The Public Theater and Onassis Foundation Present Gospel at Colonus

Oedipus and Antigone by Emil Teschendorff (1898). Photo: via Wikimedia Commons

NEW YORK – The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) and the Onassis Foundation USA announced six free performances of The Gospel at Colonus, the groundbreaking re-telling of Sophocles’ classic, for a limited engagement, September 4-9 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

With book, original lyrics, and direction by Lee Breuer and original music, adapted lyrics, and music direction by Bob Telson, the iconic musical returns to New York City for the first time since 2004 to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the original production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and to honor visionary director Lee Breuer for his lifetime of excellence and historic collaboration with The Public Theater.

“The Gospel at Colonus is the masterpiece of the populist side of Lee’s work, a brilliant merging of Greek tragedy and biblical traditions and an astonishing meditation on death and life,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “I first walked into The Public Theater as a student (and groupie!) of Lee Breuer’s. Joe Papp had given his theater company, Mabou Mines, a home here and over the next few years Lee and his colleague JoAnne Akalaitis became central figures in The Public Theater family. I am so proud to be honoring Lee and honoring us with a week of Colonus in the Park.”

“What better proof can there be of the endurance, universality, and power of Greek theater than Gospel at Colonus—an ancient Greek tragedy turned into religious parable within the framework of the Pentecostal church?” said President of the Onassis Foundation Anthony S. Papadimitriou.

“Sophocles wrote the original play, Oedipus at Colonus, nearly 2,500 years ago, to be performed at a religious festival, that of Dionysus. There are many parallels we can draw between the two—the ecstatic element, the use of the chorus, the power of song. However, most important for the Onassis Foundation, an institution that, beyond Greek culture, promotes social cohesion and embraces diversity, was the Gospel’s unifying vision. It is a production that unites cultures and epochs, and it invites people to participate in a communal spiritual experience, much as they would in a church. That is also the purpose of theater since antiquity, and at the Onassis Foundation, we are thrilled to be able to bring this magnificent interpretation of the work of Sophocles to the closest thing New York has to an ancient Greek amphitheater: the Delacorte in Central Park.”

The Gospel at Colonus is one of the most powerful, soul-stirring shows in theater history. Set in the context of a black Pentecostal service, it is an exuberant re-telling of Sophocles’ classic Oedipus at Colonus. With the ground-shaking thunder of a gospel revival meeting, this Obie-winning adaptation celebrates the 2400-year-old myth of Oedipus’ redemption with a rousing gospel and blues score.

Conceived, adapted, and directed by MacArthur Genius Grant winner Breuer, with music composed, arranged, and directed by Academy Award nominee Telson, The Gospel at Colonus is a one-of-a-kind show featuring more than 40 powerhouse voices including gospel legends The Blind Boys of Alabama and The Original Soul Stirrers. The Gospel at Colonus is produced by Sharon Levy/Dovetail Productions, Inc. with Associate Producer Mabou Mines and co-directed by Dodd Loomis.

Visionary director and playwright Breuer, whose work in the American Theater spans more than five decades, has a history of collaboration with The Public Theater. Breuer is the founding co-artistic director of the Mabou Mines Theater Company, an experimental theater company founded in 1970 with JoAnne Akalaitis, Philip Glass, Ruth Maleczech, Fred Neumann, and David Warrilow.

The complete cast of The Gospel at Colonus will feature Rev. Dr. Earl F. Miller (The Messenger); The Blind Boys of Alabama (Oedipus); The Legendary Soul Stirrers: Willie Rogers, Ben Odom, Gene Stewart (Choragos); Wren T. Brown (Theseus); Greta Oglesby (Antigone); Shari Addison (Ismene); J.D. Steele (Choir Director); Tina Fabrique (Soloist); Jeff Young (Soloist); Sam Butler Jr. (Balladeer); Jay Caldwell (Creon); Kevin Davis (Polyneices ); Carolyn Johnson-White (Choir Soloist); and Josie Johnson (Chorus).

Tickets will be distributed, two per person, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park beginning at 12 PM on the day of the show. Tickets will be distributed by mobile lottery on the TodayTix app each date that there is a public performance at the Delacorte Theater. On each public performance date, a limited number of vouchers for that night’s performance will also be distributed via an in-person lottery at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street at Astor Place in Manhattan. With a tax deductible donation of $75 or $150, you’ll receive a reserved seat to the event.

For information and to donate, call 212.967.7555. To make it easier for all New Yorkers to enjoy the show, a limited number of vouchers will be distributed on Wednesday, September 5 at the Brooklyn Central Library and Friday, September 7 at the Harlem School of the Arts. More dates to be confirmed, please visit publictheater.org for more information.

The Gospel at Colonus is co-presented by the Onassis Foundation USA. Additional funding made possible by the JKW Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the American Express Foundation.