University of Rochester

EVENT: Ambitious Iliad Staged by University Theatre
Production Bases Two-Part Presentation on Award-Winning Modern Translation

March 24, 2000

A classic of Western literature-a 3,000-year-old epic of war, love, betrayal, anger, and the whole range of human emotions-is being brought to the stage by the University of Rochester International Theatre Program.

In one of its most ambitious projects ever, the Program is presenting the world premiere of a unique event: the dramatic adaptation of The Iliad, based on an award-winning translation by Robert Fagles, considered one of this century's most acclaimed classicists and translators of the Greek poet Homer.

The nearly five-hour production will be performed in two parts, each presented on alternate evenings beginning Thursday, April 13, in Todd Union on the River Campus. On selected weekends, both parts will be presented back-to-back, with an extended dinner break between Parts 1 and 2. In addition, Fagles, who teaches at Princeton University, will be at the Saturday, April 22, performances and will be available for audience questions.

The Iliad recounts events toward the end of the 10-year Trojan War, hich pitted Greek forces against the city of Troy. The epic focuses on the anger of the Greek warrior Achilles over an indignity put upon him by the one of the Greek kings and the tragic consequences of that anger.

"The Iliad has held up for almost three millennia because, at root, the themes and images continue to be modern and contemporary," notes Nigel Maister, associate director of the theatre program. "It's much more than just a war story. It deals with universal emotions-love, betrayal, courage, defeat, fear-and how those are expressed. On a fundamental level, it's about parents and their children, especially the relationships between fathers and sons. It's a rich, extraordinary story."

Maister decided to adapt The Iliad for the stage after hearing the audiotape version of Fagles' acclaimed translation, which was both a critical and a commercial success. The poem was a performance text before it was a written text, meant to be recited and experienced aurally, notes Maister.

"The language of the work really first attracted me," Maister says. "I haven't changed Fagles' words, but I've distilled the work and tried to clarify it for the stage."

Maister will use video, slides, music, movement, and three-dimensional and moving puppetry to depict the wide scope of the story, which moves from the Greek camp to the seat of the gods on Mount Olympus to the plains around Troy and inside Troy itself.

Part 1 of this dramatic adaptation of The Iliad, subtitled "behold my affliction," will be presented at 8 p.m. on April 13, 15, 20, and 27. Part 2, "fire into my bones," runs at 8 p.m. April 14, 21, and 28, and at 3 p.m. on April 16. The two parts will be presented in tandem on April 22, 23, and 29, at 3 and 8 p.m., respectively.

Besides conceiving the idea and adapting it for the stage, Maister is director for the production and designed the set. Costume and puppet design is by Holly Laws, a sculptor whose works have been seen on stage in New York and in films like The Crucible and Last of the Mohicans. Videography is by artist Kay Hines, an artist and muralist who has had exhibits in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Composer Obadiah Eaves has done music for Nickelodeon and HBO as well as for New York and regional theater. Lighting designer Allan Hahn's work has been seen in New York City and at the Spoleto Festival. Movement and choreography is by Sally Goers Fox.

All the performances take place in the Todd Theater in Todd Union. Tickets are $5 for University students, $7 for seniors, and $8 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or by calling (585) 275-4088. VISA and Mastercard are accepted.