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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Pittsburgh Public Theater presents a new adaptation of Homer's epic poem




Why you should go: An award-winning new adaptation of one of written language's most legendary works--widely recognized as the oldest work of Western literature--is coming to life on a Pittsburgh stage for the first time.

Continuing its masterpiece season, Pittsburgh Public Theater presents a new adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles. Winner of 2012 Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards, An Iliad is adapted by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, and directed by Jesse Berger. The Pittsburgh premiere runs March 6th through April 6th at the O'Reilly Theater in Downtown's Cultural District.

Playwright Lisa Peterson, a former resident director at the Mark Taper Forum, currently directs productions across the country, while Tony-winning actor Denis O’Hare is his known for his television work on the programs, “True Blood” and “American Horror Story.” Director Jesse Berger, who is artistic director of New York’s Red Bull Theater, will be familiar to local audiences for his work directing Pittsburgh Public Theater's Circle Mirror Transformation, A Number, Life X 3 and I Am My Own Wife.

Starring in the ambitious one-man show as The Poet is New York City-based actor Teagle F. Bougere, who also plays all of the Greek classic’s most famous characters, including Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Helen of Troy, as well as the gods Athena and Hermes. Bougere's impressive Broadway credits include roles in The Tempest with Patrick Stewart, and A Raisin in the Sun with stars Phylicia Rashad and Sean Combs.

For Bougere, his role starring as the lead in several recent productions of Invisible Man, adapted from Ralph Ellison’s iconic 1952 novel, laid a foundation for this theatrical tour-de-force.

"This is my first one-man show. I played the lead in the world premiere of Invisible Man, and in some ways that was a good warm-up for the technical demands of a one-man show. It's extremely taxing, and I find that to be thrilling. It is very different not having other actors on stage," says Bougere. "I have worked on Broadway in high-profile shows, and I starred as Macbeth in Florence, but have never done a one-man show. Where I am now in my career, it is really energizing and exciting."

Telling the epic with both classical and contemporary language, An Iliad weaves figures and events of the Trojan War, and explores universal themes such as the psychology of passion and rage, both in an ancient context and via a modern-day lens. The dynamic and emotionally charged work also examines the impulses that lead people into battle and ultimately reveals that human nature has not changed much 2,000 years after Homer composed his masterpiece.

Bougere is passionate when discussing the production, both in terms of Homer's masterpiece and the original new adaptation.

"It is an amazing role. When I read the script, I thought, how can an actor not want to do this? It is so rich, with the challenging material and its relevance in terms of the larger sense of war, and in the smaller sense of rage in individuals, which are unfortunately, so pertinent today," adds Bougere, who has acted in numerous productions of Shakespeare's work.

"This adaptation is a beautiful mix of classical language and contemporary language. It gives me the ability to flex both the classical muscle, which I love, and the contemporary side. A key thing is that we are doing an adaptation, taking this huge piece of art and making it into a one-man show," says Bougere, pointing out the subtle change in the work's title.

Set during the Trojan War, Homer's Iliad tells stories of battles and events during a fight between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles, and also includes and refers to many Greek legends about the 10-year war, as well as touches upon events from the past and prophesies for the future. An epic poem in dactylic hexameter, its written version is generally dated to around the eighth century BC.

The production's design team includes Marion Williams (scenic and costumes), Seth Reiser (lighting), and Ryan Rumery (original music and sound).

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