Tanghalang Ateneo opens its 2013-2014 season with “Ang Oresteyas,” BJ Crisostomo’s Tagalog translation and adaptation of ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus’ trilogy “The Oresteia.”
Dubbed “Reimagining the Greeks,” TA’s 35th season will showcase contemporary approaches to ancient Greek drama.
The production combines all three plays (“Agamemnon,” “The Libation Bearers” and “The Eumenides”), focusing on Orestes’ killing of his mother Klytemnestra as an act of revenge for her murder of his father Agamemnon. Orestes is brought to trial and the audience forms part of the jury.
Crisostomo uses his translator’s conceit in employing the English language convention of adding an “s” to pluralize nouns for his Tagalog adaptation title.
“It sums up the way I see the original trilogy,” he says. “It has three stories but all of them have the same structure. The trilogy has different characters but it still goes back to the same problem/issue and structure.”
Nicolo Magno and Paul Jake Paule alternate as Orestes while Frances Makil-Ignacio and Lesley Leveriza-Lina alternate as Klytemnestra. Orestes’ sister Elektra will be played alternately by Delphine Buencamino and Miela Sayo.
The staging will be movement-centric, co-directed by TA advisor Ricky Abad and Dance Forum artistic director Myra Beltran.
“How does one render violent acts onstage? A wife killing a husband, son killing the mother. [This family] has a history of a cycle of violence,” Beltran says. “We have chosen to render this in a more abstract manner, hence, a more choreographic sensibility for ‘Ang Oresteyas.’”
Coincidentally, Beltran won third place in the 2009 Clytemnestra ReMash Challenge organized by the Martha Graham Dance Company. The worldwide competition tasked contestants to recreate any of five solos featured in Graham’s 1958 masterwork “Clytemnestra.” She and Ballet Philippines artistic director Paul Morales submitted a black-and-white entry titled “Clytemnestra-Manila ’58,” with Beltran as dancer and Morales as director and editor.
“The work I did for that video competition has no influence at all in this staging. That video was more about understanding Graham’s choreography vocabulary. Graham’s work enters the discussion because one has to be aware of the versions of ‘The Oresteia,’ how it has been staged by others. But I have not seen the entire Graham work, so it doesn’t have much of an influence.”
Beltran is known for her work in contemporary dance—as dancer, choreographer, teacher and advocate. Nonetheless, she said: “I don’t box myself ‘only’ as a choreographer of contemporary dance. I think people do not understand contemporary dance because they do not experience it a lot or there are not many contemporary dance performances.
“If there were, people could discern if a work was successful in its intention or not, instead of just concluding that they do not understand contemporary dance, in and of itself. Each work defines what contemporary dance is, that is the nature of contemporaneity.
“What characterizes the contemporary thought is a certain aversion to or suspicion of rigid structures, an inclination to inquiry and research, a porousness of boundaries. So what is important to me in ‘Ang Oresteyas’ is how I would give the work a choreographic sensibility, even if it is not identifiable as dance or contemporary dance.”
Teresa Barrozo handles sound design and original compositions while Jonjon Villareal handles lighting design. Gino Gonzales supervises set and costume design by Charles Yee and Chelsea Ong, respectively.
“Ang Oresteyas” runs July 11 to 27 at Rizal Mini Theater, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. Contact Tanghalang Ateneo at +63917-6309097 or [email protected]