direction: Ellen Stewart
vocal score: Elizabeth Swados
original music & orchestrations: Michael Sirotta, Shelia Dabney &
lighitng design: David Adams
scenic design: Jun Maeda, Mark Tambella & Watoku Ueno
puppet design: Federico Restrepo
costume design: Sally J. Lesser
musicians: Heather Paauwe, Michale Sirotta & Yukio Tsuji
featuring: Arthur Adair, Marina Celander, Sara Galassini, Denise Greber,
Onni Johnson, Robert Laqui, Tom Lee, Gian Marco Lo Forte, Julia Martin,
Valois Mickens, Andy Narendra, Scott Gannon Patton, Eugene the Poogene,
Stephanie Rafferety, Federico Restrepo, Mitsunari Sakamoto, Willy Sherwin,
Yasmine Soiffer, Patrick Ssenjovu, Shigeko Suga, Chris Wild, Meredith Wright,
Perry Yung, Stefano Zazzera
June 15th - 30th
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
The Annex Theatre
To share one of the integral works of its repertory with
a new generation of theatergoers, La MaMa E.T.C. will present the Great
Jones Repertory in its first revival of "Dionysus Filius Dei" (1989),
a dance-opera by Ellen Stewart with vocal score by Elizabeth Swados,
from June 13 to 30. This production offers a unique viewing opportunity
for New York theatergoers to savor the treatment of Greek classics
in the La MaMa tradition. The title means "Dionysus, Son of God." The
production traces the story of Dionysus, from the seduction of his
mother, Semele, by Zeuss, through his childhood, when he was beset
by Hera; his love affair with Ampelos; his travels to Attica, Aetolia,
Amon and Egypt; and ends with the ascension of Dionysus and his mother
to Mount Olympus. It is performed in ritual theater style with sensuous,
stylized movement and an intricate vocal score by Elizabeth Swados
which is sung in ancient Greek. The work is an integral part of the
repertory of the Great Jones Rep, which also includes "Fragments
of a Greek Trilogy," directed by Andrei Serban with music by Elizabeth
Swados, and other productions by Ellen Stewart including "Mythos
"Orfei" and "Fedra," among others.
"Dionysus Filius Dei" was originally mounted in part of a double feature
with Ellen Stewart's "Mythos Oedipus." The New York Times attested
to its mystery and power and the Village Voice described how "the heart
throbbed, and the viscera wrenched, all under a bath of startling light effects,"
declaring that "it conveys eons of experience in a rich, unforced way."
The Daily News declared that the plays worked effectively as pageant, with performances
that "successfully seduce us into another theatrical world." That so
much of the La MaMa repertory comes from the Greek canon is another interesting
story. In 1972, Ellen Stewart was adamant that a part must be found for black
actresses that did not contain the too-familiar situations of drug addiction,
abortion and prostitution that were commonplace in realistic plays of the period.
So with Andrei Serban, she began planning a "Medea," using music by
Elizabeth Swados, as a vehicle for a black actress named Betty White. Stewart
"English sounded terrible with Liz's music. The only language that worked
was with the concept was Greek. So everybody learned Greek. I got a tutor and
we cast the show." Betty White left the project for Broadway, but "Medea"
made history with Priscilla Smith in the title role. The approach to "Medea"
continued on, with continual refinements, in subsequent productions directed
by Serban and Ellen Stewart, using the Great Jones Rep as a core company of actors
and musicians. The Dionysian legacy was central to the history of the Great Jones
Repertory. After the troupe performed
"Medea," the first part of its "Fragments of a Greek Trilogy,"
in the majestic ruins of the Palace of Dionysus in Baalbeck, Lebanon in 1972,
Ellen Stewart and Andrei Serban resolved to break the company out of small spaces
and find a large theater for its subsequent work. Their ensuing quest resulted
in La MaMa attaining its large Annex Theater at 66 East Fourth Street, where
the major productions of the Great Jones Rep were made thereafter, including
the balance of "Fragments of a Greek Trilogy" ("The Trojan Women"
and Elektra") and most of Ms. Stewart's epic plays. Ellen Stewart is now
internationally recognized for her stagings of majestic, multi-arts theater spectacles,
many on classical and religious themes. Her directing record includes "Cotton
Club" (La MaMa, three times), "Bamba" (Argentina, 1984), "Mythos
Oedipus (Greece and La MaMa, four times), "Orfei" (La MaMa, 1975, 1985), "Phaedra
Via Hercules," "Dionysus" (La MaMa, 1989),
"Romeo and Juliet" (Salzburg, Uruguay, Sarah Lawrence, 1981, 1988,
1991), "Fedra" (Argentina, 1986), "The Monk & The Hangman's
Daughter" (Florida, Italy, 1986, 1990, 2000), "Prescepio Vivente (The
Nativity)" (Italy, 1990), "Gerusalemme Liberata" (Rome, 1990,
1992), "Cordilera" (Philippines, 1988), "Ciacinta" (Italy,
1991), "Ecumenical Music of the World" (Paris, 1992), "Yunus"
(Istanbul 1991, La MaMa 1992), "Tancredi and Erminia" (La MaMa, 1993),
"Seven Against Thebes" (La MaMa, 2001) and "Draupadi" (La
MaMa, 2002). The production features members of the original acting company from
1989, together with a new generation of Great Jones Rep artists. The company
includes (* indicates original company) Arthur Adair (Zeus), Marina Celander
(Semele), Eugene Chai, Sara Galassini, Denise Greber, Onni Johnson, Robert Laqui,
Tom Lee (Dionysus), Gian Marco Lo Forte, Julia Martin, Valois Mickens* (Hera),
Andy Narendra, Heather Paauwe, Scott Gannon Patton, Federico Restrepo* (Hermes),
Mitsunari Sakamoto, Michael Sirotta, Yasmine Soiffer, Patrick Ssenjovu, Shigeko
Suga*, Yukio Tsjui, Chris Wild (Ampelos), Meredith Wright, Perry Yung and Stefano
Zazzera. The musicians are Yukio Tsuji, Michael Sirotta* and Heather Paauwe.
Music and orchestrations are composed by Genji Ito and Michael Sirotta. Set design
is by Jun Maeda*; lighting design is by David Adams*. This production is supported
by the National Endowment for the Arts, whose ongoing support of classics at
La MaMa included a 1999 revival in which the Great Jones Rep performed "Medea,"
"Electra" and "The Trojan Women" in rotating repertory.