As a theater company, the essence of our work is to gather people together to share stories and acts of imagination. So what’s a theater company to do when everyone must stay home? We’re going digital.
Monday, May 18, 2020
Recording disappeared Friday, May 22 at 7:29 PM EDT.
ABOUT THE CORIOLANUS
The streets are full of protest. Economic inequality strains the social fabric. Debates rage throughout a nation riddled with dissension and distrust. It’s election year in Rome, 493 B.C.E., and as unscrupulous politicians manipulate public opinion, the hypocrisy and humiliation of political campaigns drive away the country’s finest. But beneath this political drama looms the personal tragedy of one principled man’s emotional blindness.
We want to engage you and our entire community with something stimulating and of genuine value. We’re not promising a finished performance, but rather a unique way to experience CORIOLANUS. We’re thrilled to reunite some of the company of artists that brought this play to life with our 2016 Off-Broadway production for this livestream benefit occasion.
This unrehearsed reading will feature Matthew Amendt, Zachary Fine, Rebecca S'Manga Frank, Lisa Harrow. Merritt Janson, Dion Johnstone, Aaron Krohn, Edward O'Blenis, Patrick Page, Olivia Reis, Lily Santiago, Stephen Spinella. Each will zoom in from wherever they are practicing social distancing. The original production was directed by Michael Sexton. For information about the complete team 2016 Off-Broadway production, visit here.
All of us at Red Bull Theater hope you and yours are safe, healthy, and staying as sane as possible during this difficult time. We hope you'll join us on Monday, May 18!
Red Bull Theater wishes to express its gratitude to the Performers’ Unions: ACTORS’ EQUITY ASSOCIATION, AMERICAN GUILD OF MUSICAL ARTISTS, AMERICAN GUILD OF VARIETY ARTISTS, and SAG-AFTRA through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear in this program.
ABOUT THE PLAY
The events dramatized in Coriolanus allegedly take place in the Fifth Century, B.C.E., after the city of Rome became a republic with the ouster of its last king, Tarquin. “Republican” Rome survived for almost five centuries, ending ironically only with the “republican-backed” assassination of Julius Caesar and the eventual coronation of his imperial successor, Octavius Caesar Augustus. It is worth noting that in Fifth Century B.C.E. Rome was only a city-state, with a few satellite cities under its control, and that Rome’s enemies were other comparable city-states only a couple of days’ journey away—like the Volscian cities of Antium and Corioles.
Essential to the successful political operation of the young Roman republic was co-operation among its three strata of power: the senators, the military, and the people. Aristocrats in the senate and at the head of Rome’s army tended to move easily back and forth “from th’ casque (helmet) to th’ cushion (Senate seat),” as Shakespeare puts it; senators rewarded and supported former and current military men with Consular offices. But the people could not be entirely overlooked; they had acquired a kind of veto power through the appointment of their own Tribunes, who could enforce certain of their prerogatives, whether the Senate agreed or not.
It is in this complex political situation that we first encounter Martius Caius, an incredibly successful soldier that the city-state desperately needs to protect it from its external enemies, but now calls upon to help quell an internal rebellion over a grain shortage that has left the people starving, even though the aristocrats’ granaries seem to be full. While some senators attempt to deal with the rebellion by reason and compromise, Martius—thanks to his severe upbringing under an honor-obsessed mother and his unequaled successes on the battlefield—knows only one way: brute force, whether of arms (which he would prefer) or of harsh, haranguing, insulting words (which is all the Senate will let him do).
When Rome’s neighboring foes, led by Martius’ archenemy Tullus Aufidius, try to take advantage of the internal dissension to launch yet another attack, Martius is called into action in that theatre of operations where he operates ruthlessly and flawlessly, the battlefield—and away from a situation which he handles crudely and ineffectively, politics. And his astonishing victory over the Volscians at Corioles brings him back to Rome in triumph and drives his fellows on the battlefield—by acclamation—to honor him with the name “Coriolanus,” and his aristocratic supporters in Rome to nominate him for Consul.
Yet he must pass one further test: he must appear before the people in humble garb, displaying his wounds and getting their “voices” (votes), and then have their election confirmed by the people’s Tribunes, who are so opposed to his elevation that they conspire to deny it to him by manipulating the people’s affections. What happens next, when the unbending soldier and the mob stirred up to mindless outrage meet head to head, is perhaps predictable—and yet stunning in its details.
—Dakin Matthews, 2016 Production Dramaturg