Tankian and Spring Awakening's Sater at Work on Prometheus Bound Musical


From Playbill

Tony Award winner Steven Sater is collaborating with System of a Down vocalist and songwriter Serj Tankian on a musical adaptation of Prometheus Bound.

Sater, the Tony-winning lyricist and book writer of Spring Awakening, told Playbill.com that he has adapted Aeschylus' tragedy into a stage project that features songs penned by the alternative rocker. Diane Paulus, who is currently readying the Public Theater's Delacorte staging of Hair, is attached to direct.

The original Aeschylus work finds the Titan chained on a mountainside, having given the gift of fire to the human race, ultimately freeing them from their dependence on the gods. "It feels very timely to me," Sater explains. "It's about the birth of tyranny and the temptation of tyranny, which was written and staged in the golden days of the world's first democracy."

Sater and Tankian find parallels between the project and America's current political climate. "It's all about one god, Zeus, sort of appropriating the functions of the other gods to himself — or all the other functions of government," Sater says.

Prometheus Bound had been in development for the past few years. However, it was Sater's experience with Spring Awakening that ultimately inspired him to explore the Aeschylus work as a musical project. "It's like a piece of pure theatre," he says. "The ancient Greeks would go to the theatre the way that we would go to church or a temple. I wanted ecstatic dance and music that would kind of burst the thing open.

"While my translation is very faithful and kind of classical, it also has a kind of rock and roll edge to it," Sater adds. "I thought of System of a Down and Serj, and how incredible that texture and that type of music [would be]." Sater describes the score as "electronic, atmospheric rock."

 

Tankian, who was inspired by Spring Awakening and the potentials of writing for theatre, signed on after reading the treatment. "He was very excited about it and very excited about the prospects of getting into something different," Sater recalls. The work has progressed quickly according to Sater, who says that he and Tankian have been collaborating since late 2007 on Prometheus.

A private reading of the tuner was held a few weeks ago in New York. With roughly ten songs in place, Prometheus Bound is a relatively small musical, with a cast of eight to ten and a four-piece band. Some roles are through-sung, and the project also employs a chorus in a manner similar to the original Aeschylus tragedy.

"I was concerned how it would work, to have this classical verse and to have this electronic wailing," Sater says about the first private reading. "It actually was very exciting, and it deepened your investment in the play. It was startling, but it was fascinating and engaging. It made the play, that already feels very contemporary and of moment, feel all the more so."

While Sater could not officially comment on future plans for Prometheus Bound, he did say that the musical will be workshopped at a regional theatre next season and likely make its regional world premiere during the 2009-2010 season.

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