The respected performers lead a company as the King and Queen, for the hybrid American-British troupe's most ambitious and high-profile mounting yet. Dukakis was previously announced for the role of Clytemnestra, who murders her husband. Meineck adds "the" to the title.
Artistic director Peter Meineck's troupe is concerned with reinterpreting classics, from the Greeks to Shakespeare to Wilde and beyond, using international casts and injecting his stagings with a bold physicality.
The staging of Meineck's own award-winning translation of the 485 BC tragedy will play John Jay Theatre at 899, Tenth Avenue, across from Lincoln Center, Feb. 3-22, 2004.
"Louis joined us for a recent week long Agamemnon workshop and was not only fantastic but the sparks between the real husband and wife in performance were spectacular," Meineck told Playbill On Line. "Can't think of a better actor to play opposite Olympia in this role."
Zorich's recent credits include The Chekhov Cycle at Williamstown, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom on Broadway, Follies on Broadway. Oscar-winner Dukakis is known for the films "Steel Magnolias" and "Moonstruck," TV's "Tales of the City," and, for the stage, Rose, The Marriage of Bette and Boo and A Man's a Man.
Theoni Aldredge, the renowned Oscar and Tony Award winning designer of theatre (La Cage aux Folles, Annie, Barnum), film and TV, will design costumes. Both Aldredge and Dukakis have Greek heritage. The rest of the design team will be announced in coming months.
Agamemnon, Meineck said, is the first great play of Aeschylus' masterful Oresteia trilogy — Agamemnon, Libation Bearers and Eumenides. This will be the first production of Aquila's Oresteia project — which aims to produce all three plays in New York. Aquila aims to found a tradition of an Annual New York Greek Play.
In The Agamemnon, Dukakis will play the murderous Clytemestra, whose daughter has been sacrificed by Agamemnon to help win the Trojan War.
Meineck said the production will include Aquila's signature physical style and spare settings, and the company will total as many as 13.
"Part of the fun is going to be finding those people," he said. "I think there will be Aquila regulars in the show, working the chorus and really making people see the chorus as a great strength in tragedy."
Meineck said it was his hope in rehearsal that another version of the text would be shaped.
The bloody and terrifying tragedies — about a royal family seeking revenge on itself in a time of war — would be a departure from recent Aquila shows, which have been comedies.
This is the largest undertaking in the history of the young troupe, he said. Recent Off-Broadway work from Aquila has included Much Ado About Nothing (set in the 1960s, in a world designed by Beau Brummel) and The Comedy of Errors set in a somewhat cartoonish Turkish world. The company presented The Importance of Being Earnest this past summer at the new Baruch Performing Arts Center at Lexington and 25th Street in Manhattan, in a staging that was quirky and physical.
Certainly the presence of Academy Award-winner Dukakis (Moonstruck) will bring Aquila its highest profile yet. Her name will appear alphabetically in the program, at her insistence, Meineck said. The production will be co-directed and co-designed by Robert Richmond and Meineck, with music by company member Anthony Cochrane.
Aquila operates on an AGMA contract administered by Equity and its tours around the country are fully union, Meineck said.
Dukakis saw the troupe's Comedy of Errors in summer 2002 and she and Meineck had discussions about the company, its approach and the possibility of her playing Agamemnon's wife in the trio of 458 B.C. tragedies by Aeschylus.
"Our shows are so physical that they are sometimes too big for the spaces we play," Meineck admitted. "This is a new departure for Aquila. We feel we've been regarded as an Off-Broadway company so far."
Meineck said he and co-director Robert Richmond want the eventual three-act, 3-1/2-hour staging to be an event worthy of a theatre festival. "Our ambition is to do for [Greek tragedy] what Cirque du Soleil does for circus...make it something that's an event, that has an epic scale to it," he said.
Greek tragedy doesn't have to be academic and "painful" for an audience, Meineck said: "They are horror stories, they should be terrifying, absolutely terrifying."
One of the major events of the plays is the murder of Agamemnon by wife Clytemnestra, who is seeking revenge for the murder/sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia.
"I told [Dukakis] it was my fantasy for her to play Clytemestra...the most misunderstood character in Greek drama," Meineck said. "It's such a difficult role and so powerful...you need someone in that role who can really pull it off."
He said he will continue to strive for a cast of international actors, a trademark of the company.
Visit Aquila Theatre Company at aquilatheatre.com.