Tragic Greek Sitcom

Athena Theatre, in partnership with EAG’s Open Stage Grant, presents a workshop production of
Tragic Greek Sitcom
by Nora Sørena Casey

Directed by Jenny Reed

Blood runs like water across the well-carpeted house of Atreus in this uncanny adaptation that brings the Orestia to life in a modern American living room. Or a sitcom set. What’s the difference?

We have been working with playwright Nora Sørena Casey since 2015 in our Athena Writes resident playwright group; she has served as guest dramaturg in 2015 and playwright-in-residence 2016 and 2017. In 2017 our year’s theme is “A New Memory”, out of which Nora’s Tragic Greek Sitcom – was born.

Episcopal Actors’ Guild
1 E. 29th Street, NYC

Fleece, Jules Forsberg-Lary, Jason A.K. George, Carl Ellis Grant, Jacqueline Guillen and Benjamin Manno

Production & Design Team:
Carolina Ortiz, Lighting Designer
Emily White, Costume & Scenic Designer
Jorge Morales, Sound Designer
Abraham Marlett, Stage Manager
Veronique Ory, Producer
Robert Tuftee, Fight Director
Brandon Sturiale, Graphic Design

Please note: Due to the set up of the theater, no late seating may be permitted.

Production Assistant Intern: Bryn Scharenberg
Social Media Interns: Porshia Blankenship, Kristen Kuenzli
Literary Associate Interns: Emily Cribbins, Kylee Greenleaf, Krista Jarboe, Molly Horan and Caroline Snape
Grant Writing Interns: Becca Bernard and Caroline Snape

Hi! Drama
February 28 at 2:18pm ·

Written by Nora Sorena Casey
Direct by Jenny Reed
Costumes and Scenic design by Emily White
Sound design by Jorge Morales
Lighting design by Carolina Ortiz
CAST: Jacqueline Gullien (Lex), Benjamin Manno (Orr), Fleece (Nestra), Jason A.K. George (Big A), Jules Forsberg-Lary (Cassandra/Effie)

Athena Theatre in partnership with the Episcopal Actors’ Guild’s open stage grant is developing a play written by Nora Sorena Casey. She has created a space where the ancient drama which focuses on the larger picture to get at human truths collides with the modern propensity to discover truth through the internal life. Image then, what if the Trojan War happened today and instead of the public square and chorus we saw the action only within the House of Atreus?

What the creatives had to say in developing this project which is still in workshop form:

From the playwright:
The jumping off point for Tragic Greek Sitcom was actually scenic design. I remembered studying Aeschylus’ play “Agamemnon” in class, and my professor talking about how the use of space was actually revolutionary. “Agamemnon” takes place on the steps outside the house, and characters go inside (usually to be murdered). It’s pretty common now, but that was the first play to have off-stage space on stage. I loved the way all the characters came outside to talk, and how fertile the unseen, inside of the house was. And so I started imagining the scenes that were missing from “Agamemnon.” I’m always interested in mixing genre, and I knew I couldn’t write a Greek play, and so I started wondering… what if the inside of the house is actually an American living room? The casting of Agamemnon and his family as a classic sitcom family made a lot of sense to me, and seemed like it might be a lot of fun. From there, all these connections about family, about the way we tell stories, and about the ways things have changed or haven’t really started to come into focus.

Benjamin Manno:
Playing Orr has been a pleasure and a whirlwind! The process for this show is like a finely tuned chaos machine. From stage combat, to outlandish circumstances, lots of milk, and sitcom tropes; there’s a lot packed into this piece. This cast has been dedicated to hitting those marks and telling the bloody story – with a slight twist. I have spent a couple weeks with Orr, and even then, there’s more to dive into. I have enjoyed working on both the storytelling and combat components, serving as fight captain for the run. Now, we can make each other laugh, which is great stuff, but I want to know how an audience will react!

Carl Ellis Grant:
“Working on Tragic Greek Sitcom has been a memorable experience. From the moment I read the script I knew I had to contribute. There are so many nostalgic components of this production that brings me back to my childhood. Big A is the everyman that we all know and love. The team behind TGS is what made working on this production a no brainer. Everyone’s commitment and openness to creativity elevated this production to new level. When fantastic writing combines with a tireless work ethic from all entities you get great experiences like Tragic Greek Sitcom.”

Juliana Forsberg-Lary:
For “Tragic Greek Sitcom,” my process of bringing the character of Cassandra to life was a bit different than usual. As Cassandra is featured prominently in Greek mythology, and on stage, our director (Jenny) and I wanted to make sure that we did her justice. But we didn’t want her to be a powerless woman who has been driven insane by her visions and the injustice she portends, as she is often portrayed on stage. So we followed the tone of our show and the roadmap the playwright (Nora) had given us with the beautiful, ominous, sage words she chose for Cassandra.

Jenny and I created a strong Cassandra, one who: knows what’s coming, accepts it, and decides to have a little fun on her way out! She enjoys some ice cream as her “last meal,” leads her killer in a chase, and even swallows a handful of pills before getting murdered, easing her inevitable suffering.

Jenny gave us research about the house of Atreus at one of our first rehearsals, and I, individually, did a lot of research on the Trojan war, Cassandra’s upbringing, and the prophecies she foretold. Then, in the rehearsal room, once Jenny and I figured out what type of Cassandra we were creating, the character breathed through the words Nora had written. I loved watching the other actors bring their characters to life and work so hard on the physical aspects of this show, as well as the emotional and verbal ones.

A few weeks before opening, we worked with a fight choreographer named Tink who brought our performance to a whole new level with his skill and genuine love for his craft. I did a lot of stretching before and after every rehearsal to make sure my body was taken care of. And always checked in with Jason (who plays Gus); my partner in Cassandra’s death scene, to make sure his body was feeling up to the task too.

Because Abraham (our stage manager) is so incredible at his job and has fostered a relationship with Columbia, we were able to use their rooms to rehearse. And because Athena Theatre is invested in all of their projects, we had Porshia at our rehearsals, sitting in and promoting us on social media. Jenny believes in having the designers be a part of the process and in the room with the actors as early as possible,so we were fortunate enough to have Jorge (our sound designer) in a bunch of our rehearsals, and we were able to practice with some of the sounds that ended up in the show. For example, I ran Cassandra’s monologue with the sound that underscored it almost two weeks before we opened, which was super helpful to me as an actress, because it allowed me to see someone else’s vision of that moment, as well as to adjust my volume accordingly.

It was a unique, collaborative process. Working with this team it was very clear from day 1, that every person’s voice is valued equally. I felt free to express myself, ask questions, try new things, and never afraid to make a mistake. I’m honored to have been a part of “Tragic Greek Sitcom” and to have brought both Cassandra and Effie to life…and death.


The Episcopal Actors’ Guild
1 E29 Street