Prometheus Bound, World Premiere, A new translation by Joel Agee, Directed by Travis Preston CalArts Center for New Performance, Presented by the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa —
Pinned high on a gigantic metal wheel, Aeschylus’ ragged Prometheus has, for the past eighty minutes, been spitting out toxic denunciations of all-mighty Zeus and his dictates. Hermes himself just arrived with the Big Chief’s final ultimatum, only to be met with more curses and maledictions from the unrepentant Giver-of-Fire. Finally, Prometheus pauses and looks out, seeing in the far distance the glow of Zeus’ destructive bolt on its way toward him like a heat-seeking missile. Lower down on the steel armature, the flock of women who have gathered in solidarity with the Titan make tremulous little cries and flutter like birds. The air above the amphitheatre thickens with expectant dread as the music rises toward a dissonant crest, the lights dying away.
Aeschylus’s uncompromising monumentality reminds me always of Richard Serra, whose sculptures wrench us into a state of empathy with expressive slabs of steel. In Prometheus Bound nothing much really happens up on stage; all the “action” is in our minds as we resist like bucking horses our underlying compassion for the defiant wretch tacked up there against the cliff. Inexorably, we are drawn by our own natures into a solidarity that undermines our customary submission to the dictates of necessity, and Aeschylus is enough of a prick to insist that we take this pill without sugar coating – “give up hope of results,” as the Tibetans might put it. Finally, there’s something onomatopoetic (big word, I know) about Prometheus, Bound in how Aeschylus’s play carries us up a steep incline to the edge of a dark gulf and throws us off – the form of the play, in other words, reiterates the cliff-ness that also anchors its central image. Read More.
Allan Sekula (1951-2013) Artist, critic and UC San Diego visual arts alumnus made his mark
By Dirk Sutro
Artist, educator, critic and UC San Diego alumnus Allan Sekula died of cancer on August 10. He was 62. Sekula taught at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) for more than three decades. His art—photography, film, mixed media—often focused on oceans and the implications of global maritime trade.
Sekula was an undergraduate biology major at UC San Diego in the early 1970s when he took a photography class in the visual arts department. He earned his MFA in visual arts in 1974 at a time when the faculty included David and Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari and Newton Harrison.
“My earliest memories of Allan are of him and others producing a ‘body bag’ installation in Revelle Plaza in the spring of 1970, when the campus had been shut down due to an antiwar strike,” said emeritus faculty and photographer Fred Lonidier, who completed his MFA just ahead of Sekula and became a visual arts department professor. Lonidier and fellow faculty member Phel Steinmetz launched a photography program as part of the media major. Read More.
Review: 'Prometheus Bound' is a graceful revival at Getty Villa
By Charles McNulty
'Prometheus Bound,' directed by Travis Preston and starring Ron Cephas Jones, makes Aeschylus play feel new at Getty Villa.
Prometheus has long been a symbol of the rebel hero, a revolutionary challenging an oppressive order. Dubbed "the patron saint of the proletariat," he is a god who sided with mankind against the immortals, bestowing on them enlightenment and the great gift of fire, crimes for which he is punished by Zeus, the universe's reigning tyrant at the time of the myth.
In Travis Preston's gracefully lucid staging of Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound" at the Getty Villa's outdoor Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, Prometheus is carted out on a wagon that, were he not a deathless god, might be mistaken for a bier. As played by Ron Cephas Jones, this champion of humanity, already limp with pain before being enchained to a giant 5-ton wheel, brings to mind images of Jesus at the crucifixion. Read More.
Every once in a great while audiences have that rare opportunity to experience a profoundly sublime work that dares to express “the big idea.” The Getty Museum, CalArts Center for New Performance and Trans Arts’ co-production of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound is this theater season’s exceptional undertaking of transcendent artistry with insight into and about the human condition and spirit.
What this creative team has done is the epic transposing of a 5th century B.C. classic written at the dawn of drama into a 21st century context, rendering the ancient avant-garde with some high tech stagecraft Aeschlus, Euripides, Sophocles, Socrates, Plato and even Zeus himself would have marveled at. With this updating the cast and crew have lost none of the flavor and potency of Aeschylus’ tragedy first performed around 450 B.C., but rather make antiquity’s enduring play relevant for contemporary (amphi)theatergoers. In doing so, they have quite arguably created nothing less than a modern masterpiece. Read More.
Preston’s Prometheus Bound Brings Poetic Revolution to Getty Villa
By Deborah Behrens
How do you breathe life into one of the world’s oldest dramas when the titular protagonist is chained to a mountaintop ranting against the gods for the show’s entirety?
If you’re Travis Preston, dean of the CalArts School of Theater and artistic director of the CalArts Center for New Performance, and tasked with staging Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound for the J. Paul Getty Museum’s annual outdoor production, opening tonight at the Getty Villa, the answer is simple. Fabricate a 23-foot tall steel wheel.
“It was certainly in my mind to do something that would be singular,” admits Preston while standing in front of the impressive metal structure during an early August media day at the Villa. “The first challenge was Prometheus is meant to be chained to a mountaintop rock. My first idea was to put the audience here [pointing to the ground in front of the wheel] and to work on the stairs where the audience would normally be seated. For a variety of reasons, that was impossible.” Read More.
New production reintroduces classic drama with new translation and spectacle.
Most people are familiar with the story behind Prometheus Bound, but few have actually seen it staged.
Now there's a new opportunity to experience the rarely performed play, believed to have been written in the fifth century B.C. by Aeschylus (though some scholars have disputed his authorship), live, and al fresco. The California Institute of the Arts' Center for New Performance and the Getty Museum, in association with TransArts, are in previews for a new production, set to open Thursday at the Getty Villa in Malibu.
Helmed by CNP's artistic director, Travis Preston, it features a newly translated text by poet/essayist Joel Agee and a cast of 18 — plus a five-ton, 23-foot revolving steel wheel to which the titular hero is tied high above the stage, as punishment for defying Zeus in order to empower humanity with fire and education. The wheel wasn't Preston's first concept, he says. "I had wanted to stage the piece in the audience area of the amphitheater. But that was rejected because of safety reasons. And the wheel addressed a number of needs, one of which is that Prometheus is meant to be chained up very high, presumably on a mountaintop at the end of the earth." Read More.
The Los Angeles Free Music Society had its original heyday back in the 1970s, as much a dada and LSD-inspired piss-take on the high seriousness of experimental music—these were the days when Stockhausen was God—as a shaggy-dog extension of the Zappa/Beefheart/Wildman Fischer axis of dissonance that defined the fringes of “rock” music.
Coalescing around Pasadena’s legendary Poo-Bah record store, the LAFMS jammed, played out, issued cassettes and vinyl (in editions between 20 and 1,000, the average being 200), and published weird mail-art journals from 1974 to 1982, when they fell into a period of dormancy.
This hibernation ended with a bang in 1995 when Gary Todd’s Cortical Foundation/Organ of Corti label issued a staggering 10-disc retrospective box set of LAFMS archival material that was justly lauded by such international tastemakers as Thurston Moore and UK magazine The Wire. The LAFMS were hailed as pioneers of noise music (having allegedly jump-started the Japanese noise scene) and avant-garde deconstructionist turntablism (with the 1977 cassette Dennis Duck Goes Disco), but their collective range extended across the spectrum of experimental sound-making.
Since the “Lowest Form of Music” box set, the members of LAFMS have once again picked up steam, extruding reissued material and new product at regular intervals, and organizations like SASSAS and Nora Keyes & Don Bolles’ “Hush Club” have provided regular venues for their projects, while arts organizations like the Getty, REDCAT and Beyond Baroque have paid homage.
The Getty Villa in Malibu mounts a production of the ancient story of the Titan tortured by Zeus.
There is little more ancient in the history of the theater than this recounting of the agonies of Prometheus, the Titan tortured by king-god Zeus for contravening his will and saving us mortals with the gifts of fire and knowledge. Yet in this searing production at the Getty Villa in Malibu, the experience could not be more compellingly contemporary in its emotions and themes. Who cannot relate to the pain of existential abandonment, of anger at arbitrary authority, of pity for suffering caused by sacrifice? Cursed by foresight, Prometheus had aligned himself with the gods against Father Kronos when he realized that his fellow Titans arrogantly assumed their brute strength would perforce vanquish Zeus’ superior guile, only to be punished by his former ally for presuming to rescue the humanity Zeus had sought to destroy. Read More.
At the origin of our world, one lone immortal—the first radical, the first revolutionary, the first savior—dares to defy the king of the gods, risking eternal torture and unending incarceration to rescue humankind from annihilation utter and complete.
That’s a logline that could belong to the next megabudget studio extravaganza or cable fantasy series. Rather, it’s the calling card for Prometheus, the chiseled ab’d Titan in Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gifted it to humanity, thereby becoming the Bringer of Light and enlightened civilizer to a benighted species (us!).
Prometheus also serves as the protagonist in Prometheus Bound, the fifth century BCE Greek tragedy, commonly credited to Aeschylus, firing afresh as the eighth annual outdoor theater production at The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades. A collaboration between The J. Paul Getty Museum and CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), Prometheus has further managed, somewhat paradoxically in a town that worships the new, to become the most of-the-moment staged event in Los Angeles.
Indie Beat: L.A. Stories -- Seeking Independence In Hollywood
By Ben Umstead
Even from indoors I can sense the sprawl. It is an onslaught. It is an adventure. Its sun-charged heart of concrete beats ceaselessly. The seeming endlessness of a loud city song, a vortex cradled by hills, valleys, and mountains. Even when one arrives at the ocean, the sprawl merely careens into other directions. I live in Los Angeles. I am a film journalist in Los Angeles. It is a town that perplexes and excites me. I am writing today's column in a state of flux, with doubt sidling for a spot in the sun. I won't let it. I've been back for six months. I have an incredible group of friends and many, many smiling acquaintances here. As a journalist I've attended the L.A. Film Festival, been to parties and special screenings, delighted in expanding my tribe. But I don't feel grounded. Granted, it's only been six months, a short time to be anywhere. And yet...
When I attended L.A. Film Fest back in June I was startled to discover that it all took place in South downtown, near the Staples Center, at a complex of high-end franchise restaurants and entertainment destinations called L.A. Live. The fest was being held at a multiplex. Convenient in many respects, the location was somehow lacking a personality that allowed well, the film festival to truly feel like a film festival; to feel like you were gathering a community of like-minded folks. The lounge was on top of a parking garage (somehow decidedly very L.A.); we shared the lobby with audiences for Monster's University and World War Z. Granted, it was festive, but merely in spurts, pockets... Something still felt off. It lacked character, nuance, texture, a uniqueness that said "yes this is the L.A. Film Festival, this is special." This is not an attack on the L.A. Film Fest. This was merely my experience, and a symptom of something larger and seemingly less definable. And that's just it, outside of a few institutions like The Cinefamily, or L.A. Film Fest's parent Film Independent, cinephilia and independent visions seem detached here, or somehow secret and unattainable. But that doesn't make sense. This is Los Angeles. Everything is here. Read More.