The New York Euripides Summer Festival. Photo: Courtesy of American Thymele Theatre
NEW YORK – Viral concerns during pre-production mandated another remote rendering of this year’s New York Euripides Summer Festival productions of Ion and Orestes. Governed by Apollo and his instrumental function in both plays, Ion and Orestes are presented in the same double bill. While Ion remains a true rarity, not having been produced professionally since 1984, Orestes, one of Euripides’ most sought-after dramas, is a perfect match for this summer’s selections, named after male protagonists, in contrast to the playwright’s abundant number of plays named after women.
Being the last of his four tragi-comedies, Euripides expresses skepticism in Ion, about the received mythology and intentionally comments on anthropomorphic religion. As a political motive, the play helps justify Athens’ claim to sovereignty over Ionia, making Ion, an illegitimate child, the future ruler of Ionia and his return to Athenian soil, where he was born, before Hermes carried him to the temple of Apollo at Delphi when still an infant. Ion grows up serving Apollo, not knowing who his parents are, but divine forethought solves the mystery of his ancestry and grants him a prosperous future, making Ion a drama with a happy ending. It is photographed and directed by Stephen Diacrussi.
In Orestes, directed by Bradley Cordero, Apollo also controls the action of this Euripidean favorite. Since it was first produced in 408 BCE to contemporary times, it has influenced a plethora of other compositions, in all art forms and served as a coveted instrument for world-wide production. The profound relationship among Orestes, Pylades, and Electra, remain relevant and the play’s spectacular use of three different stage elevations for the final scene, exalt Euripides’ genius to this day. It is Apollo himself who contrives the killing of Clytemnestra and the one who ultimately justifies the killing.
In what has become the third consecutive summer season in presenting the New York Euripides Summer Festival remotely, the diverse ensemble company members create memorable film role characters, while using Zoom as a medium to make motion pictures. Stephen Diacrussi, a Picker Film Institute graduate who pioneered this single-character-shot format of remote filming, mentioned that “there is great potential in this style” and that “the pandemic did prove to have a positive impact in the approach of a variety of art forms.” He further indicated that “whereas platforms such as Zoom were originally media for readings and discussions, necessity proved that, when used effectively, even cinematic miracles can be realized, once technique is mastered.”
Theatrical screenings are included for this year’s festival. Also for the first time, gender-bending casting is applied for a given role, that of the Messenger in Orestes (played by Samantha Biatch), and the leading character in both Ion and Orestes, played by the same actor (Jeric Gutierrez). The ensemble cast also includes Molly Gilman, Syd Strong, Joshua Biatch, John Calvanico, Ari Huber, Mari Hayes, Deirdre Donahue, Stephen Diacrussi, Giulia Cowie, Len Breslow and Hari Bhaskar.
Before both remote films premiered on the American Thymele Theatre YouTube channel on August 29 at 12 AM and 1:15 AM, they were screened on August 26 and 27 at the Hellenic Cultural Center Theater, 27-09 Crescent Street, in the Astoria section of Queens in New York. As with all ATT productions, admission is free-of-charge to the public. Presented through TELEPHILMS.
Diacrussi told The National Herald that “this year’s New York Euripides Summer Festival digital productions took seven weeks to put together. Rehearsals started right after the 4th of July, on July 5 and both Ion and Orestes were rehearsed and captured together. Postproduction ended August 22.”
When asked how the plays were selected, Diacrussi said: “Apollo’s presence in both Ion and Orestes was a determining factor for the two selections for this summer. Apollo is proven to be Ion’s father in Ion and it is Apollo whom Ion serves at his temple in Delphi, not knowing who his parents are. Apollo appears in Orestes as a character at the end of the play, claiming to be the one who made Orestes kill his mother, Clytemnestra. It is also Apollo who at the end proves Orestes innocent for matricide. It is Apollo therefore who is in control of both plays’ action.”
“Following this year’s screenings, both plays are still available on the American Thymele Theatre YouTube channel,” Diacrussi told TNH.
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