The Roots of Storytelling Unearthed: Denver Begins Tantalus Epic Sept. 15

News   The Roots of Storytelling Unearthed: Denver Begins Tantalus Epic Sept. 15 Peter Hall's mammoth staging of Tantalus, the new epic Trojan War drama being originated by Denver Center Theatre Company, in association with Royal Shakespeare Company, begins previews Sept. 15 at DCTC's Stage Theatre.

Peter Hall's mammoth staging of Tantalus, the new epic Trojan War drama being originated by Denver Center Theatre Company, in association with Royal Shakespeare Company, begins previews Sept. 15 at DCTC's Stage Theatre.

After the unprecedented six-month rehearsal process began in late March, the running time for the 10-play, three-part Tantalus is now estimated at about 10 hours and 30 minutes, shorter than the 15 hours previously thought. The shorter schedule allows audiences to see the entire epic in two days rather than three.

The creators won't know the exact running time until all three parts of the epic are running in rep — Part I has its debut Sept. 15 and plays concurrent with tech rehearsals for Part II. Part II begins previews Sept. 22 and Part III begins previews Sept. 30. The first previews for entire cycle are Oct. 4 (Part I), Oct. 5 (Part II) and Oct. 6 (Part III).

All three works will be seen in a marathon opening Oct. 21, 10 AM to 10 PM. There will be several marathon stagings, but otherwise the play is seen over two days. Complete schedule and production information can be found on the official web site at http://www.denvercenter.org/tantalus/

"We anticipated Tantalus would run longer than it does," director Peter Hall said in a statement earlier in summer. "We were wrong. We overestimated the playing time prior to the start of rehearsals, which is not unusual for a new play, let alone a cycle of new plays that is being tooled and shaped as it is being staged." The work is being billed as "Peter Hall's production of" Tantalus, "an adaptation of the original 10-play cycle by John Barton" with "additional text by Colin Teevan" and directed by Hall and his son, Edward Hall.

The cycle will run through Dec. 2 and have a five-venue English tour starting in January 2001. It winds up in London in April.

"We expect that Tantalus will not end there," said Denver Center chairman Donald R. Seawell. Greece has been mentioned as a possible destination for the epic.

Previews for the ambitious cycle, written by Barton, author of the previous ancient epic, The Greeks, are Sept. 15-Oct. 19. The regular run is Oct. 21-Dec. 2.

The 10 plays show events before, during and after the Trojan War, with a hybrid international cast and creative team. Barton draws on myths and stories, but not extant plays (unlike The Greeks, which drew from ancients scripts).

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The flags of Greece, the United Kingdom, the United States and The Denver Center for the Performing Arts were raised March 27 to commemorate the first day of rehearsals for John Barton's Tantalus.

The cast of 29 — made up of U.S., British, European and Asian-born performers — includes principals Alyssa Bresnahan, Alan Dobie, Greg Hicks, Annalee Jeffries, Ann Mitchell, Robert Petkoff, David Ryall and Mia Yoo; chorus members Francesca Carlin, Joy Jones, Tess Lina, Jeanne Paulsen, Chrisytina Pawl, Nicole Poole, Juliet Smith, Mia Tagano, Vickie Tanner, Robin Terry and Christen Simon; ensemble members Elijah Alexander, Joshua Coomer, Pierre-Marc Diennet, Morgan Hallet, Steve Hughes, Tif Luckinbill, David McCann, Randy Moore, Matt Pepper; and musician Yukio Tsuji. The cast has changed slightly since March.

The creative team includes associated director and dramaturg Colin Teevan, associate director Anthony Powell, composer Mick Sands, choreographer Donald McKayle, scenic and costume designer Dionysis Fotopoulos and lighting designer Sumio Yoshii.

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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 $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.

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 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. DCTC freely mixes world premieres, classics and Denver premieres of contemporary drama in its seasons. The company was given the 1998 Tony Award for excellence in regional theatre.

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 The Greeks cycle in 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."

Tickets range $130-$280. The Stage Theatre is located at Speer & Arapahoe in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For more information, call the DCPA box office at (303) 893-4100, or (800) 641-1222, or visit the web site at www.denvercenter.org.

— By Kenneth Jones