The Tank NYC

Public Domain #1: Philoctetes by Sophocles
September 22, 2010, 15:51
Filed under: theater
Public Domain #1: Philoctetes by Sophocles directed by Garrett Zuercher

Public Domain #1: Philoctetes by Sophocles directed by Garrett Zuercher

The Tank blog welcomes Kevin Laibson, theater curator for The Tank and artistic director for Full Circle Theatre Company, as well as co-executive producer for the Public Domain theater series.

The Tank asked me to write a blog about the Public Domain series that they are producing in conjunction with Full Circle. Since they’ve been so good to me, and I love attention, I happily obliged. Full Circle wanted to start a readings series as cheaply as we could. This left us with two options: new works or classics (it’s starting to become clearer why there are so many small theater companies with the words “new works” or “classics” in their mission statements, right?). New works are wonderful – the lifeblood of the theater, blah, blah – but it’s awfully hard to consistently find great new stuff, and even harder to convince people to come out to stuff totally on faith. As we started poking around the classics arena, we found ourselves talking a lot about how cool the concept of public domain intellectual property is. If a piece of art exists for long enough it belongs to all of us – there’s something sort of beautiful and amazing about that. It’s easy to forget that the creation of a piece of art is ostensibly a service for the people – I love that with enough distance from creation, it is released in to society for us to do with as we please. So we wanted to highlight that. Some of the greatest works ever created are ours to mess with for the sake of saying new things.

So. We picked 7 plays from different points in history and all over the world, and 7 directors with vastly different aesthetics, and we put them all on the internet, where we let anybody who wanted to vote to assign each director a play. Thursday, we open with Sophocles’ Philoctetes, directed in ASL and voice by Garrett Zuercher. Garrett, deaf himself, and probably best known as Huck in the Broadway touring company of Deaf West’s acclaimed Big River, is working very hard to make theater equally accessible to deaf and hearing audiences. Philoctetes features a chorus made up of hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf actors, with various fluency in ASL, and Garrett has cast hearing and deaf actors in the principle roles. As producer, my big concern once the votes were cast was whether the language of a Greek tragedy would translate stylistically in to ASL. So when Garrett sat down and told me his concept for the show, and how incredibly it capitalized on the themes of the show, I forgot all about the language. Philoctetes is certainly not just some Greek play: it deals with isolation, deceit, exploitation, and assumption. Re-positioning it as a piece of deaf theater (which I hesitate to call it, as it really is just theater that is accessible to more than one kind of audience), Garrett refocused this play in a big way for me, which is far beyond my expectations for how this series might work out.

After Philoctetes, we run Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus in October, directed by Andrew Scoville, who will be just coming off of Assistant Directing Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and who has a mild obsession with order and chaos. All I’m comfortable telling you about his Faust is that it’s set on Wall Street, and it uses interactive video performance software triggered by live digital sound design. And also that I believe it will be awesome.

With that, I leave you. I’m going to watch Andrew Neisler workshop Ivanough for November.


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