San Francisco’s Brava Theater and African-American Shakespeare Company open their respective seasons with a collaborative production, the US Premiere of IPH… by playwright Colin Teevan. Dylan Russell helms this edgy, lyrical adaptation of Euripides’ Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis, featuring acclaimed actor and incoming African-American Shakespeare Artistic Director L. Peter Callender, Bay Area favorite C. Kelly Wright, and up-and-coming talent Traci Tolmaire. IPH… plays September 25 through October 16 (press opening September 27) at Brava Theater in San Francisco.
IPH… examines the intersection between the ancient ideal of the hero and the contemporary idea of celebrity, society’s hold on the individual, and the need to be renowned. Set at the beginning of the Trojan War, General Agamemnon has a difficult choice to make – should he sacrifice his daughter Iphigeneia, or condemn his entire army, and nation, to defeat? The Greek army is set to sail for Troy, but is unable to depart due to a strange lack of wind. This is no mere meteorological abnormality, but rather the will of the gods, and in order to whip up the winds, Agamemnon must sacrifice his only daughter. Agamemnon sets the sacrifice into action, announcing that Iphigeneia is to marry the great hero Achilles; she is thrilled at the prospect of the marriage, butIphigeneia, her mother, and the groom-to-be soon discover the truth – that Iphigeneia will be sacrificed. As Achilles prepares to defend her honor, Iphigeneia has a sudden change of heart and decides that the heroic thing to do would be to sacrifice herself. Is Iphigeneia’s sacrifice truly heroic, or selfish? For the love of her country and her father, or her own desire to be immortalized?Part religious sermon, part rock concert, part classical tragedy, part modern political thriller, IPH… is at once an intimate chamber piece and a powerful contemporary drama.
Director Dylan Russell, inspired by the dreamscapes of Salvador Dali, said of her vision for IPH…, “We are a nation perpetually at war, but to what end? In literature, we see that Greek heroes endeavored to become heroes. This obsession with the heroic ideal, however, has manifested itself in contemporary society as celebrity. With this production, I want to investigate our human need to be remembered and the actions that take us from human to hero.”
“This season is filled with dynamic collaborations,” said Brava Artistic Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges. “When Peter initially approached me about collaborating on his first production as the newly appointed Artistic Director of the African-American Shakespeare Company, I was honored. I’m thrilled to start the season with this project. We’ve been looking forward to collaborating on something with teeth, and IPH… is an exciting, challenging piece. This production is definitely a celebration of great things to come for both Brava and African-American Shakespeare Company.”
“These myths are life-changing, life-deepening, life-sustaining stories,” said L. Peter Callender, African-American Shakespeare Company Artistic Director. Continues Callender, “When I first read IPH… and decided to present it at African-American Shakespeare Company, I equated the situations in the play in contemporary terms, to Barack Obama having to sacrifice his daughters in order to gain world peace. Would he do that? Would he make that sacrifice if someone offered him the possibility of peace in Afghanistan, peace in the Middle East, no more wars? I don’t know if he would, but as a father, for me, it would be the most heart-wrenching decision I hope I never have to make.”
Brava and African-American Shakespeare Company have assembled a gifted ensemble for IPH…
L. Peter Callender is featured in IPH… as Agamemnon. Artistic Director of African-American Shakespeare Company and an Associate Artist at California Shakespeare Theater, Callender’s Bay Area and regional credits include roles at American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Aurora Theatre Company, Lorraine Hansberry Theater, Magic Theater, Thick Description, the Tony award-winning Cincinnati Playhouse, and Arena Stage, among others.
C. Kelly Wright is featured as Klytaimnestra in IPH… Wright’s credits include productions in New York and in the Bay Area with San Jose Repertory Theatre, Marin Theater Company, and TheatreWorks, among others. She holds several Dean Goodman and Bay Area Theatre Critics Awards for her work in the Bay Area. Recent film work includes starring roles in the feature filmsAngel Wishes and Every Day Black Man; to date, she has been involved in more than 50 new works for the stage.
Traci Tolmaire makes her Brava/African-American Shakespeare Company debut as Iphigeneia. Her theatrical credits includeMirrors In Every Corner (Campo Santo), Susan Lori Parks’ 365 Days/365 Plays (Hartford Stage Company), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Fulton Opera House), among others. She has appeared in productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, and was an understudy for Lisa Kron’s new play In the Wake at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Director Dylan Russell helms IPH… A professional director, actor, playwright, and teaching artist, Russell is currently the Artistic Director of Dog² Productions. She has directed productions for American Conservatory Theater Conservatory, TheatreFirst, California Conservatory Theatre, Alchemy Works, New Conservatory Theatre Educational Programs, Cassandra’s Call, and Actors Lab Arizona, and has served as Assistant Director on numerous productions at American Conservatory Theater; additionally, Russell previously served as Managing Artistic Director of California Conservatory Theatre and Artistic Director of TheatreFirst.
Playwright Colin Teevan was born in Dublin. His works for the stage include The Big Sea (1990); Here Come Cowboys (1992);Vinegar and Brown Paper (1995); IPH… a translation and adaptation of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis (1999); Svejk adapted from the novel by Jaroslav Hasek (1999); The Walls (2001); Monkey! adapted from the ancient Chinese legends of the Magic Monkey King; (2000), The University; (2002); Cock of the North (2004); Missing Persons (2005); The Bee, co-written with Hideki Noda, (2006); and How Many Miles to Basra? (2006). His adaptations of Don Quixote and Peer Gynt premiered in 2007, followed by The Diver, co-written with Hideki Noda, (2008).
Following IPH…, Brava presents the Regional Premiere of RELUCTANT in October, created by Joel Israel and directed by Meiyin Wang, followed by GUSH, featuring the Joe Goode Performance Group, in January, and Paula Vogel’s THE OLDEST PROFESSION in March. The company rounds out its season with their youth program Girltropolis in April, the ongoing The Kitchen Series, and three works-in-progress, including works by Cherrie Moraga, Jewelle Gomez, and D’Lo.
Following IPH…, African-American Shakespeare Company continues its 16th season in December with an enchanting holiday production of CINDERELLA directed by Velina Brown. Closing the season in April is Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT, directed by L. Peter Callender and featuring an original score by renowned local jazz composer Marcus Shelby.
Brava Theater is a professional arts organization committed to producing, presenting and cultivating live art celebrating the intersection of feminism and multiculturalism that ignites social changes and empowers community. The company gives voice to women, people of color and the LGBTQ community through artistic expression. Brava speaks to the values that all people share, rather than to the identity markers that can divide us. Brava Theater has reached over 350,000 people since its inception 24 years ago, through its theatrical, musical and educational events. Brava Theater has been nationally recognized as a leader in new work and innovative theater.
African-American Shakespeare Company was introduced in 1994 to create an opportunity and a venue for actors of color to hone their skills and talent in mastering some of the world’s greatest classical roles. The company is dedicated to producing classic stage works from an African-American cultural perspective, providing opportunities and accessibility for minority artists and their communities to view these works in a manner that is inclusive of their cultural heritage. African-American Shakespeare Company has produced over 30 productions, toured to over 97 schools, and reached over 105,000 patrons through its mainstage productions and arts education program.