The granddaddy of contemporary cultural showcases in the U.S., Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, got its 15th Anniversary Season underway Oct. 3 with an ambitious slate of theatrical offerings including new works by leading avant garde director/designers, Robert Wilson and Robert Lepage, as well as a minimalist Shakespearean production by an up-and-coming British theater troupe.
Robert Wilson, a Next Wave regular, will return to BAM's Opera House Nov. 12-23 to direct and design the American premiere of a new pop opera, Time Rocker, featuring music and lyrics by former Velvet Underground rocker Lou Reed and a libretto by Darryl Pinckney. It will be performed by an ensemble cast from the Thalia Theater of Hamburg, which premiered the work in June 1996.
Based on H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine", Time Rocker is about two domestics falsely accused of their master's murder. Escaping into time on a giant fish, the characters set into motion an adventure taking them from ancient Egypt to a 17th century opium den and beyond. Time Rocker completes Wilson's trilogy of fantasy productions that began with The Black Rider in 1993 and continued with Alice in 1995. Other Wilson productions at BAM have included such groundbreaking epics as Einstein on the Beach and CIVIL warS.
Arriving prior to the Wilson extravaganza will be Elsinore, Robert Lepage's high tech solo distillation of Hamlet, running October 7-12 at BAM's Majestic Theater. Lepage's version of the Shakespearean tragedy is set in a contemporary castle, "where the walls are wired and courtiers have X-ray vision." Combining late 20th century technology with more traditional forms of stagecraft, the French Canadian director/designer aims to depict the Hamlet saga from constantly shifting perspectives.
After its Montreal world premiere in Nov. 1995, Lepage has taken Elsinore to Toronto, Chicago, and London's National Theatre. The production sparked headlines at the 1996 Edinburgh Festival, when performances were cancelled after the failure of the show's complex stage machinery. In earlier incarnations of the multimedia production, Lepage portrayed all the characters - including Gertrude and Ophelia - of the radically reinterpreted Hamlet tale, but at BAM, the acting duties will be handled by English actor Peter Darling.
Lepage's other works include The Dragon's Trilogy, Needles and Opium, and most recently, the acclaimed Hiroshima epic The Seven Streams of the River Ota, which was presented at the 1996 Next Wave Festival.
As testament to the enduring fascination with the Danish prince's tragedy, Robert Wilson has also toured a solo piece based on Shakespeare's classic, entitled Hamlet: A Monologue.
Also included in this year's festival is Pina Bausch's latest work, Der Fensterputzer (The Window Washer). Pina Bausch has excited theatre and dance audiences alike in her strict attention to movement and gesture.
Four months before China assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong, Pina Bausch and her Tanztheater Wuppertal premiered their own reflections on the island metropolis. With an emphasis on repetition and vaudevillian comedy, Bausch's company has created a piece which reflects the bizarre contrasts, constant motion and transitional status of the city.
Finally, New York will see its second major production of Antony and Cleopatra in less than a year (following the Public Theater's version, directed by and starring Vanessa Redgrave) with the arrival of the Northern Broadsides theater company.
Running Oct. 28 - Nov. 1 at the Majestic, the Shakespearean history play will be presented by the relatively new but fast-rising northern English-dialect ensemble founded in 1992 by former RSC member Barrie Rutter.
Northern Broadsides has taken Britain by storm with its stripped-down Shakespeare productions including Richard III (1992), The Merry Wives of Windsor (1993), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1994), and Antony and Cleopatra (1995). The company's minimalist approach is typified by the use of contemporary costumes and natural lighting.
The Northern Broadsides Antony and Cleopatra, which played a single performance at a New Haven, CT international arts festval in June, will star Rutter as Antony and Ishia Bennison as Cleopatra.
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