Last Chance to catch avant-director, JoAnne Akalaitis, tackling the Greeks with Trojan Women, playing through May 8 at Washington DC's Shakespeare Theater. The production officially opened March 29.
Akalaitis recently had her production of The Iphigenia Cycle, which originated at the Court in Chicago, play at New York's American Place Theater. Iphigenia marked the first Greek tragedy in Akalaitis' oeuvre, the director told PBOL in a recent conversation, "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."
Akalaitis reunites with Iphigenia translator, Nicholas Rudall, for Women. Euripides set Trojan Women immediately after the Trojan War, on the shores of a once glorious city now in ruins from the actions of the Greek army. The play centers on Hecuba, whose husband has been slaughtered, her virgin daughter ravaged; nevertheless, Hecuba maintains "her life means hope" even as she and the other widowed women of Troy are divided among the victorious Greeks as spoils of war.
"There's something very new about Euripides," said Akalaitis "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."
Though Akalaitis' directing career has spanned 23 years, leaping from genre to genre, she is perhaps known best for her well-publicized, brief and beleaguered 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 Woyzeck. Though seen as a pioneer in certain circles, mainstream critics and audiences have generally little patience with her choices as a director and administrator. For tickets or more information on The Trojan Women, call (202) 547 1122.
-- By Sean McGrath