New York Euripides Summer Festival Presented Suppliants

The sixteen-member cast of the 2018 edition of the New York Euripides Summer Festival production of Suppliants at the Minor Latham Playhouse at Columbia University. Photo: D. Santos

NEW YORK – This year’s highly anticipated New York Euripides Summer Festival (NYESF) presented Suppliants at amphitheaters in three New York City Parks and at the Minor Latham Playhouse at Columbia University, August 2-10. The production by American Thymele Theatre (ATT), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, marked the 10th anniversary of the NYESF which continues to draw diverse crowds to enjoy the work of the ancient playwright for free each summer.

The playbill included a letter from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, welcoming everyone to the festival. He wrote, “New York is the proud home to residents who hail from every corner of the map, and this remarkable diversity is reflected in our vibrant cultural landscape. Established in 1993, ATT promotes the rich heritage of Greece through its free plays presented in New York City public schools and theatres in the five boroughs and beyond. Its annual Euripides festival showcases works by the ancient Greek dramatist, and this year’s edition features a production of Suppliants. As you gather to take in today’s production, I applaud the play’s cast and crew and everyone associated with this wonderful theater company for their efforts to enhance our performing arts offerings, uplift our thriving Greek community, and share traditional Hellenic culture with New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds.”

“On behalf of the City of New York, I offer my best wishes for a fabulous festival and continued success. Enjoy the show,” Mayor de Blasio concluded.

Suppliants is a rarely-staged tragedy and features two choruses, a Chorus of Argive Women and a Chorus of Argive Children, offering unique classical roles for children.

The audience was impressed by the performances of Gina Haver as Aethra, Andrew Kallimani as Theseus, Zane Michael as the Herald, Alex M. Griffin as the Messenger, and veteran actor Peter J. Coriaty as Iphis.

ATT founder and noted character actor Stephen Diacrussi with members of the Children’s Chorus after the closing performance of Suppliants. Photo: E. Clancy

ATT founder and noted character actor Stephen Diacrussi told The National Herald, “ATT was founded while the year 2000 was still seven years away, the same year the first cloning of a human embryo was achieved and the European Union was formally established. Not necessarily a blessing for a humble character actor, American Thymele Theatre made me see theater from a non-actor’s perspective, while enabling me to offer career opportunities and guidance to many colleagues in the professional world in which I was immersed since my graduating year at Performing Arts High School. Coinciding with ATT’s 25th anniversary, this New York Euripides Summer Festival production of Suppliants has already become a joyous memory for me, filled with gratitude towards the marvelous troupe of actors and staff and the general public for their support and enthusiasm in our endeavors.”

Suppliants was first produced in Athens circa 421 BC and praises Athens and democracy at a time when Argos was considering a treaty with Boeotia, an enemy of Athens. The play is based on events from a generation before the Trojan War, when seven chiefs were sent to defend the seven gates of Thebes, now at war with Argos. King Oedipus has left Thebes and his sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, fight for control of the city-state. Polyneices has married the daughter of Adrastus, King of Argos, and joined in the attack against Thebes. Both of Oedipus’ sons are killed in the fight and Creon, brother of Jocasta, assumes control of Thebes. He forbids the burial of Polyneices and all the Argive invaders. The mothers, wives, and children make an appeal for the bodies of their unburied dead to Theseus, King of Athens. The events recounted in the play were also dramatized by Aeschylus in Seven Against Thebes produced in 467 BC.

The production featured a contemporary staging which allowed the actors and the text of the play to shine. The final performance of the festival on August 10 was originally scheduled to be held at the Glicker-Milstein Theatre, but due to an electrical short circuit, the show went on at the adjacent Minor Latham Playhouse instead.

Many audience members told TNH they look forward to next year’s festival.