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The cast of Troy Too take their bows at HERE Arts Center in New York City. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)
NEW YORK – Ancient Greek drama continues to influence and inspire artists to the present day. The constancy of human nature and the universality of the themes that the ancient playwrights wrote about offer a powerful framework for contemporary theatre to build on and speak about today’s most pressing issues. Theatre-goers in New York are blessed with a special opportunity through May 21 to see Greece’s finest classical actress, Lydia Koniordou, starring Off-Broadway in the world premiere of Troy Too, a poetic play in dialogue with Euripides’ The Trojan Women and the current crises of COVID, climate change, and racism.
With her commanding stage presence, the dynamic Koniordou leads a talented multiracial cast and brings a modern and ancient Hecuba to life in English and ancient Greek. Directed by Avra Sidiropoulou, written by Karen Malpede, and with music by Vanias Apergis, this imaginatively staged and evocative play is not to be missed. Persona Theater Company in Athens and Theater Three Collaborative in New York, two companies known for their social justice work, are presenting this limited engagement at HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, through May 21. Tickets are on sale at www.here.org.
Crafted in the heat of 2020 from language found on the streets during the protests for racial justice, in hospitals during the COVID lockdown, and from the mouths of endangered fish in the sea, Troy Too is an enraged and poignant play of what we have survived, and a poetic elegy for those who did not. Greek director Sidiropoulou, known for her innovative multimedia stagings of modern and classical texts, brings Troy Too shockingly alive in an international production that cuts across languages and cultures. The play, one of the first to tackle the COVID pandemic, is an angry yet beautiful communal lament, one that has been lacking from public life.
“Troy Too solidifies our present moment, when three fatal threats, COVID, climate change, and racism, can be understood as one interrelated planetary crisis,” said playwright Malpede. “The piece is a memory of a crucially traumatic historical moment, and a prediction of suffering to come, unless we heed the experiences of the victims.”
“Troy Too seized my heart upon first reading,” said Sidiropoulou. “It speaks to our present-day global crisis in powerful ways. I’m honored to bring Karen’s vision to the stage with a thrilling international cast and creative team.”
Troy Too is dedicated to the memory of George Bartenieff (1933–2022), co-founder with Malpede of Theater Three Collaborative and actor, producer, activist, extraordinaire. Troy Too features Bartenieff on audio in his final performance.
Following the matinee performance on May 13, a talk back was held with the playwright, director, cast members who shared their insights on this powerful play with the enthusiastic audience who asked questions and offered their congratulations. Malpede shared how she met Koniordou years ago and how “this whole project has been kind of amazing, both amazingly difficult and amazingly wonderful.”
Sidiropoulou had contacted Malpede to write an essay for a book that she was editing, titled Staging 21st Century Tragedies: Theatre, Politics and Global Crisis, in 2020 during the lockdown. Inspired by the crises and protests unfolding at the time, she wrote the play, thinking it would never be staged, but Sidiropoulou read the play and decided to stage it. “At first we thought on Zoom, I’m so glad that didn’t happen,” Malpede said. “And then Lydia was shown the play and liked it, and here she is, a great pleasure to be working with these two extraordinary women and this wonderful cast.”
“Meanwhile in Greece, we were looking for a way to connect with what was happening in the world,” Sidropoulou said. “We were all feeling that something had to happen in the theatre to make it a little more about community and change the way we approach not just the great classical works such as The Trojan Women on which this play is based, but in general think of a new way to approach being in the room with people together and breathing with them.”
Koniordou noted that although she too did not think the work would be staged, she agreed to be a part of the project, became friends with Malpede, and longed to work with the late Bertenieff “whose spirit is around us” she said.
Koniordou noted how glad she is to work with the American actors in the play, with Sidiropoulou, at times over Zoom and in Cyprus where they both work, and with the composer Vanias Apergis who composed the English songs in the mode of blues and Gospel while Koniordou sang the ancient Greek songs in the mode of traditional Greek lamentations from northern Greece, Epirus, and Asia Minor.
Joining Koniordou in performance are Tommie J. Moore, Abigail Ramsay, David Glover, Ilker Oztop, Di Zhu, and Ethan Jones along with Ilia Pappa and Anthi Savvaki on film.
Troy Too is made possible with the support of the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation, Nina Kamberos, and Aspa & Andreas Andreades.
The production is a part of SubletSeries@HERE: a curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment, as well as a technical liaison. Performances of Troy Too run through May 21 at HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue, just below Spring Street, in Manhattan. The performance schedule is Thursday-Saturday at 7 PM and Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. Talkback sessions with the cast immediately follow the matinee performances.
Tickets, at $10 (x10), $20 (standard), $30 (true cost), and $40 (Pay it Forward), are available at www.here.org. Standard ticketing fees apply.
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