Yokastas Redux
The Annex
February 17 - 27, 2004
Thursday - Friday 7:30pm
Saturday - Sunday - 2:30pm & 7:30pm
*Wed. Feb. 23 at 7:30pm
Written by: Richard Schechner & Saviana Stanesca
Director: Richard Schechner

Box office 212.475.7710

"YokastaS Redux" is the completion of Richard Schechner's Yokasta project, to be presented by La MaMa in its Annex Theater February 17 to 27. It is a completely different version of a play which had a preliminary production in March-April, 2003, presented by La MaMa in its First Floor Theater. Performed by East Coast Artists, it is co-authored by Schechner and Romanian playwright Saviana Stanescu and is directed by Schechner.

Richard Schechner, who rose to prominence by deconstructing another Greek myth with "Dionysus in 69," explains that he has always been intrigued by the myth of Yokasta because she is such an important figure in the Greek tragedy -- but she is under-represented onstage. Schechner describes Yokasta as one of the "incomplete" figures of Greek myth, with no play of her own in the classical Greek canon. (However, she figures prominently in Stravinsky's opera, "Oedipus," and in a 16th century play by George Gascoigne.)

Schechner asked, What if Yokasta never committed suicide? This and other "what if's" led him to the notion of filling in her life by portraying her in several stages of it. With this as the starting point, Schechner invited the collaboration of Romanian playwright Saviana Stanescu and the actors of East Coast Artists. They began writing and workshopping in 2003.

The play moves through time, portraying Yokasta, mother of Oedipus, at four different ages, played by four different actresses. Yokasta is presented as an optimistic teen, an angry young woman, a happily married woman, and an older woman who makes rounds of talk shows telling the hosts about her famous life and complaining that nobody has written a play about her. The effect is a multi-faceted play contrasting tragedy, irony, sexuality, murder, and intellect. "YokastaS" juxtaposes the innocence of girlhood with the brutality of women's fate in history. "Each Yokasta has her own experience," says Schechner, "like Rashomon."

Breaking Yokasta into four characters enabled Schechner and Stanescu to present aspects of the Yokasta myth as they imagine it might have evolved over time. In "YokastaS Redux," we see Yokasta as if through a prism, broken out into her various components. Yoyo, age 14, represents the hope of the future. She insists she will not live the life that is fated for her. Yoko, ages from 18 to 30, enacts the night when she had to surrender Oedipus after birthing him. Angry at Laius, she takes her revenge in many different ways, including murdering all their male children. Yono, a woman in her late thirties, never looks back. She is the perfect wife to Oedipus. She loves him, has four kids with him, and helps train him to be the perfect king. Finally, there is Yokasta, around 55, who has seen it all and makes the rounds of talk shows. She is cynical, fun and wise. Often these Yokastas are on stage together - helping each other act out key scenes from their lives.

The characters are contemporary, as is most of the language. One actor plays all the male roles: Laius, Oedipus, and TV talk show hosts. The tone of the production swings from the emotional and tragic to the ironic - with lots of references to pop culture. One scene depicts a talk show where the Yokastas argue who is "tragedy's baddest mama." They quote from Euripides' "Phaedra" and "Medea," Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex," and Seneca's "Oedipus."

Emphasizing the intrusiveness of our electronic age, the outside world is not fenced out of this show, but deliberately allowed to interrupt it. The show will begin with a statement by the stage manager that tells the audience and the actors to leave their cell phones on. The play will actually stop if anybody's cellphone rings.

The production includes a slide show by Ryan Jensen depicting the first night when Oedipus arrives in Thebes and is given a "royal bath" by Yokasta. The actors include both long-time East Coast Artists performers and newcomers to the company. Daphne Gaines* portrays Yokasta, Rachel Bowditch* is Yono, Phyllis Johnson* is Yoko, Jennifer Lim* appears as Yoyo, and Sarah Kozinn plays Understudy - a Yokasta in the making. Christopher Logan Healy* plays the male roles of Laius, Oedipus, and The Media. (*=appearing through the courtesy of Actors' Equity Association.) The play has been completely rewritten and workshopped a number of times since its 2003 La MaMa production. Only Rachel Bowditch and Christopher Logan Healey remain from the '03 cast.

Soundscapes are by Allan Willmer. Costumes are by Oana Botez-Ban. Lighting design is by Lucrecia Briceno. Photography is by Ryan Jensen. Set design is by Schechner. Benjamin Mosse is the assistant director.

Co-author Saviana Stanescu is a prominent Romanian writer and author of six books of poetry and drama, including an English-Romanian anthology, "Black Milk," and a French translation of "Final Countdown." She is a recipient of Romania's National Award for Best Play of 1999 for "The Inflatable Apocalypse." She is a Fullbright scholar and holds a MFAs in playwriting and an MA in performance studies - both from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. "YokastaS" and "YokastaS Redux" comprise her U.S. and English language playwriting debut.

Richard Schechner, University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, was the founding director in 1967 of The Performance Group, which he headed until 1980. He has dealt with the myth of Oedipus and Yokasta once before, in his own version of Seneca's "Oedipus" in Ted Hughes' translation. Schechner became famous as director of "Dionysus in 69," "Mother Courage and her Children," Sam Shepard's "The Tooth of Crime" and Genet's "The Balcony." He founded East Coast Artists as a resident company of La MaMa in 1992 in order to develop younger talents and attempt once again to form a true ensemble repertory theater company. With ECA, Schechner has directed "Faust/Gastronome" (1993), "Three Sisters" (1997), and "Hamlet" (2000).

A Schechner Center will open in Shanghai, China in March, 2005, dedicated to researching ritual and experimental performance, introducing Performance Studies to China, and developing new collaborative artistic works. The Center will present Schechner's retake of "Hamlet" in 2006. This will be the first professional production with actors from the Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan working collaboratively on a single project. At present, Schechner and Stanescu are working with the novelist Paul Auster in developing a stage version of Auster's "Timbuktu," to be staged by ECA in 2006.

East Coast Artists' first production, "Faust/Gastronome" (La MaMa, 1993) made the old alchemist a chef and was praised as "simultaneously adventurous and self-important, fiery and prodigal, sensuous and indulgent, quick witted and facile" (Marc Robinson, Village Voice). About the company's next production, "AmeriKa" (La MaMa, 1994), directed by Maria Vail Guevara, the Voice's Randy Gener wrote, "East Coast Artists has a penchant for 'thEATer.' The embedded caps attest to how the troupe chews on…the American Dream. 'Faust/Gastronome' cooked up the Faust myth as capitalism gone voraciously sick. Here, Kafka is chomped." When "Faust…" toured England, the London Guardian (Claire Armistead) wrote, "these people aren't just oddball iconoclasts--they are seriously talented actors and singers who are using their skills and cooking utensils for a feast of eye and mind."

East Coast Artists followed this production with two versions of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" at La MaMa in 1995 and 1997. As in the Yokasta story, "Three Sisters" had the characters moving through time: using a new (and faithful) translation by Michelle Minnick, it had its first act in pre-revolutionary Russia, the second in post-revolutionary Russia, the third in a gulag of the 1950's and the fourth in the here-and-now of the theater. The idea was to test the play as drama, physical theater, farce and soap opera by moving it through the century, with the consciousnesses of Stanislavsky, Meyerhold and Stalin all hovering over the stage. East Coast Artists' last production at La MaMa was "YokastaS" in 2003.

This production is funded in part through Meet The Composer's Creative Connections Program with the support of ASCAP Foundation, Copland Fund, Ford Foundation, Jerome Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Virgil Thomson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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