Theatre Dybbuk Brings New Life to Ancient Plays

"Theatre dybbuk is taking on a big task. This summer, the five-year-old company will bring "Exagoge" to three different stages in Los Angeles. Exagoge" is an ancient play written by Ezekiel the Poet circa 2nd century BCE that tells the story of Exodus. The thing about "Exagoge," though, is that much of the original script has been lost. Using the bits that remain, theatre dybbuk founder and artistic director Aaron Henne has been building a new-meets-old work. That alone comes with its challenges.

Henne says the goal is to work with the structure of Greek tragedy that informs the original piece and bring in modern themes of migration, disenfranchisement and cultural identity.

"I got really interested in Hellenistic Judaism," says Henne. He could see parallels between the Jewish diaspora in the Hellenic world and today. While searching for a play from the era, Henne, a playwright and director himself, found "Exagoge." There's a lot of research involved in bringing this to the stage. Henne got into reading about Hellenistic Judaism and reached out to scholars to help him better understand the period. He also had to research Greek theater to help the writing process. "Even if it doesn't stick to 'the rules,' it at least understands those rules, so when it breaks them or deviates from them, it's in the spirit of trying to honor how an ancient piece of theater might have worked," he explains. Finally, he had to ask, "What's our story here in America?" That helped create a link between a very distant past and the present day.

Read the full KCET Artbound article.

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