Kathleen Chalfant, Obi Abili, Corey Allen & More to Star in Virtual Premeire of THE ORESTEIA

The production will stream online from 7pm on June 25 until 7pm on June 29.

By: Jun. 16, 2021

Kathleen Chalfant, Obi Abili, Corey Allen & More to Star in Virtual Premeire of THE ORESTEIA

Theatre for a New Audience will present a new virtual production of The Oresteia, the New York premiere of Ellen McLaughlin's adaptation and translation of Aeschylus' trilogy, featuring music composed by Kamala Sankaram, directed by Andrew Watkins (TFANA, as Assistant Director: The Winter's Tale, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Father, A Doll's House). The plays that make up The Oresteia-Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides-are among the oldest in the Western canon, and it is one of the only surviving trilogies from the ancient Greek theatre. Due to the epic nature of the story and length of the original text, The Oresteia is rarely performed in its entirety. McLaughlin's version of the trilogy has been adapted into one sleek, fast-paced evening of theatre with a modern resonance which was commissioned and developed by Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, DC which produced its world premiere, in 2019 directed by Michael Kahn.

The Oresteia cast includes Obi Abili (Agamemnon), Corey Allen (Chorus B), Helen Carey (Nurse/Chorus F), Kathleen Chalfant (Narrator), Kelley Curran (Clytemnestra), Franchelle Stewart Dorn (Chorus G), Rinde Eckert (Chorus A/Watchman), Robin Galloway (Chorus D), Ismenia Mendes (Cassandra/Chorus H), Rad Pereira (Electra/Chorus E), Reynaldo Piniella (Orestes), Sophia Skiles (Chorus C), Simone Warren (Iphigenia/Chorus I), and more to be announced.

The production will stream online from 7pm on June 25 until 7pm on June 29. Run time is 2:40 with one intermission. Tickets are free, but registration is required. Visit www.tfana.org to register.

TFANA talks, moderated by Emily Greenwood (Professor of Classics at Yale University) and Drew Litchenberg (dramaturg on Shakespeare Theatre Company production in 2019) as moderators, will take place June 26 at 4pm and June 27 at 2pm. Register separately on www.tfana.org.

Writing about its premiere in The New York Times, Jesse Green noted about McLaughlin's adaptation, "Though it is faithful in many ways to the Aeschylus trilogy...it slowly reveals itself to be purpose-built for our moment, addressing eternal issues from a radically different perspective."

The Oresteia is the story of the House of Atreus-dubbed by the prophetess, Cassandra, the "house of spite," and the "house where family eats family." By the start of these plays, the House of Atreus had already been infamous for generations. There seemed no crime-from incest, murder, theft, cheating, to cannibalism-too dreadful for its blighted family members.

The Oresteia's arc begins with Agamemnon's slaughter of his daughter, an act committed to protect his army by appeasing the goddess Artemis, but deemed unforgivable by his wife, Clytemnestra- undoubtedly one of the most primal and psychologically complex figures in all of literature. Her act of vengeance in turn sets in motion once more the bloody cycle of that family's history, and the events that follow cast a harsh and penetrating light on any assumptions we like to make about civilization and the nature of human justice.

Jeffrey Horowitz says, "Ms. McLaughlin is one of America's finest adaptors of ancient Greek drama and TFANA's virtual production features seven of the original STC company including Kelly Curran as Clytemnestra-Ms. Curran was also memorable as Hermione in The Winter's Tale, directed by Arin Arbus for TFANA. Andrew Watkins, who is directing, is a young artist to watch and was Ms. Arbus' associate for many of her productions. And, as a special treat, stage directions for The Oresteia will be read by Kathleen Chalfant."

After theaters closed during the pandemic, TFANA began exploring the potentials of digital performance, offering new ways of experiencing works by contemporary and classical playwrights. Following its co-presentation of Caryl Churchill's Mad Forest last Spring, the company in Fall 2020 supported the continued development of Mary Kathryn Nagle's Sovereignty with two live virtual explorations of her work, kicking off its Artists & Community series. In January 2021, TFANA, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Young Vic co-presented a heralded live-streamed concert that began an investigation into the 1939 A Midsummer Night's Dream-based Broadway musical Swingin' the Dream. Later in January, as part of the Artists & Community series, TFANA offered the new collaboration between director Arin Arbus and actor John Douglas Thompson: an exploration of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, featuring a diverse ensemble of actors. These Merchant readings shared the company's first steps toward a full production by TFANA. In February 2021, TFANA presented JoAnne Akalaitis' "creepy, funny" (The New York Times, in a Critic's Pick review) reimagining of Samuel Beckett's short story First Love, performed over Zoom by acclaimed actor Bill Camp.

This presentation of The Oresteia is part of TFANA's Artists & Community series, which explores vital connections between the theatre and our world. Artists & Community projects embrace a spirit of inquiry and discovery and take varying forms, from livestreams to podcasts. All artists and other participants are compensated. The Series includes plays and sections of plays by Shakespeare and a range of diverse authors and composers complemented by post-performance discussions.

The Artists & Community series is presented under the auspices of the Merle Debuskey Studio Program. The program is named for Merle Debuskey, legendary press agent and longtime TFANA Board Member and advocate, through a bequest from his estate. Debuskey was an influential force on and off Broadway for decades, notably as chief promoter of Joseph Papp's Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park. He represented hundreds of shows, including the Broadway hits How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Chorus Line, and Jesus Christ Superstar. He served as President of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers for many years.


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