Last Chance to catch New York's Theatre for a New Audience production of the New York Premiere of the latest work directed by avant-maverick, JoAnne Akalaitis. The Iphigenia Cycle plays at the American Place Theatre Jan. 24-Feb. 14, 1999.
Critically praised when it debuted at Chicago's Court Theatre in 1997, Akalaitis' retelling of Euripides' tribute to the noble martyr Iphigenia retained the original designers: Paul Steinberg (sets), Doey Luthi (costumes), Jennifer Tipton (lighting), Bruce Odland (sound and music), and most of the original ensemble: Wilson Cain III, Anne Dudek (as Iphigenia), Genevra Gallo, Lynn House, Ora Jones, Taylor Price, Carmen Roman, Genevieve VenJohnson and Jack Willis). Added for the TFANA production were Anne Louise Zachry, Nicholas Kepros and Sophia Salguero.
Iphigenia marks the first Greek tragedy in Akalaitis' oeuvre, the director told PBOL in a recent conversation about the piece, "I think -- the Greeks, there's a grandness about it, but compared to, say, a big Shakespeare play, this is a modest production...it's very hard to direct the Greeks. I think it's a combination of the format's so odd -- it's not what we're used to in theatre -- long speeches then a chorus, then a long speech and a chorus. The subject matter is very wrenching and emotional so that makes it really hard. I don't think I've ever felt more exhausted and kind of beaten up by a project as I do by this one. But, also, at the same time, very stimulated.
"The only other experience I've had that was sort of like it was when I directed Woyzeck, and I think the form of Woyzeck is odd, and the material's very wrenching, and it's new. There's something very new about Euripides, and I'm always interested in doing something I haven't done before. I'm not interested in repeating an experience. I'm interested in directing stuff I don't understand."
In The Iphigenia Cycle, Nicholas Rudall's new translation melds two Euripides texts (Iphigenia At Aulis and Iphigenia In Tauris) into one. It follows the dramatic plight of Iphigenia, who journeys from nearly being sacrificed by her father Agamemnon during the Trojan War, to her postwar existence as a priestess for Artemis, who almost sacrifices her brother Orestes until she recognizes him for the adult he has become. Though Akalaitis' directing career has spanned 23 years, leaping from genre to genre, she is perhaps known best for her well-publicized, brief stint as artistic director for The Public Theatre. She'd been handpicked by Papp as his successor. She introduced a wider audience to her unique brand of post-modernism with her productions of John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, Shakespeare's Cymbeline, and Henry IV, Parts I & II, and Buchner's Woyzech. Though seen as a pioneer in certain circles, mainstream critics and audiences had little patience, with Frank Rich of the NY Times continuously complaining about her choices as a director and administrator.
For tickets or more information on JoAnne Akalaitis' production of The Iphigenia Cycle, call (212) 354-4660.
-- By Sean McGrath