NEW YORK – Eclipses Group Theater New York (EGTNY) presented Hercules: In Search of a Hero, based on two plays by Euripides, Alcestis and Hercules, directed and conceived by Ioanna Katsarou and translated by Demetri Bonaros. The limited engagement took place November 8-10 at the Mainstage of La Guardia Performing Arts Center (LPAC) in Long Island City, under the Auspices and strong support of the Consulate General of Greece in New York.
Hercules: In Search of a Hero is a new theater piece performed by a multi-ethnic cast, combining excerpts from Euripides’ plays with original material to explore the meaning of heroism in our time.
In Alcestis, Hercules descends to the underworld and restores Alcestis to her family after she had sacrificed herself to take her husband’s place in Hades. In Hercules, the hero returns from the underworld, is thrown into a god-induced frenzy, and kills his own family. Using as a launching point these two diametrically opposed actions by Hercules, the greatest of Greek heroes, and Alcestis in her own type of heroic act, the play explores heroism in a modern context.
Using poetic language and images, the play challenges the conventional, masculine notion of heroism, and contemplates a feminine alternative. It asks what counts as heroism in our time? Is an act heroic if it involves violence? Where is the place of women in the modern, Western mythology of heroism? And do we need to create new mythologies?
The creative team, including the dynamic cast members Alexandra Skendrou as the Goddess, Demetri Bonaros as Admetos and the Servant, and Luke Couzens as Hercules brought powerful emotion to the ancient text in translation which can be difficult, especially when combining two plays with such different tone.
Alcestis has always troubled literary critics who continue to debate even to this day how to categorize the play because of its ambiguity since it combines tragic and comic elements. It may be that Euripides intended for the play to be understood in a variety of ways. The comic aspects are a highlight of the Eclipses production, allowing the actors’ sense of humor to shine through in key moments.
Euripides’ Hercules is also a play full of ambiguity mostly in relation to religion since it raises questions about the gods that the philosophically-minded Greeks of the time period were undoubtedly asking about the very existence of these often petty, lustful, jealous, vengeful beings residing on Mt. Olympus. While it is the darker of the two plays, Hercules has hope at its core, something that works well in Eclipses’ production. The unsettled feeling remains, however, and challenges the audience to think about the hero in relation to the terrible violence in the play and in society in general.
For those who might have missed the November limited engagement, Eclipses’ production is scheduled for performances at the Abrons Art Center in Manhattan January 24-February 10, 2019.
The project was made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Queens Council on the Arts. The project was funded by the Investors Foundation and the work partially developed and performed through a generous space grant from LPAC.
Eclipses Group Theater New York (EGTNY) is a nonprofit theater company that serves as a cultural bridge between Greece and the United States, promoting all forms of Greek drama, music, dance, poetry and literature. More information is available at: egtny.com
Director/Concept/Dramaturgy work: Ioanna Katsarou
Translator: Demetri Bonaros
Composer: Costas Baltazanis
Lighting Designer: Christina Watanabe
Set Designer: Christos Alexandridis
Costume Designer: Marina Gkoumla
Assistant Costume Designer: Vivian Triviza
Stage Manager: Anastasia Thanasoula
Video: Alex Agisilaou
Fundraising/Marketing Coordinator: Katerina Alexaki
Fundraising/Social Media Coordinator/Marketing: Alexandra Skendrou
Advertisements/Fundraising: Pandora Spelios
Executive Producers: Ioanna Katsarou & Demetri Bonaros
Production: Eclipses Group Theater NY
Alcestis: Luisa Alarcón
Admetos/Servant: Demetri Bonaros
Hercules: Luke Couzens
Megara: Helena Farhi
Goddess: Alexandra Skendrou
Child: Taj Sood