Persians

Premiere: 
September 2014
Location: 
Getty Villa

Persians by Aeschylus is the earliest known extant play in the European cannon. A deeply mysterious play written in a time when theater as we know it was still being born, about a hubris riddled civilization that was being destroyed by the culture which created the play.

After the success of both the Getty Villa and touring versions of SITI Company’s Trojan Woman (After Euripides), the Getty Villa was keenly interested in having the company back to Malibu to create and present another classical work in the late summer of 2014. So in the spring of 2013 members of the company were invited to spend two weeks at the Villa reading plays, discussing them with the villa’s cadre of curators and classical scholars with the intention of choosing a play. There were also three evenings where the public was invited into this process and heard readings of the plays. The plays under close consideration were The Bacchae, Ion and The Persians.

Read SITI Company member blog entries from the Getty Villa!

Following this, while in residence in Saratoga, and after a great deal of discussion and argument and more readings, Aeschylus’ Persians was selected. There were three very strong reasons why this particular text seemed compelling:
  1. It is the earliest extant “play” in the European cannon.
  2. It contains within it the “problem”/challenge of a chorus and how to put one on stage in the 21st Century.
  3. It deals with the relevant themes of war and it’s consequences on communities.
In the fall of 2013, the participants in the inaugural year of the SITI Conservatory worked with Persians and issues of chorus, as part of not only their daily training but also in their composition work and dramaturgy study, leading to their participation in SITI Company’s Creative Lab in December where the focus was on Persians. 3 days were spent in the SITI Studio improvising on ideas, reading and sharing presentations.
Persians Composition: Shin Rock and LeighPersians Composition: Shin Rock and LeighPersians Composition: Skye, Daiva, Sophie and ClaraPersians Composition: Skye, Daiva, Sophie and ClaraPersians Composition: Wan Ching and JakkoPersians Composition: Wan Ching and JakkoCreative lab presentationCreative lab presentationCreative lab table workCreative lab table work
Anne wrote to the company after the conclusion of the Creative Lab:

The three days of Creative Lab for our Persians project was enormously helpful to me as I hope that it was for you.  I had been studying the play and investigating Persian culture and the play’s journey through time and its production history, as well as the phenomenon of Greek chorus.  The research did help a great deal but it was really during our discussions and our composition/viewpoints sessions that I began to truly envision the world of our production.  I came away from the three days with a far better understanding about how to launch our rehearsals and how to think about the design.  …allow me to share here some of my reflections based upon our time together:

I learned that rather than starting by introducing a strange, bizarre unrecognizable culture, we should begin with a very simple, recognizable and yet graceful and stylish palate.  In this way the audience can “read” into the play more easily. We, the audience, meet three women in long gowns and seven men in pants and elegant, perhaps open-necked shirts.  Barefoot.  The one bit of design extremity may be that the trains of the gowns are extra long. Perhaps matched by some long fabric hanging from the balcony of the Getty Museum.

I do not imagine that we “play-act” the events and actions of the play, especially not in the beginning.  What is enacted is a series of group rituals inspired by music.  We will create the group choreography separate from the text.  How the choreography links up with the spoken text is co-incidental. 

At least for as long as we can, I imagine that we embrace a division between the “reading” area (downstage) and the enacted/embodied area (upstage).  Reading does not necessarily mean that we read from a book, but the text in English is spoken in its actual order, directed to the audience, linking the listeners to the logic and imagery of the text, from a downstage position. We do not embody the imagery and story directly, only co-incidentally. Our responsibility in the “reading” is to make the story and the text as comprehensible as humanly possible, as clear and as exact as we can.

I imagine that we will explore choral speaking, duets, trios and singular speaking. Upstage the vocal sound is not in English, at least in the beginning, as long as we can manage; abstract sounds, ancient languages, guttural and percussive.

There is probably a third stage where the “reading” and the embodied ritual converge.  This can only be discovered in rehearsal.

I look forward to our shared adventure, I am enthusiastic that we can find a way for contemporary audiences to access the lessons and pleasures found in the play…


The next step for the development of Persians was the composition work by the participants of the 2014 Summer intensive in Saratoga this June.


SITI Company is currently in LA. The Show is in previews. You can view cast member journal postings at siti.org/blog


Persians

By Aeschylus

Directed by Anne Bogart

Created and Performed by SITI Company

Translation by Aaron Poochigian

 

The Ensemble:

Akiko Aizawa

J. Ed Araiza

Eric Berryman

Will Bond

Gian-Murray Gianino

Leon Ingulsrud

Ellen Lauren

Emily Spalding

Stephen Duff Webber

 

As:  

Chorus of Persian elders 

Queen of Persia, widow of Dareius and mother of Xerxes

Persian Messenger

Ghost of King Dareius, father of Xerxes

King Xerxes

Costume Designer: Nephelie Andonyadis

Set & Lighting Desigern: Brian H Scott

Sound Designer: Darron L West

Choral Consultant/Composer: Victor Zupanc 

Production Stage Manager: Ellen Mezzera

Scenic & Lighting Assistant: Matthew Johns

Props Assistance: Sarah Krainin

Production Assistant: Claire Mannle

Assistnat to Director: Sara Radamacher

Assistant to Costume Designer: Cambria Chici             

Costume Craftsperson: Debbie Bradford           

Draper: Bronwen Burton

First Hand: Lalena Hutton 

Executive Director: Michelle Preston

Special Projects Producer: Megan Wanlass