Aeschylus’ The Persians Opens Off-Broadway

The Persians by Aeschylus. Photo: American Theatre of Actors

NEW YORK – Aeschylus’ The Persians presented by the American Theatre of Actors opened Off-Broadway on April 4 at the John Cullum Theatre, 314 West 54th Street in Manhattan. The production, with Artistic Director James Jennings and directed by John DeBenedetto runs through April 15.

Considered the oldest surviving play in theatre history, The Persians is also the only surviving ancient tragedy based on contemporary events and the second play in a trilogy that would otherwise be entirely lost. The trilogy won the first prize in the City Dionysia of Athens in 472 BCE. The play recounts the Persians’ response to their defeat by the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE the decisive moment in the Persian War. Aristotle thought the play was sympathetic to the defeated Persians, but Aristophanes saw it as a celebration of Greece’s victory in an ongoing war. Either way, the resonance of the play for audiences from ancient times to the present remained, and remains, strong.

The cast includes Shaun Melady as Xerxes, Sonya Rice as Queen Atossa, and Richard Barreto as the Ghost of King Darius.

The National Herald spoke with Melady, the lead in the play, about the experience of bringing this ancient tragedy to life. He said, “I’m very excited and honored to be working on this production of The Persians. The director and cast of the show are fantastic, and to be able to work with them on my Off-Broadway debut has been an incredible opportunity. I look forward to the run of the show and many others in the future. I’m very grateful for this experience.”

Melady moved to New York City in 2017 from Central Florida where he worked in

Marketing Communications, leaving the Sunshine State for the Big Apple to pursue his

dream of acting, modeling, and singing. He appeared on Starz Channel’s new television series Sweetbitter, and was then invited to model and perform at the 2018 New York Fashion Week in the Art Hearts Fashion Show, before returning to the stage in The Persians.

Director John DeBenedetto has directed numerous productions at various venues in New York City, including the Hudson Guild, Manhattan Rep, and the New York Fringe Festival. At ATA, he directed, among others, The Clouds, Philoctetes, Love’s Labours Lost, and Twelfth Night. He holds an MA in Theatre History and Playwriting from

Hunter College.

The American Theatre of Actors was founded in 1976 by James Jennings, who continues as its President and Artistic Director. It is a repertory theatre company consisting of 50 actors, 20 playwrights and 10 directors. Its purpose is to promote the development of new playwrights, directors and actors and provide them a creative atmosphere in which to work without the pressures of commercial theatre. The plays are dramas and comedies dealing with the social and ethical problems of contemporary society. Over 800 new works have been presented and more than 8,000 actors have worked at ATA, including Dennis Quaid, Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Chazz Palminteri, William Fichtner, and Edie Falco.

The Persians, American Theatre of Actors John Cullum Theatre, 314 West 54th Street in Manhattan, runs from April 4-15. Hours: MondaySaturday at 8 PMSunday at 3 PM. Reservations: 212-581-3044