|RED BULL THEATER presents SEJANUS, HIS FALL, with Keith David, Manoel Felciano, Denis O’Hare, Matthew Rauch, Stephen Spinella, Tamara Tunie, and more|
|Posted by: Official_Press_Release 04:42 pm EDT 05/05/21|
|RED BULL THEATER
SEJANUS, HIS FALL
by Ben Jonson
Adapted & Directed by Nathan Winkelstein
Featuring Shirine Babb, Grantham Coleman, Keith David, Manoel Felciano, Denis O'Hare, Matthew Rauch, Liv Rooth, Stephen Spinella, Emily Swallow, Raphael Nash Thompson, Tamara Tunie, and James Udom
Monday May 17th at 7:30 PM EDT
Online Presentation - Performed LIVE
Today, Red Bull Theater (Jesse Berger, Founder and Artistic Director | Jim Bredeson, Managing Director) announced the first public presentation of a new dramatization of Ben Jonson's Sejanus, His Fall, adapted and directed by Nathan Winkelstein, Red Bull's Associate Artistic Director.
First performed in 1603, the start of the Jacobean era, Ben Jonson's tragedy of epic proportions is an incisive portrayal of political cronyism, sycophancy, and power. Tiberius is the Emperor of Rome. Sejanus is his right-hand man. But—in a society where books are burnt, "knowledge is made a capital offense," and free men have become "the prey of greedy vultures and spies"—factions are forming behind each of these charismatic leaders. Jonson's linguistically rich play has startling significance today in its exploration of treason and totalitarian tyranny. Sejanus sets his sights on Emperorship. No one can stop him. His fall is inevitable.
Adapter and director Winkelstein explains, "Ben Jonson's Sejanus is perhaps best known for being Jonson's least known play. It was a colossal failure in its time and has received, to my knowledge, only two professional productions in the last 100 years in England, and no such full productions in America–ever. At its core, Jonson's play is a take down of corrupt governance in sublime language surpassed only by Shakespeare–who, incidentally, is believed to have appeared in the original production. That resonance remains today. Why then is it so rarely taken up by theatermakers? Well, in my opinion, it's intensely overwritten. My challenge has been to bring this resonance to the fore while eliminating the, apologies to Jonson, fluff. And over the course of the past four years, I've worked to craft a playing script that has constant forward momentum. I look forward to working with the crackerjack team to bring this adaptation to life."
"The plays of Ben Jonson are naturally central to all our work at Red Bull, and -- as we had to delay our in-person production of The Alchemist -- this spring we're excited to be presenting two plays by Ben Jonson live online -- one of his greatest comedies and one of his most infamous tragedies -- Volpone and Sejanus. Both plays have wonderful characters, terrific language, and exciting plots with surprising twists and turns -- in short, the best of the best of Jacobean theater -- all in Jonson's inimitable, sharp-witted style. With these remarkable casts, these performances are not to be missed!" says Berger.
Sejanus, His Fall will feature Shirine Babb (Broadway: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Macbeth; Timon of Athens - RSC/TFANA, The Crucible - Bedlam); Grantham Coleman (B'WAY: The Great Society - LCT; Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It - Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park; Choir Boy - MTC); Keith David (B'way: Hot Feet, Seven Guitars, Hedda Gabler, Jelly's Last Jam; A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titus Andronicus, The Pirates of Penzance, Othello - Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park); Manoel Felciano (B'WAY: To Kill a Mockingbird, Amélie, Sweeney Todd - Tony Award nomination, Brooklyn The Musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cabaret; The Changeling - Red Bull Theater); Denis O'Hare (Tartuffe - National Theatre of Great Britain; B'WAY: Assassins - Tony Award nomination, Elling, Inherit the Wind, Sweet Charity, Take Me Out- Tony Award nomination, Major Barbara, Cabaret, Racing Demon; Into the Woods - Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park); Matthew Rauch (B'WAY: The Great Society, Junk, Prelude to a Kiss, The Merchant of Venice; The Merchant of Venice, The Winter's Tale - Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park; Expats, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - The New Group; The Duchess of Malfi, Edward II, The Revenger's Tragedy - Red Bull Theater); Liv Rooth (B'WAY: To Kill a Mockingbird, Born Yesterday; Blood and Gifts - Lincoln Center Theater; Wife to James Whelan - Mint Theater; Women Beware Women - Red Bull Theater), Stephen Spinella (B'WAY: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Angels in America - 2 Tony Awards, A View from the Bridge, Spring Awakening, James Joyce's The Dead - Tony Award nomination, Electra, The Velocity of Autumn; The Government Inspector, Volpone, Coriolanus - Red Bull Theater); Emily Swallow (B'WAY: High Fidelity; Romantic Poetry - Manhattan Theatre Club, The Black Eyed - New York Theatre Workshop, Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Pleasure - Public Theater); Raphael Nash Thompson (The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A - Signature Theatre; Heartbreak House - Gingold Theatrical; Pericles, The Merchant of Venice - TFANA; The Witch of Edmonton, Edward II, Volpone, Pericles - Red Bull Theater), Tamara Tunie (B'WAY: Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, Oh Kay! with Brian Stokes Mitchell, Troilus and Cressida - Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park; Familiar - Obie Award/Playwright's Horizons; Fences - Kennedy Center; "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" - 18 seasons); and James Udom (The Rolling Stone - LCT3, Mies Julie - CSC, Tamburlaine - TFANA).
Scholar Henry S. Turner of Rutgers University explains that "in Jonson's hands, tragedy becomes a remarkably modern exercise in political horror, as the play discloses a world governed only by a relentless will-to-power and the human capacity for betrayal. Spies hide spider-like on ceilings, and private speech circulates with alarming speed in a public echo-chamber of conspiracy theories, fear, and self-promotion. Mob violence has replaced representational politics, a new generation of leaders who might restore the liberal legacies of Rome are assassinated one by one, and suicide has become the only possible act of individual resistance."
This event is a benefit for Red Bull Theater. Tickets are Pay What You Can. Advance reservations are recommended. Sejanus His Fall will premiere LIVE on Monday, May 17th. A recording of that livestream will be available until 7:00 PM EDT on Friday, May 21 – then it disappears.
On Thursday May 20th at 7:30 PM EDT, there will be a free Bull Session: an interactive discussion with adaptor/director Nathan Winkelstein, scholar Henry S. Turner, and members of the company. Turner is a specialist in Renaissance literature, with a focus on theater and intellectual history, especially relations between literature and science, literature and political thought, and literature and philosophy. He is currently writing a book on ideas of experience and the "world" in Shakespeare and in American pragmatism with Jane Hwang Degenhardt (University of Massachusetts, Amherst). He edited Jonson's Poetaster for the forthcoming Routledge Anthology of Early Modern Drama, ed. Jeremy Lopez.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BEN JONSON (1572–1637) was one of the greatest poets and playwrights of the English Renaissance. Born in London and apprenticed to a bricklayer, Jonson by his twenties was making his living as a writer. He wrote numerous plays for the theatre; most of them were satirical comedies, such as Volpone (1606), Epicoene (1609), The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1616). Set in bustling urban spaces, these dramas skewered the vices and follies of social climbers and those who lacked manners, learning or self-knowledge. Jonson also authored several tragedies set in ancient Rome as well as poems and masques—royal entertainments that honored the monarch, James I, before whom they were performed. Jonson never went to university, but he was exceedingly proud of his learning. In 1616 he published a large and beautiful folio edition of his plays, poems and masques modeled on the great Renaissance editions of classical writers. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, Jonson wrote a dedicatory poem for the much more modest 1623 folio edition of Shakespeare's works produced seven years after his death by members of his acting company. In this poem, Jonson noted that Shakespeare had "small Latin and less Greek," but he generously praised his fellow playwright as "the soul of the age/The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!" In his later years, a fire destroyed Jonson's library and many of his own manuscripts, and he was weakened by illness. He died a poor man and was buried in Westminster Abbey under a gravestone that simply says: "O rare Ben Jonson."
ABOUT THE ADAPTOR/DIRECTOR
NATHAN WINKELSTEIN is Red Bull Theater's Associate Artistic Director. He has been with Red Bull Theater for three years, serving as Producing Director of the Revelation Reading Series, Education Director of Shakespeare in Schools and the Acting Intensives. He also serves as a literary and casting associate for Red Bull. Nathan is also the NY Casting Associate for American Shakespeare Center. He has acted or directed for numerous companies around the country and in the UK, including Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Shakespeare Theater Company, W.H.A.T., LCT, The Folger, The Tobacco Factory, American Shakespeare Center and others. Nathan has taught for Red Bull, STC, LCT, WHAT, TGS and Shakespeare Forum; he also provides private acting coaching in NYC. Nathan received his BA in Theater from the University at Buffalo and his MFA in Classical Acting from the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the UK. Nathan is a proud member of Actors Equity.
Red Bull Theater is committed to continuing connection during this historic time. Red Bull's online readings offer the unique opportunity to hear rarely-produced classic plays, and brand new plays in conversation with the classics, performed by the finest actors in New York. All of Red Bull Theater's current offerings are FREE, but advance reservations are recommended. Tax-deductible donations which support Red Bull and invest in the vitality of classical theater for a contemporary audience are encouraged and appreciated.
Since the start of the pandemic, Red Bull Theater has pivoted to free online offerings including livestreamed Benefit Readings and RemarkaBULL Podversations. These online projects cannot replace the live theater experience. There is simply no replacement for live theater. But, through these efforts Red Bull Theater strives to keep its community together and serve its mission to revitalize the classics until we can all gather safely once again to share in the singular Red Bull experience.
Red Bull Theater wishes to express its gratitude to the Performers' Unions: ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, AMERICAN GUILD OF MUSICAL ARTISTS, AMERICAN GUILD OF VARIETY ARTISTS, and SAG-AFTRA through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear on these programs.
Red Bull Theater, hailed as "the city's gutsiest classical theater" by Time Out New York, brings rarely seen classic plays to dynamic new life for contemporary audiences, uniting a respect for tradition with a modern sensibility. Named for the rowdy Jacobean playhouse that illegally performed plays in England during the years of Puritan rule, Red Bull Theater is New York City's home for dynamic performances of great plays that stand the test of time. With the Jacobean plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as its cornerstone, the company also produces new works that are in conversation with the classics. A home for artists, scholars and students, Red Bull Theater delights and engages the intellect and imagination of audiences, and strives to make its work accessible, diverse, and welcoming to all. Red Bull Theater believes in the power of great classic stories and plays of heightened language to deepen our understanding of the human condition, in the special ability of live theater to create unique, collective experiences, and the timeless capacity of classical theater to illuminate the events of our times. Variety agreed, hailing Red Bull's work as: "Proof that classical theater can still be surprising after hundreds of years."
Since its debut in 2003 with a production of Shakespeare's Pericles starring Daniel Breaker, Red Bull Theater has served adventurous theatergoers with Off-Broadway productions, Revelation Readings, and the annual Short New Play Festival. The company also offers outreach programs including Shakespeare in Schools bringing professional actors and teaching artists into public school classrooms; Bull Sessions, free post-play discussions with top scholars; and Classical Acting Intensives led by veteran theater professionals. In partnership with The Drama League, Red Bull Theater offers The Classical Directing Fellowship, which immerses a director in the life of a company working in the classical canon, and is designed to bring diverse voices into the productions and institutions dedicated to this work.
Red Bull Theater strives to be a home for all artists and theatergoers. Red Bull values and is dedicated to practicing inclusiveness on our stage, in our audience, on our staff, and within our leadership. We are committed to making antiracism a core value of our theater. We know that simply making these statements is not enough. We are committed to ongoing actions to increase racial justice and equal opportunity at our theater—doing our part to help realize a more racially and socially just theater community, city, and country.
"The classics-shaking Red Bull Theater," as Time Out NY has called it, has presented 20 Off-Broadway productions and nearly 200 Revelation Readings of rarely seen classics, serving a community of more than 5,000 artists and providing quality artistic programming to an audience of over 65,000. The company's unique programming has received ongoing critical acclaim, and has been recognized with Lortel, Drama Desk, Drama League, Callaway, Off Broadway Alliance, and OBIE nominations and Awards.
For more information visit www.redbulltheater.com.
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