|IPHIGENIA, adapted from Euripides by Ms. Skipitares,
features 5 foot Bunraku puppets strapped to the front of actors' bodies
at the head, the chest, the waist, and the knees. Each veiled actor speaks
his lines from behind the puppet, much as an actor might have spoken his
lines from behind a large Greek mask in ancient Greek theater. In this particular
story of betrayal and deception in the name of war, these puppets are an
eerie construction of facade and public display, while their operators are
a shadow of primal, often raw emotions and personal desires.
When the play begins, the Greek king Agamemnon is waiting for winds to
propel his ships so he can start the Trojan War. It turns out, however,
that the king's earlier slaying of a deer has angered the goddess Artemis,
who will continue to stymie his plans unless he sacrifices his oldest
daughter, Iphigenia. Agamemnon lures Iphigenia and her mother Clytemnestra
to his war camp with a contrived lie about a marriage to the great warrior
Achilles. As soon as he sends for them, Agamemnon realizes what an awful
idea he has come up with, and immediately regrets it. But it is too late........tens
of thousands of soldiers are lusting for war......and events move forward
to their dreadful conclusion. IPHIGENIA asks the questions: Is the sacrifice
of a child necessary for the prosecution of a war?, and Can an entire
nation be led to madness in a time of war?
An earlier version of IPHIGENIA was commissioned by the Minneapolis theater
company, Ten Thousand Things. That production was performed in several
county and state prisons, shelters, as well as public performance spaces.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote: "Told with ritual and striking
transparency in this staging by Theodora Skipitares, IPHIGENIA rings with
a tragic resonance......Theater companies often prattle on about their
current productions having 'an amazing relevance for today's times.' In
IPHIGENIA, this production actually delivers."
Ms. Skipitares has been creating large-scale theater works with puppets
for over 20 years. Her previous work includes The Age of Invention, Defenders
of the Code, Under the Knife, A Harlot's Progress. IPHIGENIA is part of
a trilogy of Greek plays, which includes Helen, Queen of Sparta,(2003)
and Odyssey: The Homecoming (2004). Her works have been produced throughout
the US, Europe, and Asia, and she has received numerous grants and awards,
including Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships, six NEA grants, and
a UNIMA Citation for Excellence in Puppetry. In 2000, she won the American
Theater Wing Design Award for A Harlot's Progress, and in 2004, she won
the Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwriting Award. In 2000, she was a
Fulbright Fellow in India, where she created two original works.
The music is composed by Tim Schellenbaum and Yukio Tsuji. Dramaturgy
is by Andrea Balis. The puppets are constructed by Cecilia Schiller, a
Minneapolis artist, and Ms. Skipitares. The company consists of puppeteers
who have worked with Ms. Skipitares for more than a decade and actors
John Benoit, Carolyn Goelzer, Chris Maresca, Nicky Paraiso, and Sonja
Perryman,who portray the major roles. Iphigenia is the only character
who is performed without a puppet.