The Odyssey Theater Ensemble reopens its reinterpretation of the Odyssey West Coast 1969 premiere of The Serpent, Jean-Claude van Itallie’s award-winning play Obie. Production initially opened in March 2020 as part of Odyssey’s 50th anniversary “Circa ’69” season, but was closed five days later by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, 19 months later, the cast are back on stage with Odyssey Artistic Director Ron Sossi once again at the helm of this unique “ceremony / celebration / exploration” that delights life as it is seen. through the Book of Genesis and other iconic events. The new opening date is Saturday October 23, with performances continuing until December 12.
Arguably the most successful ensemble work ever, Sossi had previously premiered on the West Coast 51 years ago, in the spring of 1970, as a second production at the all-new Odyssey Theater. A work of experimental theater that explores the Biblical Book of Genesis while comparing it to modern experience, The Serpent remains an excellent example of the innovative character of the time. It was developed in 1968 by van Itallie in collaboration with Joseph Chaikin and the Open Theater. The playwright describes the work as “a ceremony”, while the New York Times has called it “the flagship work of the Open Theater, America’s most important ensemble theater studio.”
According to a 1969 “Datebook” column in the San Francisco Chronicle, “The 1960s shattered and expanded what theatrical form and structure might look like, and the New York Open Theater was continually at the forefront of this experimentation. The work of Jean-Claude van Itallie in 1969, which the Open Theater toured internationally, renounced standard forms of narration, to make the theater a ritual, the theater as a juxtaposition of discordant images . Imagine the fall of Eden after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Overall, “Chaikin said in an interview. “I wanted to play with actors, actors who felt sensitive to each other … To arrive at a vocabulary, we had to learn: we had no other ambition than to meet and play. . Off- The off Broadway impulse was a terrible dissatisfaction with what is possible on Broadway … Off-off-Broadway is really an attack on the Fourth Wall. He wants to destroy the Fourth Wall business. Known as the name “transformational action.” Neither actor has a name or assigned character to play in. Sometimes they step into roles, and other times they play themselves.
“The Serpent is a ceremony … a ceremony for the theater,” says Sossi. “Very representative of the daring and rich theater work that erupted in the late 1960s and early 1970s, eclecticism is the name of the game. Rituals, acrobatics, Greek choirs, comedy, myth, participation of the audience and physical ensemble dynamics abound. The Serpent offers a provocative and magical glimpse of where we are as a species. ” The Odyssey set includes Avery Dresel-Kurtz, Joseph Gilbert, Elin Hampton, Tomoko Karina, Kristina Ladegaard, Alexander De Vasconcelos Matos, Ian Stewart Riley, Cary Thompson, Carla Valentine, Terry Woodberry and Peyton Young. The creative team includes set designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, lighting designer Chu-Hsuan Chang and sound designer Christopher Moscatiello. The Serpent is presented by Odyssey Theater Ensemble in association with Isabel and Harvey Kibel. Jean-Claude van Itallie was a seminal force in New York’s explosive off-off-Broadway theatrical scene in the 1960s. He was one of the original playwrights of Ellen Stewart’s LaMama Experimental Theater Club and The Playwright-of. -the Ensemble ”from Joe Chaikin’s Open Theater. Van Itallie’s over 30 works include pieces on a gay theme: War and Ancient Boys; long, brilliant monologues, including Struck Dumb (written with Joe Chaikin) and Bag Lady; The pieces of “Doris”: Almost like being and I am really there; The Traveler (on healing); a witty love triangle titled Light, Voltaire, the Mathematician and the King of Prussia; a grotesque tragedy about Bush II titled Fear Itself, Secrets of the White House; and Tibetan Book of the Dead or How Not to Do It Again, a transformative ensemble piece based on traditional texts with the imprimatur of van Itallie’s Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa. His acclaimed play on the anti-Viet Nam war, American Hurray: Three Views of the USA was the dramatic event of the 1960s, described as “brilliant” by Harold Pinter. Van Itallie’s classic translations of Chekhov (“Chekhov, the Main Pieces”, Applause Books), prized by directors and actors for their clarity and subtle rhythms, are probably Chekhov’s most performed versions on the American stage. Inspired teacher, van Itallie has taught drama and performance as well as Writing On Your Feet workshops at Princeton, NYU, Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Columbia, Middlebury, U of Colorado, Naropa, Esalen, Omega, NY Open Center, Shantigar and many more places. He is the author of “The Playwright’s Workbook” (Applause Books). Van Itallie’s latest book, “Tea with Demons, Games of Transformation” (Haley’s), is an adventure in a new genre – 49 self-development games that the reader can play.
Ron Sossi founded the Odyssey Theater in 1969 to demonstrate that experimental theater could have populist appeal and be financially solvent while maintaining the highest artistic standards, and he led the company as artistic director for his 50 years. of history. In 2013, he received the LA Weekly Career Achievement Award and is the recipient of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Margaret Harford Award for “demonstrating a continued willingness to provocatively experiment in the theater process” as well as Ron Link of LADCC . Award for “consistent quality of management”. Recent Odyssey directing projects include Faith Healer, Steambath, The Dance of Death, Beckett5, My Sister, Oedipus Machina, Theater in the Dark (LA Weekly nomination for best production of the year), Way to Heaven (nomination LA Weekly and LADCC for Best Production of the Year), Adding Machine: A Musical, The Arsonists (LA Weekly nomination for Best Direction), Sliding Into Hades (LA Weekly Award for Best Production of the Year), Kafka Thing !, Far Away and The Threepenny Opera.
The Odyssey is dedicated to the exploration, production and presentation of works at the cutting edge of contemporary theatrical art at its three-theater complex in West Los Angeles. Pre-pandemic, The Serpent was originally planned as part of the company’s 50th anniversary season “Circa ’69”, an exciting retrospective of the seminal theatrical works that inspired the Odyssey at the time of its creation – a rich period of time. ‘experimentation and exploration when the theatrical ground was fertile both here and abroad. Previous productions this season included Joe Orton’s Loot; Fefu and his friends by María Irene Fornés; In Circles, a musical adaptation by Al Carmines of Gertrude Stein’s poem “A Circular Play”; and a double lineup of Sam Shepard’s first one-act acts, The Unseen Hand and Killer’s Head, directed by Darrell Larson, frequent collaborator of Shepard. Performances of The Serpent are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from October 23 to December 12. Tickets range from $ 32 to $ 37. Discounts are available on some shows for seniors, students, and guests under 30; call the theater for details.
The Odyssey Theater is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or visit OdysseyTheatre.com. Proof of vaccination will be required from all clients, and masks required throughout the performance. All theater seats are available for vaccinated guests, with physical distancing in place on request. The Odyssey ensures that theater ventilation systems meet the recommended standard for COVID-19 protection. Odyssey’s indoor spaces are sanitized before each performance, and hand sanitizer and wipes are available at all times.