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Almanac 2016: Ashes Company (New York, USA)

Almanac 2016: Ashes Company (New York, USA)

Following King Agamemnon’s return from the Trojan War, the House of Atreus is plagued by reciprocal violence. In this production, Aeschylus’ trilogy becomes the catalyst for a new theatre performance of three acts, approximately 90 minutes. In our search for a future theatre, it became necessary to return to the Ancient Greek poets because their drama founded the Western tradition. Athenian tragedy is a point of origin from which we depart, charting our own evolving tradition. Salvator Settis has written, “Rebirths feed off fragments of the past.” For a radical new theatre, we excavate its classical origins. This project is also an exploration of tragedy, which is the most powerful art form we have encountered. Of course, today we cannot experience Athenian tragedy as it was conceived. Thus, the starting point for this project was,” What is a future tragic form?” The Oresteia is an inexorable exploration of human nature and also a theological drama. It is the only surviving trilogy of Ancient Greece, though its satyr play is lost. There is an opportunity to ask, What is indestructible here? What in this material has endured through time? Experienced in a proscenium or thrust setting. Full-length production video available.

Production History:
Classic Stage Company (2015), The Riverside Theater (2011)


Artistic Statement:
Ashes Company explores universal theatrical forms. The group understands theatre as an art form capable of incorporating many different kinds of art. It embraces dynamic relationships, particularly those between spectator and image, appearance and negation, finite and infinite. For the company, “ashes” suggest remnants of a combustible phenomenon: coming into presence. The basis of what we call theatre is space as a world unto itself, governed by its own internal laws. The ancient Greeks called this space a “place of seeing.” This “sight” is not one-directional; the spectator’s gaze is returned. The theatrical space is at once too intimate and too expansive to be subjugated by literary conventions. There is no logos or message to communicate. Ultimately, this space is theological because it is pervaded by the absence of god. A dramatic tension emerging from a distant objectivity. A “tzimtzum” facilitating a presence that is irresolvable and majestic. Jonathan Vandenberg is a theatre director who works variously as a writer, scenic designer, and sound designer. His productions include Oresteia, Axis Mundi, The Kingdom, The Crossing of the Visible, Tantalus, and Kafka Parables. In 2010, he co-founded Ashes Company. His work has been presented by such organizations as Classic Stage Company, Mabou Mines, and the Center for Performance Research. He was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Middlebury College for the 2014-15 academic year. M.F.A. Columbia University.






Photo by: Lorah Haskins

This post is part of a series of profiles on performance and performance makers from this year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2016, an overview of contemporary performance presented during the 2014/2015 season available for touring now. If you would like to be apart of next year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2017, you can join the project here. 


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These posts are not affiliated with Contemporary Performance Network, but are of interest to our community. We post these with the caveat to check the sources and research the opportunities or views expressed in the posts.

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