Last Chance to catch environmental theatre master Richard Schechner's group, East Coast Artists (ECA), and their production of Hamlet, ending its scheduled run June 20. Schechner directs the piece at his former theatrical home, The Performing Garage.
Taking the notion of "time is out of joint" as his cue, Schechner juxtaposes two different versions (the Folio and the Quarto) of Shakespeare's classic, embracing Elizabethan costumes and manners, as well as contemporary pop culture references.
Schechner is a Professor of Performance Studies and editor of "The Drama Review" (formerly Tulane Drama Review) at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. In the late sixties, Schechner brought together various innovations in theater to create his "environmental theater" for the goal of seeking, in his words, "a new way of dealing with theater space and audience relationships" -- as well as rebelling against theatrical conventions like prosceniums and theatrical distance.
His Performance Group was founded in 1968 and undertook about six months of exercises and experiments before the seminal Dionysus in 1969, a reworking of Euripides's The Bacchae. Other Group productions didn't share the success of Dionysus but continued Schechner's investigation into the roots of theater. They included Makbeth and the controversial Commune (1970). In Commune, a montage of events from America's past and present shows the revolutionary mantle passing from the country's forefathers to the youth of the 1960's.
The Group disbanded in the late 1970s, with some of the more recent members forming their own innovative theater group, The Wooster Group, which continues to occupy The Performing Garage. Hamlet features a set design by Dan Jagendorf, costume design by Loisa Thompson, lights by Colin Young, choreography by Liz Claire, and original music by Erol Tamerman. The cast includes: Dave Anzuelo, Gerry Bamman, Laura Biagi, Debora Cahn, Don Campbell, Stephen Clapp, Paula Cole, Marissa Copeland, George Hannah, Lars Hansen, Scott Harrison, David Letwin, Michele Minnick, Omar Shapli, and Becke Wilenski.
ECA was founded 1991, to reconfigure classic texts and mentor younger theater artists. Other ECA productions include: Three Sister (1997), Amerika (1994), and Faust/gastronome (1993).
For tickets ($12) or more information, call (212) 966-9796.
-- By Sean McGrath