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Getty Villa Theater Series Offer Classic Works through a Modern Lens

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa announces its annual Villa Theater Lab Series, beginning February 19, featuring works-in-progress versions of new translations of Greek and Roman plays as well as contemporary works inspired by ancient theater. This year, the Museum is also presenting a new Villa Playreading Series, offering an opportunity to watch “script-in-hand” readings by professional theater artists of lesser-known Greek and Roman plays in translation.

The Villa Theater Lab features outstanding artists or ensembles presenting “in process” public presentations of new work rooted in classic literature or culture. Each team of artists-in-residence is provided with time, space, and production support by the Museum – both during and in advance of the period of residency – allowing for far broader and deeper experimentation than would a traditional play-reading format.

This year’s Villa Theater Lab season begins with Big Dance Theater’s presentation of Euripides' Alkestis, Friday–Sunday, February 19–21. Two acclaimed creative forces—renowned translator Anne Carson and the daring, experimental Big Dance Theater, based in New York City—meet in the creation of a new movement-theater version of Alkestis. Euripides’ genre-defying play, in which Herakles wrestles Death for the soul of an ideal woman, is one of the playwright’s strangest and most beautiful works, having fascinated both scholars and theater artists for centuries.

In May, the season continues with Proyecto Azteca, Friday–Sunday, May 14–16, featuring artists from California Institute of the Arts' Center for New Performance presenting a multimedia tapestry of texts in Spanish, English, and Nahuatl, recalling and reflecting upon the moment of encounter between Aztec culture and European invaders and drawing upon Octavio Paz’s groundbreaking poem The Sun Stone (Piedra del Sol). This performance complements the exhibition The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire, on view March 24–July 5, 2010, at the Getty Villa, which coincides with Los Angeles celebrations of the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence and the centennial of the Mexican revolution. Public programming for this exhibition is supported by Chase.

The new Villa Playreading Series presents two script-in-hand offerings in March. The first is Euripides’ rarely performed comic play Helen, based on the dazzling conceit that Helen has passed the entire Trojan War living chastely in Egypt, oblivious to the Trojan War, her infamy, and the fate of her husband Menelaus. Helen is directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, and presented by Playwrights’ Arena on March 5 and 6.

Later in the month, the Villa Playreading Series presents Aristophanes’ The Frogs, directed by Matt Walker and presented by the Troubador Theater Company on March 19 and 20. In this typically irreverent satire, Dionysus, the antic God of Theater, depressed by the state of the Athenian stage, resolves to restore literary excellence to the seasonal dramatic festivals, an effort that somehow involves a large chorus of singing frogs, among other devices.

The Villa’s theater programs are part of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s broad spectrum of public programming and events. Live performances of classical and classically based drama offer insight into the social, cultural, and political realities of life in ancient Greece and Rome, while the Museum’s permanent collection of ancient art and changing exhibitions deepen the connection between modern audiences and the tragedies and comedies onstage.

“These Villa theater presentations demonstrate to audiences the important position theater held in antiquity, and how works from over two thousand years ago continue to inspire modern drama today,” said Karol Wight, senior curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The J. Paul Getty Museum | Villa Theater Lab Series | Karol Wight |

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