"AN ILIAD" (Music and Theatre performance)
March 29, 2014
8:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Glasbox (2309 E. Mills Avenue, between Palm & Poplar)
Venue:Glasbox (2309 E. Mills Avenue, between Palm & Poplar)Admission:$10 ($8 students)Website:http://www.facebook.com/algernoniliadContact Name:Algernon D'AmmassaContact E-mail Address:email@example.comContact Phone Number:(575) 545-7613
By Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson, based on Homer’s Iliad as translated by Robert Fagles.
In this Obie-winning adaptation, one actor and one musician interpret this enduring tale of gods, love, rage, and war for today’s audience.
The role of the Poet will be played by Algernon D’Ammassa, with original music played live by acclaimed musician Randy Granger.
These two performances at Glasbox, 2309 E. Mills Avenue (between Palm and Poplar) in El Paso, Friday and Saturday nights, March 28 and 29, at 8:00 PM.
Ticket information is $10 or $8 for students. We are only set up to accept cash at the door. Information about a reservation line will be made available as soon as we set that up.
We hope to present more shows in the region after that, so please like our page and visit often for updates.
For a review of our premiere performances in Las Cruces last month, visit http://thetruantlc.com/2014/02/23/blood-guts-and-theater/
Interview with Randy Granger and Algernon D'Ammassa https://soundcloud.com/randy-granger/interview-with-randy-granger
Read Blog Preview: http://latinamam.tumblr.com/post/80187523086/one-actor-one-musician-algernon-dammassa-randy
One Actor, One Musician Algernon D’Ammassa & Randy Granger Diez Cu Interview
L-R: musician, Randy Granger y actor, Algernon D’Ammassa
A Las Cruces-based poet, stage actor, sometimes TV actor, and college professor has joined forces with an award-winning Native-American flutist, composer, recording artist and songwriter, to bring to life the 2012 Obie Award-Winning play, An Iliad, based on Homer’s The Iliad, and created by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare.
The show, designed as a traveling show, debuted in Las Cruces and is now coming to El Paso for two nights only. The show runs next Friday and Saturday, March 28th and March 29th, at 8PM at the Glasbox [2309 E. Mills Ave. 79901]. Call 575.545.7613 for reservations and more info.
We have an exclusive Diez Cu Interview with the very same poet and flutist of the show, Algernon D’Ammassa and Randy Granger, respectively. Check out a short teaser video of the show here, the flyer here, and read the interview below.
LAA: How did you hear of the original An Iliad production?
AD: For awhile I was looking for a show that I could pack into my Honda Civic and take on the road and found that most of the one-man plays I was reading weren’t very good or weren’t to my liking. And, then, I came across this script by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare and it spoke to everything I wanted to do as an artist. And, it fits into my Honda Civic!
LAA: How did your version of this production come together?
AD: I knew this play had been performed with a cellist accompanying the actor and a musical score was even written for it. But, as I read it, I kept hearing flutes as well as other instruments and thought it would be cool if the musician had a life of his or her own. Improvising accompaniment that augmented the story as the musician felt was right.
Someone suggested Randy Granger and I knew about him already and thought, “He would be great if he wants to do it.” Randy and I met and hit it off right away. We rehearsed separately for several weeks and finally came together shortly before our performances in Las Cruces; stopping and starting and trying things out. And, we’re still working together that way — listening to each other and trying different ways of interacting and taking turns.
RG: Through a mutual figure in music in the Mesilla Valley [region in Southern New Mexico and far West Texas], Barbara Toth. She suggested me to Algernon when he asked her about possible musician collaborators for An Iliad.
LAA: How did you two get together? How did you bring in the third person who will be doing the second El Paso show?
AD: Randy is a full-time touring musician, so we knew other musicians might have to come in and that can help keep it fresh. The show will change as different musicians and different instruments are brought in.
So, Randy has a commitment on Saturday night [March 29th] and for that night we have John McClure, who might also be doing our shows in Deming, New Mexico. John is a musician and also an actor and director whom I’ve known for years, but this project is not quite like anything he’s done before. His primary instrument is guitar and he’s working with different stringed and percussion instruments; thinking about non-traditional ways of playing them in order to create new sounds and colors.
LAA: What made you want to do this show to begin with?
AD: An Iliad is an example of the kind of theatre I want to make as an artist. It is very much the aesthetic of Trinity Rep[ertory Theatre], the theatre where I trained and worked for a while. Formally, we are going back to very ancient western theatre tradition with a storyteller and music in a plain space.
In fact, we take this even further by letting the playing space be rough, so you can see the back wall of the theatre or the prop shop or whatever. We tell theatres we want the audience to see the theatre inbetween shows, everything rough, to demonstrate that a storyteller and a musician can just show up and engage an audience with their commitment and artistry and not much else. No set. No lights. Randy doesn’t even plug in. I’ve got a beat-up suitcase and a broom handle. And we do the Trojan War.
The play itself is a piece about war. Not pro-war or anti-war, but a play about war as part of human history. The costs and the waste of it, but, also the solidarity among warriors, the courage, and this rage that seems to be part of the human condition and leads us into violent conflict again and again [throughout history].
RG: For me, the challenge of creating improvised music to such an iconic play in a live theatre setting was intimidating. I am always game to expand my creative comfort zone for art and music. My own recorded music and concerts are very polished with moments of improvisation, but more so structured in a way that my audience can experience what is on my recordings and videos [during my concerts].
LAA: What do you hope the audience gets out of it?
AD: Their own experience. I don’t necessarily know what that is. But, it’s nice when we see the audience leave talking about the play. We’ve had amazing encounters with people like combat veterans, schoolteachers, a Greek scholar, a bunch of adolescents, and teenagers who came to see the show.
We live in a world where we can watch movies on our handphones, but live theatre, happening right in front of you, is something unique and I hope we’re making a strong case for how powerful that can be.
RG: As a musician, I hope they get the synergy and constant collaborating aspect of what Alergnon and I are doing in the moment. In other words, how we can be present and tuned in to each other’s work, emotional level, output, etc. As a theater-goer, I hope they get the message of An Iliad that violence has been a part of our humanity’s constant struggle to define ourselves through it.
LAA: Is there a challenge in engaging the audience since it’s just the two of you with different responsibilities? Especially with the attention span of audiences today.
AD: We hear a lot about attention spans these days, but we’ve seen kids come to this show who were on the edge of their seats even if some of the story went over their heads the whole night. I’m not convinced people really have short attention spans. I think bored people have short attention spans. We establish a direct relationship with the audience. There is no “fourth wall.”
Once they get a sense of who Randy and I are, as characters, they agree to spend some time with us and see where we take them. And, we take them to a lot of places! We don’t put anyone on the spot, but we’re talking to you and we can see you. We move at a pretty fast pace, sometimes, relentlessly, but we also let things sink in and breathe as we go.
RG: Personally, I never thought [of it] that way. I believe we have a tendency to underestimate our audience. The feedback, overwhelmingly, has been that it passed so quickly; [that it] was so engaging that they didn’t notice almost two hours had passed.
LAA: Do you think the story of the Iliad is timeless? How does it apply to 2014?
AD: The play makes a very strong case that it is. There is a continuing line from the wars of antiquity right up to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The audience knows what the characters in the Iliad are going through, what Hector’s wife and father go through, the pride of Hector and his doubts, and while the triumph of Achilles might seem rather sadistic in a painting, we are shown the pain and loss that he went through as well.
The history of the human being is a history of destructive rage as much as it is about love or ingenuity. We build civilizations and then knock them down and then mourn. And, repeat. What is it that makes us do that?
RG: Oh, yes, it applies and is timeless as long as we, as human beings, continue to see ourselves as separate individuals who must battle one another for love, land, money, possessions, respect.
It even applies, in my opinion, to narco gangs who fight and murder each other over even a perceived slight or encroachment onto territory.
It is especially relevant to the Juarez/El Paso area with Fort Bliss, the murder of thousands each year in Juarez, and the somewhat machismo attitude of not respecting me, so I’m going to hurt you.
[It] Couldn’t be more relevant, really. I grew up in the Hispanic culture as a Mestizo, myself, and understand where machismo has its place in the culture. I didn’t truly discover my Native American ancestry until I had left home.
LAA: Talk about Theatre Dojo and the Glasbox.
AD: Theatre Dojo is a project I began in Los Angeles years ago. Initially, we were exploring ways of teaching acting that included personal disciplines like yoga, aikido, tai chi, and meditation. We also began developing theatre projects that promoted social awareness, bearing witness, and healing.
It was dormant for many years, but I’ve lit the flame again in order to support acting classes that I teach as well as collaborations like this one Randy and I are having to make art that is exhilarating and stirs imaginations.
That’s the kind of space Glasbox is trying to create, too. Glasbox is gathering people from various disciplines to learn from each other, take risks, and engage people in a room where anything is possible. Because human energy can move mountains when it’s applied well. We hope to bring some new people to Glasbox’s new space so they will come back and see other things that are happening there.
LAA: Anything you want people to know about this show that they might not know or realize?
AD: Oh they should just come and not know what to expect!
RG: It happens in real time with no sound score. I am playing some of the world’s most unique instruments as well as found instruments like using a pill bottle filled with popcorn for a rattle, the Hang drum, a bucket from a hardware store, tequila bottles filled with water to create different pitches. I’m creating [the music] like a film score soundtrack, but in real time reacting and supporting the story and Algernon’s amazing acting.
LAA: After the El Paso shows, what’s next for you guys and this show?
AD: We’ve booked this show in Albuquerque and are in talks with venues in San Francisco and Asheville, North Carolina. I’ll be doing summer stock all summer and Randy has his own gigs, but we’ll continue doing this show, indefinitely. And, there is no reason we wouldn’t come back and play some more [shows] in El Paso. Who knows?
Check out Algernon’s official blog here, Randy’s official site here, and the Glasbox Facebook Page here.
Tags: one actor one musician one actor one musician actor musician play An Iliad The Iliad Homer Obie Awards Obie Award Winning Las Cruces New Mexico El Paso Texas Native American Algernon D'Ammassa Randy Granger Theatre Dojo Los Angeles Glasbox John McClure Lisa Peterson Denis O'Hare theatre music show