Art House Productions’ New Play opens June 4th
By Sally Deering
“A cursed bloodline. A family on the edge. If this house could speak, what stories it would tell.”
That’s the tagline for the new play THE HOUSE OF ATREUS which premieres Thursday, June 4, at Art House Productions in Jersey City. It’s a collaborative work between Christine Goodman (Executive Director of Art House Productions) who wrote the piece, Mason Beggs, who directed, and choreographer Meagan Woods.
THE HOUSE OF ATREUS is an immersive and unconventional theater piece. Instead of putting the actors on stage and the audience in rows of seats to observe, the set takes up the entire theater with a chair and TV in one area, a broken down porch in another, and a dining room table at center. The audience enters through a haze of smoky fog and is encouraged to find a spot of their choosing to watch the play as it unfolds around them. This immerses the audience into the play’s action, which becomes part of the overall theater experience.
“The audience will be active observers,” Goodman says, sitting on set with Beggs and Woods during a break in tech rehearsal. “We’re changing the audience’s perspective.”
The play’s plot focuses on the main character Alan who returns home after serving in Iraq. He comes back only to find his house in ruins and his family broken and as war torn as the place he left behind.
“It’s an exploration of family and the impact of war on family,” Goodman says. “At the heart, ‘The House of Atreus’ is a cursed house and Alan has to manage the reality of this cursed home and piece together his family.”
THE PLAY’S THE THING
THE HOUSE OF ATREUS stars Amy Fulgham, Ema Lakovic, Gabby Gowdie, Adam Hassan, Quanda Johnson, and Adam Resnick as Alan, the war veteran returning home. He explains his character this way.
“He’s a dutiful military man,” Resnick says. “He has a sense of belonging, but he has a few gaps in his family life.”
Throughout the play, music serves as an integral part of the action and at times, the lyrics of the songs by Shayfer James seem to represent the characters’ inner-voices, things they want to say but can’t. .
“Shayfer’s songs help with the tonality of the piece,” director Mason Beggs says. “”We knew of Shayfer and his music and it seemed like a good fit.”
Set Designer Andrea McKenna created the broken home Alan comes back to, and Lance A. Michel designed the play’s dreamlike lighting.
“The main structure of the play comes from the Greek trilogy ORESTEIA,” choreographer Meagan Woods says. “We put it in a contemporary setting and used the text and movement to develop the story.”
According to Wikipedia: “The ORESTEIA is a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus concerning the end of the curse on the House of Atreus. The ORESTEIA was originally performed at the Dionysia festival in Athens in 458 BC, where it won first prize. The name derives from the character Orestes, who sets out to avenge his father’s murder.”
“I’ve always been drawn to Greek plays,” Goodman says. “It’s because the Greek drama goes where a lot of plays don’t dare to go. They take it to extremes.”
Is THE HOUSE OF ATREUS unconventional theater? Yes. And Goodman says this type of theater fits in with the company’s artistic mission.
“The heart of Art House is theater,” Goodman says. “We’re passionate about new theater and providing a platform for new works to be seen.”
IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR
This past year was Art House Production’s 14th season, and on July 1st it celebrates its first year in its new Journal Square location. During the year, the company presented an eclectic mix of theater and performance pieces including “Your Move,” New Jersey’s Modern Dance Festival; FAME, JR. and THE WIZARD OF OZ which were part of Stages! Theater Company for Youth; IN FULL COLOR: Stories by Women of Color in celebration of Women’s History Month; and No Peeking Theater’s THE SHAPESHIFTER.
Art House served as the opening weekend host venue for the Black Maria Film Festival; and was a gallery stop on the Jersey City Artists’ Studio Tour. The INKubator, a professional script and screenwriting development lab for writers, actors and directors meets at Art House, and it also offers acting classes and dance classes for kids and adults. With all that, executive director Goodman also finds the time to organize JC FRIDAYS, a festival of the arts that takes place throughout Jersey City.
“It’s been a tremendous year in our new location,” Goodman says, “filled with growth and new possibilities.”
If you go
Thurs, Fri, Sat, June 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 & 13 at 8 pm; Sun, June 7 at 4 pm THE HOUSE OF ATREUS
Art House Productions
136 Magnolia Ave, JC