Saturday December 16, 2017

Video: Alcestis Ascending -- A Cuban-American Co-Production Goes Off-Broadway

Euripides’ classic play gets a bilingual rock-musical update in New York and Havana

Members of HavanaBama rehearse Alcestis Ascending

Courtesy Alcestis Ascending

What would you do for love? In this bilingual rock production based on Euripides’ classic drama, Alcestis offers to take the place of her husband, King Admetus, when his thread runs out on the wheel of Fate. Written and directed by Seth Panitch, Alcestis Ascending/Alcestis Asciende is a unique Cuba-U.S. theatrical initiative. It’s the fourth production of Company HavanaBama, a research collaboration begun in 2007 by Erich Cartaya and William Ruiz of Cuba’s National Office of Scenic Arts (El Consejo Nacional de Artes Escenicas, CNAE), and Seth Panitch of the University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences Cuba Initiative.

A play with music, Alcestis Ascending interweaves Spanish and English dialogue and features 15 actors and dancers from CNAE as well as 8 from the University of Alabama. As Panitch wryly explains, "Half the play is in English and half the play is in Spanish, so either everyone will be able to understand what is going on or no one will be able to follow what's going on." A Wall Street Journal report notes that Alcestis Ascending is “one of just a handful of joint Cuban-American plays to hit the Big Apple since the Cuban revolution.”

Osnel Delgado, artistic director of the Cuban dance company Ebony and former principal dancer with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, joins HavanaBama as a performer and choreographer for the project. Kennedy Center/ USIA Jazz Ambassador Tom Wolfe composed the score and will perform it live with the production.

Alcestis Ascending premieres July 1-5 at the Allen Bales Theatre at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, then moves Off-Broadway to the Harold Clurman Theatre in Manhattan July 9-21. Following this limited run, the company performs in Havana July 24–August 4 at the Raquel Revuelta Theatre.

Nadine Covert is a specialist in visual arts media with a focus on documentaries. She was for many years the Executive Director of the Educational Film Library Association (EFLA) and Director of its American Film Festival, then the major documentary competition in the U.S. She later became director of the Program for Art on Film, a joint venture of the J. Paul Getty Trust and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Covert has served on the board of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, and is currently a consultant to the Montreal International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA).