Ambitious Roman Tragedies Will Immerse Audiences in Shakespeare's Works at BAM
By Adam Hetrick
Audiences will witness Shakespeare's Roman Tragedies up close in the Toneelgroep Amsterdam productions of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony & Cleopatra, which will put theatregoers in the middle of the action at Brooklyn Academy of Music in November.
Obie Award winner Ivo van Hove, who also staged Opening Night, Husbands and Hedda Gabler to acclaim, helms the inventive production that will play three performances Nov. 16-18 at the Gilman Opera House. The contemporary staging promises to transform the Gilman into a modern-day Roman amphitheatre.
Roman Tragedies premiered in June 2007 at the Holland Festival and has been staged in London, Montreal and Quebec. It is performed in Dutch with English subtitles.
The three works will be staged without an intermission as one continuous performance, but the audience is free to take advantage of short breaks throughout the performance. Refreshments will also be served on stage throughout Roman Tragedies. The ambitious production clocks in at five-and-a-half hours.
The interactive production is conceived to engage audiences in the political works, by allowing them to submit online responses to the plays in real-time during the performance. Their thoughts will then be displayed on a news ticker during set changes. The ticker will also chronicle plot events that have been cut for the adaptation.
Roman Tragedies also allows theatregoers to move freely between several staging areas, the "hall," the "circle" and the "stage," as they follow the characters and action throughout the performance.
Here's how the three works are billed:
"Coriolanus takes place during the rise of the Roman Republic. Here, the eponymous hero refuses to accept the changed political constellation. He defies the masses and their new representatives and is banished. In a final and desperate action, he takes up arms against Rome, his own beloved city."
"In contrast, Julius Caesar acquires power because he is a master in manipulating the masses. But when a number of politicians realize that the republic is in danger of becoming a dictatorship, they remove him in order to save the democracy—though unfortunately not in time to reverse the changed political climate."
"Finally, Antony & Cleopatra brings global politics to light through the lens of the passionate love of the Roman Antony and the Egyptian Cleopatra. As Antony struggles between civic responsibility and his heart's desire, a chain of dark events ensue, culminating in an unforgettable bloodbath..."
Roman Tragedies has set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld, video design by Tal Yarden, music composed by Eric Sleichim and costume design by Lies van Assche.
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