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The Suppliant Women

A black and white drawing on an orange background of a group of people wearing lifejackets on an inflatable raft in the water. Text reads: "The Suppliant Women: A Virtual Community Chorus. Come join the cast of this ambitious online performance. A 2600-year old human rights story told through community, song and movement. January 2021."

★★★★★
"an epic, feminist protest song"
- The Guardian

Join the cast of this ambitious online performance.

Swarthmore College’s Department of Theater is seeking volunteer performers from diverse  geographies, experiences, and identities to join the cast of an online workshop production of the play The Suppliant Women. Created as a response to this moment of physical distance and political chaos, the project aims to bring together students and non-student performers to transform this ancient Greek play into a contemporary call to action.

Part-theater, part-ritual, and part-political outcry, The Suppliant Women tells the story of 50 sisters who flee their homeland to escape forced marriage. At the gates of a city called Argos, they plea for asylum with the King and face off with the men who would be their husbands. In a new adaptation by writer David Greig and composer John Browne, the play uses song, chant, and movement to capture the rage, sorrow, and resilience of their journey.

Led by Director Alex Torra, Music Director Alma Richeh, and Choreographer Shavon Norris, participants will meet virtually during the month of January 2021 as members of the project’s “community chorus," rehearsing and preparing a selection of scenes from the play for a public, online presentation at the end of the month. All experience levels are welcomed to participate, though a short audition is required. Once selected, cast members will join a process that works to build community through performance and story-telling in the midst of a quarantined winter, engaging with one of the Western world’s earliest forms of civic theater to tell a 2600-year old human rights story that is as urgent now as it was then.

Participation is open to anyone interested, including Swarthmore students, alums, staff, and faculty, as well as those with no current relationship to the College.

Come join us:
If you want to connect to others through a creative, artistic experience.
If you feel inspired to amplify the story of refugees.
If you feel inspired to amplify the stories of individuals fighting against the patriarchy.
If you’re a classics-lover and want to geek out about the Greeks.
If you’re a lover of choral music and want to explore how to perform together online.
If you’re interested in singing and moving with other people.
If you’re interested in making some theater from your home.

Check out the information below, and please reach out to thesuppliantwomen@gmail.com with any further questions. 

 

PROJECT AND CASTING INFORMATION

Why are you doing this super old play?
Who are you looking for?
What will rehearsals look like?
I'm intrigued... how do I audition?
Who's on the artistic team?
Audition Form 

Why are you doing this super old play?

Great question. This project is connected to a Swarthmore College theater class* that provides students with a practical, hands-on experience in community-based performance. The course’s central question is: how does theater bring people together and affect change in a community? In order to best engage with this question, we’re building and working with a virtual community chorus, and we’re focusing on the work of the ancient Greeks whose theater was communal, political, visceral, and spiritual, all at the same time. Through this experience, the course aims to provide students (and non-student participants) with an opportunity to gain some insight and practical tools for creating impactful, community-minded performance.

The piece also tells a story that spotlights the struggle of women and refugees, and though the play takes place 2600 years ago, the story resonates with gender, refugee and migration issues today. The project works to raise awareness about a set of injustices that are millennia-old, ultimately seeking to inspire performers and audiences towards change and action through communal empathy, vulnerability, and joy.

By the way, if you’d like to hear some of the music we’ll be using for our online production, pop on over to this page for samples of some of the songs.

(*if you’re a current student interested in participating in this J-Term course for credit, please contact the professor, Alex Torra, atorra1@swarthmore.edu)

 

Who are you looking for?

All experience levels welcome.
All gender identities welcome.
All geographies welcome.
Anyone ages 15 and up welcome. 

We’re looking for a geographically- and identity-diverse group of 25-35 volunteers who are excited to come together, sing and perform, and to see if we can counteract distance and isolation to make community through the (digital) performing arts. We’re also looking for folks who want to explore how to engage with issues-driven performance in an online format.

We should also say that we’re making this invitation really broad. We’d love to have a community chorus made up of folks connected to Swarthmore College (students, alums, staff, and faculty), as well as folks who have no current relationship to the College.

There is a small audition process to make sure folks are a good fit for the project (more info about auditioning below).

 

What will rehearsals look like?

Rehearsals and performances will take place January 5-31, 2020. All participants will be asked to meet twice a week for 2.5 hours each rehearsal. A template of the full schedule can be found here.

Rehearsals from the comfort of your home
All rehearsals will occur online. During rehearsals, participants should feel comfortable singing, speaking loudly, and moving around in the space they are occupying. In the first couple of weeks, chorus members will meet to review the chanting and music, and then will record it. Because all members of the group cannot sing together at the same time on Zoom, each participant will record themselves. Then, all of the recordings will be mixed together to make it sound like everyone is singing together, and we will use that as a track to perform to. The rest of our rehearsals will focus on “staging” the show on Zoom or a Zoom-equivalent platform.

Roles and Schedule
The play calls for two groups of characters: The Suppliants, a group of women seeking refuge in the city of Argos, and the Sons of Aegyptos, the men who have come to “reclaim their promised wives.” As part of the casting process, you are invited to choose the group you would like to audition for. All gender identities are welcome.

Those in the Suppliants group will be separated into Suppliants Chorus A and Suppliants Chorus B, based on experience. 

Suppliants Chorus A meets on Tuesdays 7-9:30pm EST and Sundays 1:30-4pm EST.
Suppliants Chorus B meets on Wednesdays 7-9:30pm EST and Sundays 1:30-4pm EST.
Sons of Aegyptos Chorus meets on Wednesdays 7-9:30pm EST and Sundays 1:30-4pm EST.

The entire cast will also meet on Saturday, January 30th 1:30-4pm EST.

Participants are expected to be at ALL rehearsals for their group.

 

I'm intrigued... How do I audition?

In these digital times, we’re asking folks to submit a brief video audition. Please fill out this form, which will ask you to answer a few questions and submit a short video of you singing less than a minute of song of your choice. Auditions are on a rolling basis through early December.

 

Who's on the artistic team?

Alex Torra

Alex Torra (Director) is a Philadelphia-based, Cuban-American director, actor and producer who currently serves as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Theater at Swarthmore College. Alex teaches courses in Acting, Solo Performance, and Latinx Performance, and he has directed various productions at the College, most recently The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The (24-Hour) Bald Soprano. Professionally, Alex is the Co-Founder of Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, where he has directed all of the company’s major works since its founding in 2010 including ¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! OR WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!, which was presented last year at Swarthmore College as part of the Cooper Series. He is also an Associate Artist and former Associate Artistic Director of two-time Obie Award-winning Pig Iron Theatre Company. In 2018, Alex received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and is a past recipient of fellowships from the Independence Foundation, the Princess Grace Foundation, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Drama League, the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, among others. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. in Directing from the Brown University/Trinity Rep Consortium.

Portrait of Alex Torra

Alma Richeh

Alma Richeh (Music Director) was born in Damascus, Syria and holds a law degree from Damascus University and an LL.M. degree in International Legal Studies from the American University, Washington College of Law in Washington D.C. She worked at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Damascus as an advocate to determine  refugee status. Presently she is the Executive Director of the Center for Arabic Culture (CAC) in Boston, MA. Alma studied singing at the Syrian Higher Institute for Music. Between 2000 and 2008, she served as the conductor of the Al Farah Choir in Damascus and conducted the choir’s youth division concentrating on concerts for humanitarian causes and children’s rights. During her LL.M Studies in Washington DC, Alma worked as a teaching assistant to the Arab League Ambassador to the UN and Professor Clovis Maksoud at the American University, Washington College of Law. After moving to Boston, she worked as a research fellow at the Boston Consortium for Gender Security and Human Rights at the University of Massachusetts. Her research concentrated on the rights of women in Arab and Middle countries from legal, historic, cultural, religious and humanitarian perspectives. In Boston, Alma has performed in concerts and fundraisers to support refugees in the US and abroad. She performed with musician Bassam Saba and the New York Arab Orchestra during their concerts in Boston. She also performed with the Boston Arab Music Ensemble (BAME) in residence at CAC under the direction of Layth Sidiq. In 2014, Alma founded CAC Children Choir and has been conducting the Choir since then. The Choir introduces children 6-14 years old to Arabic music, language and culture through folkloric, contemporary and modern Arabic songs.

Portrait of Alma Richeh at a microphone holding a piece of paper

Shavon Norris

Shavon Norris (Choreographer) is an artist, educator, and facilitator. She uses movement along with text and sound and imagery to reveal and highlight the stories living in our bodies. Her work explores our relationship to our identities, our experiences, and to each other. An examination and celebration of what we feel, think, and believe. She received a BA in Biology from Manhattanville College and an MFA in Dance and Choreography from Temple University. Presently she teaches at Temple, Thomas Jefferson University and Pig Iron School. As an artist her work has been presented at venues in New York City and Philadelphia. As a performer, she has participated in performances for Silvana Cardell, Leah Stein, Merian Soto, Jumatatu Poe, David Brick and has toured nationally and internationally with Pig Iron Theatre Company. As an educator and facilitator, Shavon has worked with Headlong Performance Institute, Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Need in Deed, LiveConnections, and Arts and Business Council for Greater Philadelphia. In partnership with these organizations, as well as others, Shavon has offered short and long-term learning to diverse communities on topics of Movement, Intentional Inclusivity, Mindfulness, Wellness, and Healing Centered/Trauma Informed Practices. For Shavon, all of the work is about finding ways to light us up, lift us up and shift what needs transforming. She loves all of the living and working she gets to do in the world.

Portrait of Shavon Norris playing a drum