Have you ever wanted to climb a mountain?

Posted on July 18, 2012 by Haymaker

Photo credit: Patricia S. Hill


We begin our next project in earnest this week: a site-specific adaptation of Elektra with music. When we tell this to people, most nod their heads with interest and yet purse their lips with skepticism as if we’ve just said, “We’re climbing Kilimanjaro next year.” In truth, though, that’s probably an apt analogy. Their responses also mirror some of our own nervous and excited energy.

We like tackling big ideas, and Elektra is definitely about BIG ideas. It’s also a story we all know. It’s ingrained in our DNA. It’s Greek, for fuck’s sake! Where do we even start? Well…a little background.

Dan ran into the beautiful and violent libretto of Richard Strauss’ opera in a workshop in the summer of 2009. Part of his assignment in the workshop was to come up with a basic concept to guide a pair of designers in building models for the opera’s set, in role-playing the professional designer/director relationship. What came out of the process was a curiosity about the text and the story, as well as some questions about form and space.

From Dan’s initial curiosity, we’ve taken some central ideas as guideposts for starting our own adaptation. One idea is the notion of violence as a form of familial communication. To be clear, this communication isn’t necessarily physical aggression but rather a style of quick, pointed and blunt expression. The other idea concerns space. We’d like to explore this epic, violent story in a completely intimate environment like one of Durham’s abandoned homes: will this mean the audience will have to wear earplugs if there are opera singers? Will the audience become characters/participants in this non-theatre space? If so, how does that change the story? We’re still in the beginning stages of finding/discussing space, but if you have recommendations we’d love to hear them!

We plan to open this monster in the fall of 2013. This is by far our biggest, most ambitious project to date. And we’re starting early.

First, we’ll be outside of Philadelphia for a week-long retreat sponsored by White Pines Productions starting July 19. Take a look at these digs — we are stoked. We’ll use our week to build the foundation of the text and probably some aspects of the physical world.

We’ll do this by collaging existing text (from a variety of sources) with improvisations on scenarios and scenes, physical experiments on what communication through violence is, and attaching some of the music onto those ideas. We’re also really excited to work with new collaborators. Joining us will be Jenavieve Varga from the band Lost in the Trees, Chase Varga, Dana Marks from Little Green Pig, Amelia Sciandra, Andrea Ryan, and Kashif Powell.

The second public iteration of the adaptation will be for the Process Series at UNC in April 2013. At this point, we think we’ll be presenting pieces of the adaptation to experiment with how the audience reacts to the many ideas we’re connecting.

A site-specific adaptation of Elektra with music: It’s a mouthful of words and a mountain of concepts. We’re excited and nervous to climb toward opening in fall of 2013.

We’ll be posting ideas, images, and invites to draft readings soon. Don’t be a stranger.