- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Greece is the word at the Shakespeare Theatre, with today's announcement that it will perform Artistic Director Michael Kahn's single-evening adaptation of Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy, The Oedipus Plays, on Sept. 10 and 11 this year at the Athens Festival in Greece.
"We are honored to be invited to such a prestigious festival," said Mr. Kahn. "The performances allow us to come full circle both artistically and philosophically."
At the festival, "The Oedipus Plays" will be performed in the shadow of the Parthenon, in the 5,000-seat Roman Odeon of Herod Atticus on the south slope of the Acropolis, just miles away from Thebes, the city of Oedipus.
"The opportunity is doubly poignant as it gives the theatre the chance to present this production with an all African-American cast on the anniversary of September 11 at the cradle of democracy," Mr. Kahn continued. "This is the same play we were performing two years ago on September 11 a play of tremendous human tragedy and the redemptive power of love."
The most important cultural event in Greece, the Athens Festival attracts visitors each year from June to September for performances of classical music, opera, plays and dance. Past participants have included Maria Callas, the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein, Rudolf Nureyev, the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets, Margot Fonteyn, Martha Graham, Luciano Pavarotti, American Ballet Theatre and the Royal National Theatre of England.
Mr. Kahn's production, featuring a new translation by Nicholas Rudall, sets the epic tragedy of Oedipus in ancient Africa, with actor Avery Brooks cast as Oedipus. The production begins with the tale of "Oedipus Rex," continues 30 years later with "Oedipus at Colonus," and concludes with the fate of Oedipus' children in "Antigone."
The opportunity was developed through the recommendations of the former Greek ambassador to the United States, Alexander Philon, and the Greek cultural attache, Connie Mourtoupalas, who attended performances of "The Oedipus Plays" when the cycle was presented during the Shakespeare Theatre's 2001-2002 season.
"I come from Thebes, and I have a soft spot in my heart for Oedipus," said Miss Mourtoupalas. "For over 2,500 years, the stories of Oedipus and his family are the fables we grow up with a PG-rated version, of course."
Miss Mourtoupalas was intrigued that the plays were done with a cast of black Americans. "This was proof to me that this story, the truths that it speaks, the subjects it deals with, transcend location they are universal," Miss Mourtoupalas said.

Closer to home, The Shakespeare Theatre today also released its schedule for the 2003-2004 season. The lineup includes Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," both parts of "Henry IV" (with two weeks of revolving repertory), Richard Brinsley Sheridan's "The Rivals" and Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac."
The season begins Aug. 26 with The Rivals, one of the funniest and most romantic and emotional of the Restoration comedies. The idealistic Lydia Languish, the language-mangling Mrs. Malaprop and others will be guided by director Keith Baxter, who last directed the delectable "The Country Wife" at the Shakespeare.
Next up is A Midsummer Night's Dream (Nov. 4, 2003-Jan. 4, 2004), director Mark Lamos' look at the collision of three worlds: the unrequited loves of Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia and Helena; a rehearsal of the Pyramus and Thisbe legend by a group of rustics; and the domestic turmoil in the world of the fairies.
From pieces of historical record, myth, rumor, Tudor revisionism and contemporary affairs, Shakespeare forged two history plays that both soar to the heights of his tragedies, and are as playful as his comedies.
Director Bill Alexander, honorary associate director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, returns for the first time since "Troilus and Cressida" to direct both plays. The dates for Henry IV, Part I are Jan. 20-March 14; Henry IV, Part II March 16-May 2. The plays will run in repertory May 4-16.
Mr. Kahn will oversee the theatre's final offering, Cyrano de Bergerac (June 1-July 18), a rue-tinged comedy about the swordsman, poet, musician and philosopher who is hopelessly in love with his cousin Roxanne yet is so self-conscious about the prodigious size of his nose he keeps himself from telling her so. Instead, he woos her with lush, ardent letters he ghostwrites for the young, handsome guardsman Christian.
For tickets and information, contact the box office at 202/547-1122.

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