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Visionary playwright Mac Wellman and Big Dance Theater, winner of Obie and Bessie awards, will present a reinterpretation of an ancient Greek tragedy, Antigone: Songstress on the Edge of Heaven, 8 p.m. Nov. 12 and 13 at the Williams Center for the Arts.

Tickets cost $4 with Lafayette ID and $15 for the public. They may be ordered by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

“Let estheticians argue about whether the productions of the Big Dance Theater are primarily choreographic or dramatic,” writes The New York Times. “What’s beyond dispute is that this troupe directed by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar is rich in imagination.”

The Lafayette performance residency is the final creation period for the new Antigone, which premieres in New York at Dance Theater Workshop Dec. 5-21. Each performance will be followed by a talk-back discussion with Parson, Lazar, and their ensemble members.

Big Dance Theater belongs to the cutting-edge, of-the-moment, downtown movement theater tradition of the Wooster Group, Ping Chong, and Meredith Monk, blending text, movement, and original music with an elegant sense of stagecraft and theatricality. And yet for all its experimentation, Big Dance connects with the timeless values of literary process, history, and myth. Its productions have begun with material from Flaubert (An Affair of the Heart) to Japanese folk tales (Shunkin).

Commissioned by The Classic Stage Company of New York, Big Dance Theater’s Antigone is the result of the group’s signature collaborative creative process, with a new text by Wellman, original music by Cynthia Hopkins, choreography by co-artistic director Parson, and stage direction by co-artistic director Lazar.

“Oftentimes, when we’re dealing with a particular section, I’ll come in with the first idea that I’ve cooked up away from the group,” says Lazar. “Then I’ll toss it in, and what started out maybe as a static idea will slowly become a more physicalized idea as we bounce it off the groupWhatever seems like the most fun, the most exciting, wins.”

The story of Antigone epitomizes the eternal, enigmatic interplay between free will and predestination. Antigone is at once one of the most willful figures of dramatic literature, yet she (along with all the other key figures in the story) merely fulfills an inexorable fate. Big Dance Theater’s treatment promises to be an exhilarating roller coaster ride through mind and spirit. With a text of sparse, explosive bits of Wellman’s signature linguistic tangles, Antigone shatters the mythic materials into elliptical, fragmented episodes punctuated by songs and dances.

“The piece is intended to be a play for a broken world, something that in recent weeks seems even more germane than when the piece was first framed,” says Wellman. “In addition, the play is designed in an odd way –– as a learning-piece for the Three Fates, who in so doing discover their true nature as the Three Graces. This, of course is my own conceit, but I like the notion because it has enabled me to come at the story with a certain kind of desirable indirection. Finally, the play is in a sense a meditation on the several kinds of fracture embodied in the Greek textI have tried to explore these through the only meaningful set of contradictions that remain in our sentimental and moralizing time; that of logic.”

The nationally-recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The 2002-03 Performance Series at Lafayette is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by the F.M. Kirby Foundation; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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