Choreography by Clove Galillee; Set Design and Sand Painting by Jenny Rogers.
The play, CHOEPHORAE, a modern production of Aeschylus’ The Libation Bearers, (“Choephorae” in ancient Greek), features an all female cast, playing male & female roles throughout the play, in an international collaboration between a U.S and Greek company, which opened the Patras Festival in Patras, Greece, the Cultural Capital of Europe for 2006.
In CHOEPHORAE, the funeral act of pouring libations, historically enacted by slaves, or holferes, (which literally means slave or earth in Ancient Greek) forced into ritual mourning for their master, is recast as a ritual act of art making. Completed in real time, the pouring of libation, here the pouring of sand, culminates in the creation of a portrait of Agamemnon, a vision called forth in order to raise the spirit of the dead King.
The painting, a collaboration between Ms. Rogers and a female team of 12 Greek visual artists, was recreated each night during the play’s first act by the Greek painters, cast as mourners, during the performance of the play. The painting is later systematically destroyed by the Greek actresses in the production’s second act.
Commissioned as the set designer for the all female production, Ms. Rogers’ design required 700 lbs of sand per performance to complete a sand painting which filled the entire stage --32 ft x 24 ft . In addition, her set design included 6 mirrors, (each 12 ft x 4 ft), hung together as one huge mirror at the back of the stage so the painting could be viewed from two planes.
The careful and deliberate process of how the painting could be completed within the actual time period of the play without pulling focus from the play’s language and performance was developed over the course of a two month rehearsal residency with the painters and actresses in Athens. This complicated process of building the sand painting had to be competed within the forty-five minutes allotted to the play’s first act & had to cover the entire stage without the painters being “seen”. Created upside down on the stage so that it could be seen rightside up by the audience, it is not until the final moments of the first act, that the painting becomes recognizable as a portrait. In addition, each section of the painting once completed, could not be walked on, thus removing another piece of play space and preserving the integrity of the image in sand until that moment of relevation when Agememnon’s spirit rises from the grave.
Adapted and directed by Lee Breuer, CHOEPHORAE, the second part of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, (& the only surviving trilogy of the ancient Greek plays), chronicles the aftermath of the death of Agememnon at the hands of his wife, Clytemnestra, & her lover, and the subsequent revenge plot taken by his children, Orestes and Electra, to avenge him-- a plot that ends Clytemnestra’s life and causes Orestes to go mad. Staged as a choral work of "performance poetry," CHOEPHORAE fuses the elements of choreography, conceptual design, music, sound and an epic/lyric approach to acting.