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Denis O’Hare and Stephen Spinella Have Q&A; About Iliad

Posted on the 23 February 2012 by Tbfansource @tbfansource

Denis O’Hare and Stephen Spinella Have Q&A; About IliadDenis O’Hare (Russell Edgington) coadapted Homer’s Iliad with director Lisa Peterson.  In 2010 scheduling problems kept Denis from performing in two productions.  One was in Seattle and the other one at New Jersey’s McCarter theatre.  Jim Nicolas came up with theidea that Denis could split the part with Stephen Spinella by alternating nights.  Time Out New York was able to sit down with the two actors and do a Q&A with them.

“The Iliad is more than 15,000 lines long. How do you cram such a huge piece onstage? Denis O’Hare: We’ve sort of carved out our version. We’ve decided to focus on war and its meaning, and the waste of war and the human propensity for violence.Stephen Spinella: It’s an immense narrative, filled with so many stories that it feels like the other texts that have lasted that long, like the Old Testament. You can imbue them with or extract from them what will satisfy you in whatever age you’re in.”

Time Out New York asked if the storyteller in the piece was meant to be Homer. Here is what everyone had to say:

Peterson: Our idea of Homer is as a collective consciousness. I believe that The Iliad was composed by many people learning and telling the story. So this is our attempt to imagine what it would be like to hear one of these bards, one of the Homers.

Spinella: But it’s profoundly fractured by his constant personal response to the story and his history of telling it. You’re always aware of his act of telling the story, and that meta-story becomes the real story of the evening.

Peterson: The character is a being who believes that he’s the author of the poem. He describes it like he was there. He can’t seem to disappear; he keeps coming to on some stage somewhere. And he’s sort of called out by a society that needs to think about war. He can’t die and go away. He seems to be immortal.

O’Hare: About a third of [the text] is Fagles’s verse, some of which we chopped and edited; a third is transcriptions of improvs that [Lisa and I] did together; and a third is original writing to get us from one place to the next.”

They also asked a interesting question on if they have seen each other performances?  Here is what they had to say:

O’Hare: I have this weird position of being a coauthor, so I saw Stephen three or four times at the McCarter. He was fantastic. I haven’t stolen too much from him, I don’t think.

Spinella: Steal! Steal whatever you want! I haven’t seen him yet, because I’m scared. I don’t want to watch him do it and feel inadequate…I’m going on the last Friday of the run.

O’Hare: I have the same fear. You hear some of his line readings, and you go, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. Why aren’t I doing that?”

Spinella: I put my fingers in my ears and go, “Uhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuh.”

O’Hare: You just can’t get infected by somebody else’s point of view.

Spinella: You can! But you mustn’t!

O’Hare: It’s not being lily-livered or insecure. It’s that you have to maintain the integrity of your vision.

Peterson: The idea of sharing it was attractive to both of you—not to watch someone else do it but more to have a conversation with each other.

Spinella: I also have to say that a certain amount of the impulse to switch off was that when I did it at the McCarter, I lost my voice and I was hamstrung for the entire run

O’Hare: It’s this massive athletic achievement that has a huge vocal requirement, and we don’t know that it’s even feasible.

Spinella: It truly is daunting. We ’re doing a Greek tragedy, essentially.

O’Hare: When you get to chapter seven and you still have to confront Andromache’s grief and Hecuba’s grief, you’re like [moaning], “There’s nothing left! I have nothing left!”

Spinella: And then there’s Priam and Achilles! And then you have to do the poet at the end, which is a whole other thing.

O’Hare: Even if you can limp through it eight times a week, why wouldn’t you want to give your best-quality performance? So we thought, Let’s give us both a chance to give full, passionate performances every time! And give us a fighting chance to not be destroyed.”

If you’ve been lucky enough to see the play please let us know what you thought of it below.

Source: Time Out New York – “Q&A: An Iliad”

Image Credit: Joan Marcus

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