February 17-20; 23-27, 2005
La MaMa E.T.C. (Annex Theater), 74A East Fourth Street
(Presented by La MaMa E.T.C.) Wednesday, Thursday & Friday at 7:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday at 2:30pm & 7:30pm
$15; Box office (212) 475-7710 ~ On-line ticketing available at: www.lamama.org

YokastaS Redux, written by Richard Schechner and Saviana Stanescu, will be presented by the La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in its Annex Theater from February 17 through 27.

Moving through time, the play portrays Yokasta, mother of Oedipus, at four different ages, played by four different actresses. This is a completely different and re-worked version of the play that had its preliminary production in 2003 at La MaMa. It is directed by Schechner and performed by members of East Coast Artists (ECA).

Yokasta is presented as an optimistic teen, an angry young woman, a happily married woman, and an older woman who makes rounds of talk shows telling the hosts about her famous life but complaining that nobody has written a play about her. The effect is a multi-faceted work contrasting tragedy, irony, sexuality, murder, and intellect. YokastaS juxtaposes the innocence of girlhood with the brutality of women’s fate in history.

Richard Schechner, University Professor at New York University and professor of performance studies in the Department of Performance Studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, became well known by deconstructing another Greek myth with the play Dionysus in 69. He explains that he has always been intrigued by the myth of Yokasta because she is such an important figure in the Greek tragedy-but she is under-represented onstage. Schechner describes Yokasta as one of the “incomplete” figures of Greek myth, with no play of her own in the classical Greek canon, although she does figure prominently in Stravinsky’s opera Oedipus and in a 16th-century play by George Gascoigne.

Schechner asked himself, “What if Yokasta never committed suicide?” This and other “what if’s” led him to the notion of filling in her life by portraying her in several stages of it. With this as the starting point, Schechner invited the collaboration of Romanian playwright Saviana Stanescu along with the actors of East Coast Artists. They began writing and workshopping in 2003.

Breaking Yokasta into four characters enabled Schechner and Stanescu to present aspects of the Yokasta myth as they imagine it might have evolved over time. First there is Yoyo, age 14, who represents the hope of the future and who insists she will not live the life that is fated for her. Yoko, ages from 18 to 30, enacts the night when she had to surrender Oedipus after birthing him. Angry at Laius, she takes her revenge in many different ways, including murdering all their male children. Yono, a woman in her late thirties, never looks back. She is the perfect wife to Oedipus; she loves him, has four kids with him, and helps train him to be the perfect king. Finally, there is Yokasta, around 55, who has seen it all and makes the rounds of talk shows. She is cynical, fun, and wise. Often these Yokastas are on stage together-helping each other act out key scenes from their lives.

The characters are contemporary, as is most of the language. One actor plays all the male roles: Laius, Oedipus, and TV talk show hosts. The tone of the production swings from the emotional and tragic to the ironic - with lots of references to pop culture. One scene depicts a talk show where the Yokastas argue who is “tragedy’s baddest mama.” They quote from Euripides’ Phaedra and Medea, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, and Seneca’s Oedipus.

Emphasizing the intrusiveness of our electronic age, the outside world will not be fenced out of this show, but deliberately allowed to interrupt it. The show will begin with a statement by the stage manager that tells the audience and the actors to leave their cell phones on. The play will actually stop if anybody’s cell phone rings.

The production includes a slide show by Ryan Jensen depicting the first night when Oedipus arrives in Thebes and is given a “royal bath” by Yokasta. The actors include both long-time East Coast Artists performers and newcomers to the company. Daphne Gaines* portrays Yokasta, Rachel Bowditch* is Yono, Phyllis Johnson* is Yoko, Jennifer Lim* appears as Yoyo, and Sarah Kozinn plays Understudy - a Yokasta in the making. Christopher Logan Healy* plays the male roles of Laius, Oedipus, and Media. (*Denotes an actor appearing through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association.)

Soundscapes are by Allen Willner. Costumes are by Oana Botez-Ban. Lighting design is by Lucrecia Briceno. Photography is by Ryan Jensen. Set design is by Schechner. Benjamin Mosse is the assistant director.

Co-author Saviana Stanescu is a prominent Romanian writer and author of six books of poetry and drama, including an English-Romanian anthology, Black Milk, and a French translation of Final Countdown. She is a recipient of Romania’s National Award for Best Play of 1999 for The Inflatable Apocalypse. She is a Fulbright scholar and holds an MFA in playwriting and an MA in performance studies-both from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. YokastaS and YokastaS Redux comprise her U.S. and English language playwriting debut.

Richard Schechner was the founding director in 1967 of The Performance Group, which he headed until 1980. He has dealt with the myth of Oedipus and Yokasta once before, in his own version of Seneca’s Oedipus in Ted Hughes’ translation. Schechner became well known as a director for his Dionysus in 69, Mother Courage and her Children, Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime, and Genet’s The Balcony. He founded ECA as a resident company of La MaMa in 1992 in order to develop younger talent and attempt once again to form a true ensemble repertory theater company. For ECA, Schechner directed Faust/Gastronome (1993), Three Sisters (1997), and Hamlet (2000).

The new Schechner Center for Performance Studies will open in Shanghai, China in March, 2005. It is dedicated to researching ritual and experimental performance, introducing Performance Studies to China, and developing new collaborative artistic works. The Center will present Schechner’s retake of Hamlet in 2006. This will be the first professional production with actors from the Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan working collaboratively on a single project. At present, Schechner and Stanescu are working with the novelist Paul Auster in developing a stage version of Auster’s Timbuktu, which will be staged by ECA in 2006.

This production is funded in part through Meet the Composer’s Creative Connections Program with the support of ASCAP Foundation, Copland Fund, Ford Foundation, Jerome Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Virgil Thomson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Press Contact

Richard Pierce
Richard Pierce
(212) 998-6796