Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents Jean Racine’s Phèdre, translated by the controversial British Poet Ted Hughes, November 19 to December 7, 2014 at First Church, 66 Marlborough Street, Boston. Performances are Wed. (11/19 and 12/3 only) – Fri., 7:30pm; Sat., 3pm (except opening weekend) & 8pm; Sun., 5pm. No performance 11/27 and 12/5. (Press Performance: Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 8pm.) Pre-show discussions are before Sunday matinees, and post-show discussions are after all 10am student matinees. Tickets are $28 — $50. $15 advance student rush. For tickets and information at www.actorsshakespeareproject.org or 617-776-2200.
A pedigree filled with philandering gods and bloodthirsty warriors does not make for domestic tranquility, as evidenced in this smoldering tale of erotic obsession and betrayal. Phèdre (portrayed by Boston favorite Paula Plum), daughter of King Minos, and second wife to Theseus (Robert Walsh), falls hard for her stepson, Hippolytus, after her husband’s six-month absence appears to becoming more of a permanent vacation.
A literal Greek tragedy ensues, as lust is revealed and passions, left unrequited, lead these sordid family members into the throes of monumental rage, mistrust, jealousy, guilt, punishment, and ultimately death.
A Greek drama, written as a play in French in the 17th century play, presents a nuanced challenge to be brought into English. “In selecting a translation, I wanted to find something that maintained the rich language in the poetry, without losing the relentlessness and actability,” says director M. Bevin O’Gara. “The Ted Hughes translation does this—unapologetically driven by the poetry, but sharply focused, and with an imperative to be spoken aloud to let loose these motivations.”
A former Poet Laureate of England often described as one of the best of his generation, Phèdre was Hughes’s last translation. “This was how he spent his years before death in 1998, transforming the heroic French verse into clear direct poetic prose in English,” says O’Gara.
The fascination with this story has served to create a connection with those who have witnessed the telling of it for centuries. Seneca first scribed the play in 54 BC, inspired by Euripides’ Hippolytus of 428 BC. Then some centuries would pass until the famed Racine, a favorite of Louis XIV, would make this his last true play in 1677. That interpretation garnered its first production here in Boston in 1855 at the Boston Theatre, starring Madamoiselle Rachel. Jump cut to 1998 when English Poet Laureate’s Ted Hughes’ translation would be commissioned by The Almeida Theatre Company, and now ultimately today with Actors’ Shakespeare Project. I was unaware at the time of our illustrious director Bevin O’Gara’s suggestion of this translation by the towering and controversial figure of Ted Hughes that the poet was a devotee of Shakespeare’s work, as manifested in his treatise “Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being”. Even when ASP veers from the Shakespeare field, the serendipitous threads lead us back to the great poet.
The cast features ASP resident company members (RAC): Steven Barkhimer* as Theramenes, Jason Bowen* as Hippolytus, Paula Plum* as Phédre, Mara Sidmore* as Aricia, Bobbie Steinbach* as Oenone, Robert Walsh* as Theseus, with additional cast Sarah Elizabeth Bedard* as Ismene .
The design team includes Cristina Todesco** (scenic), Annie Wiegand (lights), Mary Lauve (costumes), and Arshan Gailus (sound).
Free Open Rehearsal: Saturday, November 8, 11am in ASP’s Suite Not 2B at the Somerville Armory.
VIP Opening & Press Performance: Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 8pm
Student matinees: December 2 & 3 at 10am
Event Location: First Church In Boston
66 Marlborough Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02116
Until Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm
$40.00 Level II
$40.00 Level I
$50.00 Level I