"divine...flawless and compelling...Henne’s adaptation is so seamless that it is difficult to discern which parts of the text are modern and which are from the second century B.C.E.
He directs with grace and strength, delivering...a powerful and timeless story." --Stage Raw recommended
exagoge is the first recorded Jewish play, thought to have been written in Alexandria and which tells the biblical Exodus narrative in the style of a Greek tragedy.
Although only 269 lines of the original play exist, the company and artistic director/playwright Aaron Henne have used this fragment as the starting point for a full theatrical work, rich in movement, music and poetry.
“We had only a quarter of the play’s length available to us – and the existing fragments are not continuous, but come from different segments of the story,” explained Henne. “Nevertheless, we were able to use this little-known work as the inspiration for a full performance piece, which functions as both a play and a theatrical ritual, incorporating traditional classical masks, stylized movement, and music.”
Relating the ancient story to contemporary issues, the play weaves in modern day narratives of refugee and immigrant experiences to highlight the inclusive nature of the Exodus narrative, and the ongoing crises of people fleeing oppression around the world.
The young artists of the Harmony Project Leimert Park Choir provided the live musical vocabulary for the work, their voices offering a glimpse into the future, where today's children become tomorrow's leaders.
The work toured with free performances throughout Los Angeles in the summer of 2016. This groundbreaking performance was presented in partnership with Temple Israel of Hollywood, where it had its world premiere on June 18, 2016, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel, and Grand Park/The Music Center.
The running time of exagoge is approximately 97 minutes with no intermission.
Written and Directed by Aaron Henne
Developed with Rob Adler, Jenny Gillett, Nick Greene, Julie Lockhart, Rebecca Rasmussen, Michael Skloff, Dylan Southard, Clay Steakley and Jonathan C.K. Williams
Inspired by a translation of the original Greek by Will Dilbeck
Produced by Flori Schutzer
Ensemble: Rob Adler, Jenny Gillett, Nick Greene, Julie Lockhart, Rebecca Rasmussen, Diana Tanaka, Jonathan C.K. Williams
Featuring members of The Harmony Project Leimert Park Choir: Evan Amos, Pierre Aziza-Ciofassa, Max Bergmanis, Afra Garcia, Tayah Hubbard, Amber Johnson, Isaac Jones, Kenya Lopez, Jasmine Love, Calah McGraw, Jami Moore, Nigeria Ramii, Danielle Smith, Micah Turner
Stage Manager: Erric Sisneros-Ramirez
Musical Director: Kenneth Anderson
Sound Designer: Martín Carrillo
Lighting Designer: Eileen Cooley
Mask Designer: Leslie K. Gray
Choreographer: Kai Hazelwood
Prop Designer: Katherine Hunt
Costume Designer: Kathryn Poppen
Composer: Michael Skloff
Dramaturg: Dylan Southard
all photos by Taso Papdakis
PERFORMANCE HISTORY AND RELATED EVENTS
exagoge had its world premiere performances at Temple Israel of Hollywood on June 18 and 19, 2016. The Los Angeles Tour continued to Grand Park on July 23 and to The Fowler Museum at UCLA on August 6.
On May 19, 2017, the opening 10 minutes of exagoge was performed in council chambers at Los Angeles City Hall as part of the city's first celebration of Jewish Heritage Month.
On June 24, 2018, the Los Angeles Public Library presented a staged reading of exagoge as part of the LA Made series. The reading took place in the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles.
On March 4, 2019, a 30-minute excerpt of exagoge was presented at the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) 2019 Conference.
On December 4, 2019, Artistic Director Aaron Henne presented a talk titled "Exagoge - Ancient Jewish Theatre and Contemporary Concerns" at the Philosophical Research Society, taking participants on a journey through the play, the act of theatrical adaptation, and the historical context for the original work, addressing issues connected to diaspora and assimilation.
On March 24, 2021, a 60-minute online reading of selections from exagoge was hosted in partnership with the Philosophical Research Society. The reading was made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.