So now that 3800 Elizabeth is over, I can focus solely on my next show, which I’ve been rehearsing for about a month now. The show in question is Babylon Babylon, and it’s the latest brainchild from Piper McKenzie Productions, the folks who brought us last summer’s outstanding production of Macbeth Without Words. Piper McKenzie co-artistic director Jeff Lewonczyk writes, directs, and co-stars in this 30-cast member extravaganza.
Well, he kind of writes it. He sort of mostly writes it. Um…we’ll get to that in a minute.
And yes: I did say 30 cast members – including some of indie theaters brightest all-stars…
Piper McKenzie co-artistic director Hope Cartelli
The artist formerly known as Carmen Mofungo – none other than Michele Carlo herself
Kamran Khan and Elizabeth Hope Williams, co-stars of the FringeNYC 2007 hit musical, John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks.
Now you may ask: what the hell is this show about? Well, I’ll tell you: it’s about the fall of the ancient city of Babylon, and it takes place on the day of the historic invasion by the Persians. You don’t know anything about that, you say? Never fear: you can read up on it here.
Rehearsals have been quite an adventure since we’ve been improvising most of the show thus far.
That’s right: I said improvising.
The first couple of weeks involved structured improvs centered upon a central location – Babylon’s Temple of Ishtar, which is the setting for our show – and everyone playing an assigned role. Jeff devised general backstories for each of the characters, then set us loose in the rehearsal room to interact and riff as we see fit. He’s been good about giving us free reign, but also guiding us in the directions he wants to explore (i.e. “Let’s see what happens if Character A interacts with Character B over there.”) and for the last couple of weeks he’s been writing script pages based on and inspired by the cast improvs. We’ve been incorporating those pages into rehearsals over the past week or so, and are going to have our very first rehearsal with an actual completed draft of the script tonight.
So, why work this way? Jeff told us he was inspired to do so by the loose, freewheeling work of film director Robert Altman, particularly his 1975 opus, Nashville. He was also inspired by an evocative passage in Herodotus’ The Histories about ritual prostitution in the Temple of Ishtar, and thus the idea for Babylon Babylon was born. The finished product promises to be, in the words of our trusty press release, “an unholy mix of Herodotus, Cecil B. DeMille, Kenneth Anger, Richard Schechner, the Bible, Charles Ludlam, Robert Altman, Busby Berkeley, and much more.” You can find out more in the production’s official blog, Babylblog Blogbylon.
Naturally, I’ll have more to report about the show as we move closer to the beginning of previews (April 11th) and our official opening (April 18th). In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a random shot from one of our rehearsals. Check it…