The moment has arrived: it’s Opening Night for The Oresteia at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. As they prepare to take the stage, the artists who have built the production piece by piece reflect on the process and the meaning of their accomplishment—the final piece of Director Michael Kahn’s celebrated career and a part of theatre history.
The day The Oresteia moves from an intimate rehearsal hall to an elaborate set in the theatre is a pivotal threshold. Some actors have even called this process a religious experience, when weeks of planning and imagination must be made manifest. But adding complicated technical elements and movement in a new space, along with costumes, light and sound, is far from easy—not to mention that their first steps on stage will be in front of a packed audience. Only days away from Opening, the cast and designers shift into overdrive to achieve perfection, down to every last detail.
Curtain cannons. Gold gowns. Buckets of blood. And the floor is lava. For Ellen McLaughlin’s The Oresteia, STC’s Shops must design and construct dozens of complex effects and elements—from Clytemnestra’s wig, to her volatile house, to the volcanic floor she walks on—and then test to ensure everything works safely on stage night after night. The pressure is on to build the physical world that the actors will inhabit once they leave the rehearsal hall and go on stage for the first time.
For more than two years, Ellen McLaughlin and Michael Kahn have been collaborating on a new version of Aeschylus’ monumental trilogy—and now it’s just three days away from the vital first rehearsal of The Oresteia. As Michael and the Company prepare to welcome the cast and put the play on its feet, they confront the realization that the time has come to turn this dream production into a reality—and that this day marks the beginning of the end of Michael’s 33-year tenure as Artistic Director.
Michael Kahn has directed hundreds of plays, worked with the biggest actors in the world and built the Shakespeare Theatre Company to its international reputation as the best classic theatre in America. But now, for his final show as Artistic Director before retiring after over 30 years, he’s about to direct the one play he’s been dreaming of directing since he was an undergraduate: The Oresteia. The only surviving Ancient Greek trilogy, it is notoriously difficult to adapt, stage and direct for a contemporary audience. To put it mildly, it is a momentous show for Michael and the actors, designers, staff and production crew who will make this dream a reality. Join us over the next few months as we document the hard work that goes into the creation of this dream project.