Cuban National Office of Scenic Arts (El Consejo Nacional de Artes Escenicas, CNAE), The University of Alabama andCompany HavanaBama will present the World Premiere of ALCESTIS ASCENDING, a bilingual new play with music based on Euripides’ classic drama. Written and directed by Seth Panitch, this unprecedented production combines actors and dancers from the Cuban National Office of Scenic Arts (several of whom are TV stars in Cuba) as well as actors from the University of Alabama. Previews run July 1 – 5 at the Allen Bales Theatre at the University of Alabama before the production begins performances on July 9 at the Harold Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row. Opening of this limited Off-Broadway engagement is set for Thursday, July 11. The production also travels to Cuba where it will run July 24 – August 4 at the Raquel Revuelta Theatre in Havana.
Through text, movement, and live rock-infused music, ALCESTIS ASCENDING spins a thrilling tale of fate, self-absorption, sacrifice, and the redemptive power of love. King Admetus and his wife Alcestis see their picture-perfect lives shatter when news arrives that Admetus’ thread has run out on the wheel of Fate. If the King can find a willing replacement to take his place, he lives; if not, he dies. Admetus’ initial relief gives way to terror as, one by one, every option fails. The veneer of his life strips away, revealing the tenuous, conditional “love” around him, and the seething cowardice within — a narcissism so powerful, he doesn’t blink when Alcestis offers to take his place. Realizing his grave mistake, the King sets out to rescue his wife with his dim, hunky friend Hercules to battle the bony specter of Death, Cerberus the three-headed hound of Hell, and the dark lord Hades himself. Ultimately, Admetus is left combat the most terrifying force in the Universe — his own crippling self-absorption.
Osnel Delgado, Artistic Director of the Cuban dance company Ebony and former principal dancer with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba joins HavanaBama as both a performer and choreographer for the production, and Kennedy Center/ USIA Jazz Ambassador Tom Wolfe has composed and will perform the live score. The production also stars Alianne Portuondo, Rayssel Cruz, Frank Egusquiza, Roberto Salomon, Noelvis Perez, Diana Hernandez, and Jorge Luis Curbelo.
Seth Panitch’s most recent production Off Broadway was Hell: Paradise Found at the 59E59 Theatres in 2012. The New York Times called Hell “simultaneously nutty and witty, with a philosophical message that never gets in the way of the laughs,” and Backstage called it “wickedly funny… Panitch’s screwball metaphysical comedy has an undeniable huckster charm.” Seth has worked as a director in Havana, Cuba (becoming the first American to direct a professional production through the CNAE), in multiple Off Broadway venues in New York, Los Angeles and regionally at the Texas Shakespeare Festival. In 2005, Seth was hired to head the Acting programs at the University of Alabama’s Department of Theatre and Dance. His New York directing credits include Dammit, Shakespeare! at Urban Stages, Measure for Measure at Raw Space, and The Hypocondriac at Samuel Beckett Theater. He has 3 official Commendations for Directing from the Ministry of Culture in Havana, Cuba.
ALCESTIS ASCENDING marks the fourth production of Company HavanaBama, a theatrical collaboration begun by Erich Cartaya and William Ruiz of CNAE, and Seth Panitch of the University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences Cuba Initiative in 2007. Previous productions in Havana include The Merchant of Venice (El Mercader de Venezia) and Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy (Mas Que Terapia) at the Teatro Adolfo Llaurado, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Un Sueno de una Noche de Verano) at the Teatro Berthold Brecht. Company HavanaBama performs with the generous support of El Consejo Nacional de Artes Escenicas, the Office of the Provost of the University of Alabama, the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, CARSCA, and the Department of Theatre and Dance.
ALCESTIS ASCENDING runs July 9 – July 21; Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. The Harold Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row is located at 410 West 42nd Street at 9th Avenue in Manhattan. Tickets are $42.50 at212-239-6200 or www.TeleCharge.com.