SMU Meadows School of the Arts presents "The Seven" by Will Power, Dec. 4-8
Tre Garrett directs ancient Greek tragedy transformed into sizzling modern tale
The Division of Theatre at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts presents The Seven by Will Power, December 4-8 at the Greer Garson Theatre in the Owen Arts Center, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. The play is a highly modernized, hip-hop version of the Greek tragedy Seven Against Thebes, written by Aeschylus in 467 B.C.
Playwright and Meadows School Artist-in-Residence Will Power dusts off the ancient story of King Oedipus’s sons battling for control of the city of Thebes and brings it squarely into the modern day, with an emphasis on music and the urban American experience. Aeschylus’s characters are in place but are thoroughly reimagined; for example, a DJ, standing at an ornate golden pedestal high above the stage, spins records that represent Aeschylus’s voice and the voice of the chorus.
The story is of a cursed family, the effects of which are played out by each generation in the royal household. Individual choices by Oedipus’s sons, inflated by their own pride and desires, lead to their destiny: the fulfillment of the family curse.
“The ‘Seven’ are the seven armies that one son assembles to go to war against the other son after the mutual bond of faith and respect has been broken,” says Power. “Ultimately, it’s about loss of faith, or the rollout of destiny, depending on your perspective.”
It is just as much comedy as it is tragedy. Overall, The Seven is a rollicking mashup of musical theatre, spoken word, laughs and deep introspection. It’s peppered with original music, lyrics and dancing, set in a modern vernacular to the beats of hip-hop, doo-wop, 1970s funk, gospel, the blues and R&B. The play includes a big martial arts fight scene choreographed by recent alumnus Jeffery Colangelo (B.F.A. Theatre, ’13), involving over a dozen cast members as the seven armies battle the citizens of Thebes. Costumes, designed by theatre grad student Amanda Capshaw (M.F.A. Theatre, ’15), combine the rough nature of hip-hop – baggy, saggy clothes – with the grandeur of ancient Greek garments of royalty. Stage design is by undergraduate Steven Smith (B.F.A. Theatre, ’14) and includes large, bronze-toned Greek figures looming over the stage, at once formidable and imposing.
Director Tre Garrett guides the student cast through this epic adventure of paternal and fraternal struggle. Garrett, artistic director for Fort Worth’s Jubilee Theatre, is a seasoned director with experience at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Most recently, Garrett directed the Dallas Theater Center’s A Raisin in the Sun, in which several Meadows theatre students were cast. “Working with the SMU students has been an absolute treat, and the energy they bring to the stage is exciting,” says Garrett. “I’m sure everyone will be moving and grooving with the beat of this show. The piece is as edgy as it is entertaining. It’s commendable that SMU embraces these opportunities for their students and that they also embrace important voices like Will Power.”
Power was inspired to write The Seven in 2001 after the idea of infusing hip-hop into a traditional Greek play was suggested to him by director Tony Kelly of the Thick Description theater in San Francisco. It was first presented as a one-act play in San Francisco in 2001; from there, it ran at the New York Hip-Hop Theater Festival, and, by 2006, it had grown into a two-act play and had a successful run at the New York Theater Workshop. The New York Times called the production “a frisky and funny new riff on the classic story.” In 2008, the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego also presented The Seven.
Show times for The Seven are 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sat. & Sun., Dec. 4-8, 2013. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $7 for students and SMU faculty and staff. Parking is available at Hillcrest and Binkley and in the parking garage beneath the Meadows Museum at Binkley and Schlegel streets. For more information, call the Meadows School of the Arts Ticket Office at 214.768.2787 or visit the Meadows website at meadows.smu.edu.
Note: The Seven is intended for an adult audience and is not suitable for children under 18.
About Will Power, Artist-in-Residence, SMU Meadows School of the Arts
“The best verse playwright in America” – New York Magazine
Will Power is an award-winning playwright and performer. His adaptation of the Greek tragedy Seven Against Thebes, retitled The Seven, enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run at the New York Theater Workshop and The La Jolla Playhouse. His solo show FLOW was featured in the Hip Hop Theater Festival before touring nationally and internationally to critical acclaim.
Power’s numerous awards include a United States Artist Prudential Fellowship, a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical, the TCG Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, a Jury Award for Best Theatre Performance at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, a Drama Desk Award nomination, and the Trailblazer Award from The National Black Theater Network. Power’s numerous film and television appearances include The Steven Colbert Report (Comedy Central) and Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason (PBS). Presently, Power is in the process of developing new works for the Dallas Theater Center, the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and Hartford Stage in Hartford, Conn.
Power spent his early years as a key member in two critically acclaimed avant-garde music groups, Midnight Voices and the Omar Sosa Sextet. With these groups Power recorded and toured extensively. More recently, Power has traveled on multiple occasions to teach hip-hop lyricism and theatre across the globe. He has held a number of artist fellowships and guest teaching positions at institutions such as CCNY, Princeton University and the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. Will Power was a guest of the U.S. State Department on five separate occasions, traveling to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. On these trips and others, he taught community workshops in shantytowns, worked with poets in former regimes of the Soviet Union, and lectured at various libraries, grammar schools and colleges.
Power won the Meadows School of the Arts’ Meadows Prize in 2011, an international arts residency launched in fall 2009. During his residency at SMU, Power worked with Meadows student actors and designers to create a new theatre work from the ground up: Alice Underground, a modern spin on the tale of Alice in Wonderland. His work in Dallas as winner of the Meadows Prize was a partnership between the Meadows School and the Dallas Theater Center. Power was subsequently named an artist-in-residence at the Meadows School and is also the Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence with the Dallas Theater Center.
In September 2013 Power’s dramatic play Fetch Clay, Make Man, directed by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys), opened Off-Broadway at the New York Theater Workshop to widespread praise from both critics and audiences.
About Meadows School of the Arts Division of Theatre
See information and photographs at: Division of Theatre.