Daphne GainesApril Matthis, and Mark Barton contributed to the development of the work.

 Bard Summerscape, deemed by The New York Times a “hotbed of intellectual and aesthetic adventure,” brings eight weeks of live music, opera, dance, and theater to the Hudson River Valley. It also serves as an incubator for adventurous works that often go on to have extended lives and make significant impacts on the performance landscape in New York City, across the country, and around the world. This season, the Fisher Center presents work from two iconic New York companies: Elevator Repair Service’s Ulysses and Urban Bush Women’s SCAT! The Complex Lives of Al & Dot, Dot & Al Zollar (June 28–30). With these milestone performances—both theatricalizations of staggering journeys—Elevator Repair Service and Urban Bush Women continue to push their distinct styles to new heights.

Every production at SummerScape has been commissioned, developed, and is premiering at the Fisher Center, giving audiences an opportunity to catch pivotal works in the idyllic setting where they originate. Praised by The New York Times as “a hothouse for the creation of uncompromising, cross-disciplinary hits,” in recent years, the Fisher Center has developed large-scale works whose momentous journeys were launched from their SummerScape birthplace, including Justin Peck’s arresting music theater interpretation of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise, currently running on Broadway; Pam Tanowitz and David Lang’s Biblical poem-inspired Song of Songs, which recently was presented at New York City Center, and Tanowitz’s take on T. S. Eliot’s masterpiece Four Quartets, which traveled to the Barbican Centre, CAP UCLA, and BAM; and Daniel Fish’s universally acclaimed reconsideration of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, whose life continued at St. Ann’s Warehouse and on Broadway and the West End, as well as a U.S. national tour.  

See a full calendar of SummerScape programming, also including the 34th Bard Music Festival Berlioz and His World, a new production of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le prophète directed by Christian Räth, Spiegeltent performances curated by Caleb Hammons, and more.


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