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September 26, 2013

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Theater for the New South opens season three with classic ‘Prometheus Bound’

Theater for the New South opens its third season with a character in chains. Aeschylus's “Prometheus Bound” (translation by James Kerr), explores the classic myth, and the TNS production will add the edge of experimentation to it. The company continues to perform in “found spaces,” in this case choosing the Plow Building on Reggie White Blvd.

“’Prometheus Bound’ literally takes place on the edge of a cliff at the end of the world. We were able to emotionally convey that solitude, emptiness and perhaps harshness by using this specific space,” said director Blake Harris.  We asked Harris about other aspects of the production:

The Pulse: How did you discover this play? Saw it, read it, heard about it?

Blake Harris: We make it a priority to include a classic work in our season lineup. I polled a few people about their favorite Greek tragedies and many people mentioned Aeschylus' “The Oresteia.” I began researching several tragedies and ran across the title “Prometheus Bound.” The title struck me and I shifted my research to this piece. I learned that it was one of the least performed tragedies because of the challenges it presents. With that in mind, plus the beautiful, lush language, I knew this was the piece we needed to do.

TP: What elements in it appealed to you?

BH: The biggest challenge that critics and academics cite is that you have a protagonist that is physically bound and cannot move the entire show. This is precisely what appealed to me. Directors use movement and physical composition to articulate an emotion. Going into this project, I knew that I would have to focus on the chorus members' movement to physically illustrate Prometheus' emotional journey. I was also inspired by all the natural elements in this myth: metals, rocks, water, fire. I wanted to highlight these elements by completely juxtaposing them with the design elements. That's why we see a mixture of modern elements with clean, harsh lines.

TP: What does it have to say to the TNS audience?

BH: It asks “How far are you willing to go for what you believe in?” We see someone, knowing the full extent of their punishment, giving up everything to bring enlighten others. Prometheus sacrificed everything to share what he thought was beautiful with mankind: the arts, the beauty in coincidences, the stars rising and falling in the night skies, the worth of jewels and gold, language. I see artists every day who make sacrifices to share the same thing. They ask people to pause and take note of the beauty that surrounds us.

TP: What visual style will the production incorporate?

BH: I wanted to take a completely organic approach in the rehearsal process and allow the story to express itself within the physical space. This emotional journey completely defined the design elements and the stylistic staging. The audience will see an almost “Mod” style in the costume design. We were interested in the clean lines and the no-nonsense black and white palette. The style of the staging has a lot of inspirations from physical theatre, but I didn't want to completely commit to a genre. That being said, the style of this production is completely reflective of the organic process we honored this time.

TP: Does TNS have a theme this year, and if so, how does this piece fit in?

BH: I don't necessarily see a theme for this season. We always ask ourselves in the selection process, "Do our audiences need to see this?" and "Why?" To the first question, we received a resounding yes. We couldn't sum up the second answer in one sentence and that's how we knew we were on the right track.

TP: Are you asking your actors to do anything outside the ordinary to prepare for the piece?

BH: In the beginning of the process, I just kept reminding the actors to trust me. Going into each rehearsal without a preset notion of what this show should look like put the cast and me in a vulnerable place. However, we found our footing after the first week or two and began challenging each other to think beyond the theatrical conventions we have become comfortable with in the rehearsal process and on stage. 

Prometheus Bound,” 7:30 p.m. September 27, 28, October 3-6, The Plow Building, 1604 Reggie White Blvd. $15. 

For more information about Theater for the New South's “Prometheus Bound,” visit theaterforthenewsouth.com or Facebook.com/theaterforthenewsouth. Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/468407.

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September 26, 2013

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