The flags of Greece, the United Kingdom, the United States and The Denver Center for the Performing Arts will be raised March 27 to commemorate the first day of rehearsals for John Barton's Tantalus, the internationally-created 15-hour play cycle, expected to premiere in Denver this fall.
Anthems of each country will be played, and four brief addresses will be given to mark the dawn of the 10-part epic drawing on legendary characters and episodes of The Trojan War.
Peter Hall (Amadeus) will direct the co-production between the Denver Center Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Performances begin Sept. 15 and continue in repertory through Dec. 17 on two stages at the Tony Award-winning professional theatre.
Casting for the production, announced March 24, includes Pia C. Glenn, the female lead in Broadway’s Kat and the Kings, and Royal National Theatre veteran David Ryall. Also in the cast are Alyssa Bresnahan (OB’s The Clearing), Elijah Alexander, Francesca Carlin, John Carlisle (a Royal Shakespeare Company associate artist), Annalee Jefferies (a veteran of Houston’s Alley Theatre), Larry Lamb, Tess Lina, Tif Luckenbill, David McCann, Ann Mitchell, Randy Moore, Christina Pawl (Cabaret), Jeanne Paulsen, Robert Petkoff (Epic Proportions), Nicole Poole, Juliet Smith, Mia Tagano, Vickie Tanner, Robin Terry and Mia Yoo.
DCTC is billing Tantalus as the largest theatrical undertaking in history, and is promoting the show as the city's must-see cultural event of the year. Multi-course Greek meals will accompany performances, if theatregoers choose to indulge. The 15-hour staging will have an unheard-of (for American regional theatre) six-month rehearsal process. The staging, with its cast of British, U.S. and European actors, is expected to move on to the RSC and then international engagements, likely to include Greece. It may return to the U.S. to play a tour.
Speakers 10 AM March 27 in Denver include Donald R. Seawell, chairman of The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Adrian Noble, artistic director of RSC, director Peter Hall and Spyros Mercouris, member of the executive committee of Cultural Capitals of Europe, board member of the Melina Mercouri Foundation and board members of the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Athens. Donovan Marley, artistic director of DCTC, will serve as master of ceremonies.
Playbill On-Line broke the story May 24, 1999, that DCTC would produce the world premiere of Tantalus.
RSC commissioned the years-in-the-making work, and DCTC will present an international cast of 20 featuring Denver, American, British and European performers.
The $6 million production -- $3 million in cash and $3 million in-kind representing work from the Denver Center staff and use of the facilities - will play Denver Center's Stage Theatre (with a prelude in the Space Theatre).
Tantalus is a Greek figure who was tempted by the food of the Gods and punished for offering ambrosia to mortals. His name is the root of the word "tantalize." The heroes, gods, mortals, men and women of the Trojan War, some of them descended from Tantalus, are expected to be a part of the epic. The script draws from stories and legends of the Trojan War, but not from specific extant plays.
The money was secured by Seawell, chairman and founder of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where the nonprofit DCTC operates in several spaces within the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex. In 2000-2001, Denver Center Theatre Company will present nine plays (plus Tantalus) rather than the customary 12.
Barton, a director and writer, is a major figure in classical theatre in the 20th century. With Hall, he helped found the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960 and became associate director in 1964. He is a Shakespeare expert and previously adapted the works of Euripides in another major cycle known as The Greeks (1980).
"The city of Troy -- trapped in the horrors of war -- is a metaphor for the ambiguity, horrors and ironies of all wars down the ages," Barton wrote. "But much of it is comedic and human and I do not see it as a solemn event."
The Denver Center Theatre Company received the 1998 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
For ticket and subscription information, call (800) 641-1222 or check out the web site at http://www.denvercenter.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz