Review Fix chats with playwright Case Watson who discusses his new production, â€œAtalanta,â€ set for a run at this yearâ€™s Midtown International Theater Festival.
About the Production:â€¨
ATALANTAÂ by Case Watson, fight choreographer Rocio Mendez, directed by Courtney Self; starring Laurel Andersen, Grace Bernardo, Zelda Gay, Al Patrick Jo, Rocio Mendez, Lynett Vallejo, Blanca Vivancos, and Case Watson. Ovid tells us thatÂ Atalanta was the most skillful hunter in all of ancient Greece, until social pressure and a devious plot forced her to accept a husband. By all accounts, her story ends there. But what if this ending were a lie? What if, instead of accepting her fate, she had panicked and fled? (Adventure/Mythology)
Performance Schedule:Â Tues 11/01, 7:00pm; Sat 11/05, 5:30pm; Sun 11/06, 4:30pm
Running Time: 90 minutes
Venue: Jewel Box Theater, 312 W. 36th Street.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Case Watson: Iâ€™ve always loved the stories, archetypes, and universality of ancient mythologies. But as I’ve gotten more and more aware of the lack of women’s voices in my favorite tales (and in history), I’ve become passionately curious about what the women in those myths would have said if they had been the ones in charge of telling the stories. What different motifs would have been highlighted or omitted? What details would we have heard about that we don’t hear about now? With that in mind, I was inspired to tell another version of the story of a very powerful woman, whose tale probably would not have ended the way we’ve heard it did.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Watson: Initially, I did a lot of research on the myths of Atalanta to create a map of her life. Once I had a sense of where she went, who she knew, and the timeline of her adventures, I let imagination fill in the blank space in between events. Also, since I’m an actor, I wanted to create not only a surprising and dynamic story arc but also a complex, fascinating web of characters. I found it invaluable to place myself in all the characters’ various perspectives and let them take over.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Watson: This adaptation is unique in that it offers a completely alternative narrative to Atalanta’s story without disregarding Ovid’s original version of the myth. Rather than omitting the details of Ovid’s tale, the play suggests that certain points of his story were embellished, misrepresented, or misremembered. The play is also unique in its cast. It is a predominantly feminine cast of characters, all of whom are complex, ancient warriors with their own untold herstories.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Watson: The process of writing this play has taught me just how many personalities are wandering around my brain. I had such a wonderful time allowing the characters take over, write their own dialogue, and tell me their stories. I’ve learned that I’m definitely crazier than I thought. Fortunately, it’s a crazy I’m happy and honored to bear.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Watson: I feel very honored to be trusted with such awesome and rewarding responsibility. Producing this project is a daunting beast, but it’s my favorite kind of chaos. I’m elated to be here.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Watson: I would love to see mainstage productions of Atalanta. I’m sure I’ll never feel like I’ve finished the script, but it has ignited a passion for telling the stories of history’s forgotten and under-appreciated heroines. I’m excited to discover more and more inspiring women, both by collaborating with women artists on this project and researching the achievements of herstory’s heroes. I can’t wait to continue channeling their badassery and recreating their stories.
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Watson: The fight choreography. I wanted to write characters actresses would want to play. And all the women I’d want to play could — both intellectually and literally — beat the hell out of their enemies. I think audiences will love to see such powerful women hold their own and protect their daughters through some beautifully choreographed fight scenes.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Watson: I’m in the process of making a new play inspired by the traditional matriarchal structures of many Native American societies. Paula Gunn Allen’sThe Sacred HoopÂ beautifully illustrates this country’s history of destroying women’s stories and power in Native American culture. Using her work as inspiration for my next project, I’m hoping to unlearn white male America’s version of this land’s past and discover the lingering, rekindling echoes of America’s matrifocal roots.
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