Q&A: Agamemnon

Sarah Kitz on directing Nicolas Billon's modern Greek tragedy at the Next Stage Theatre Festival

Presented by Theatreworks Productions and The Agamemnon Collective
Written by Nicolas Billon (after the play by Aeschylus)
Directed by Sarah Kitz

Sarah Kitz

It's properly cold outside, just in time for 12 days of hot indie theatre at the 2016 Next Stage Theatre Festival. January is the new July!

Presented by The Toronto Fringe, NSTF is a platform for past Fringe Festival artists to take their work to the next level. This year, the 10-show lineup includes the world premiere of Agamemnon, a contemporized re-imagining of the opening chapter of Aeschylus’ Oresteia by Governor General award winning playwright Nicolas Billon. The production features a powerhouse cast including Nigel Shawn Williams, Brigit Wilson, Earl Pastko, Susanna Fournier, Ron Kennell, Amy Keating, Zita Nyarady, Marcel Stewart and Samantha Brown.

Here, director Sarah Kitz talks about her experience working on this epic project.

Theatromania: Tell us about Agamemnon. How would you describe the play in a few sentences?

SK: Ten years ago Agamemnon sacrificed his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to get a wind to sail his armies to Troy, to sack Troy and bring back Helen (who ran off with Paris – how dare a woman follow her own desire?). When he sacrificed his child it broke the world. Now, 10 years later, after Troy has fallen and the men come home, the place they’re returning to is broken. Nothing of value has value. Nothing of substance has weight. And Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife, is plotting revenge. Nicolas Billon has updated the play to now, so it’s classic Greek tragedy plus ghost story in the reality TV age. It’s strange and unnerving and funny!

Theatromania: What is it about this particular Greek tragedy that still resonates today?

SK: The play AGAMEMNON underlines our foolish belief that peace can be purchased with war. It cannot. War perpetuates itself. Our collective unwillingness to learn this lesson keeps the world in violence; we have militaristic systems in place to assure it. We see how love, generosity and compassion, even in small sustained acts, are the antidotes to this welter of chaos. Ancient war, present day war; it’s so much the same. We’ve changed the world dramatically in 3000 years, but we have not figured out how to curb our destructive impulses.

Theatromania: What have you learned from working on this piece so far?

SK: The show contains so much. It’s a short script but it’s a giant play! I’ve been lucky enough to work on this with an unbeatable team, and together we’re finding the balance of comedy and tragedy, classical and contemporary, as we make our way through the story. It’s a complicated dance.

Theatromania: What excites you most about being part of this year's NSTF?

SK: The support of this festival is extraordinary and the women in charge are absolute dynamos. Being programmed next to nine carefully chosen, wildly diverse shows makes me want to see everything! And the festival is small enough that you can see everything. Getting to put on an indie play of this breadth in Toronto with the resources of NSTF is a challenge and a privilege and sometimes it feels like a dare. “I dare you to make something this big and crazy, this fast, at this time of year, with this many busy artists!” Dare accepted. It’s in January when everyone needs an excuse to come out and be social; so buy a ticket and see some theatre and hang out in the heated tent like a hardy northerner and be social! Theatre is a conversation with/in a community. Come commune and discuss. Come and argue. Come and laugh. Come.

Agamemnon runs from January 6 to 17, 2016 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street) as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival. Click here for show times and to buy tickets. Visit theatreworksproductions.com for more information about the show.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2016-01-06 - Sun, 2016-01-17


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