For information about the new solo show HOT (Helen of Troy), on stage in London in 2020, please see the Pinecone Performance Lab website here.
The Helen Project reimagines the story of the story of Helen of Troy.
The 5-actor piece was workshopped in San Francisco and London in 2013 & 2014.
The Helen Project is written in fragments, a Build-Your-Own-Helen-Of-Troy Play Kit. A new ‘edition’ of the text is constructed for each new production.
The piece has been workshopped in an ‘ensemble edition’ with interwoven monologues, an immersive ‘interactive edition,’ an immersive ‘one-on-one edition’, and a multiHelen ‘solo edition’ with five successive Helens on stage one at a time.
The character of Helen is as fragmented as the text, with five very different versions of Helen, each telling the story from a unique point of view along the mythic timeline.
The fragmentation of the text invites artists to reconstruct the very idea of Helen, putting together a new version of the mythic woman each time we create a new edition of the text. Installation editions of the piece include the audience in this reconstruction, inviting them to build their own Helen of Troy.
2013 DIVAFEST (San Francisco)
Created by Megan Cohen & Amy Clare Tasker
directed by Amy Clare Tasker
Featuring performers Misti Rae Boettiger, Sarah Moser, Ariane Owens, Roneet Aliza Rahamim, & Lily Yang.
dramaturg: Maura Halloran.
stage manager: Julianne Fawsitt.
Proscenium Edition: Five different versions of Helen crowd her bedroom, packing to leave Sparta, reeling after her first glimpse of war, watching Troy burn as the final battle rages, and sifting through decades of memory to find the truth of who is really to blame and what really happened. The fifth Helen, The Face, is the iconic Helen, “Helen” in quotation marks, who speaks in found text handed down to her through the ages, from Homer and Marlowe, from modern poetry, and even ripped from the headlines of our contemporary tabloids.
“All of this is told in shards of monologue as Helen is left alone with her thoughts overnight…There’s something that feels resonant and right about representing Helen through fragments. She’s a figure who’s almost never looked at straight on as a character in her own right, but always seen through others’ eyes for what she represents. And as frustrating as it may be, maybe there’s something appropriate too about the pieces not quite coming together into a coherent portrait. That’s Helen all over.” Read More…
– Sam Hurwitt for KQED, May 2013
The Helen Project is “intriguing” and “provocative.” “A test of their build-your-own Helen play kit, it’s five intersecting monologues from many more different takes on Helen they’ve written… a whole new set of material is promised for a second outing this weekend.” Read More…
– Robert Hurwitt for The San Francisco Chronicle, May 2013.
Installation Edition: In this interactive Helen installation, five actors offer a choice of fragments from our modular performance text. Each audience member sees their own version of Helen by choosing where to stand and what to hear. As The Face, Sarah Moser welcomes the audience with guidance for how to explore the “Helenstallation.” The fragmented temporal Helens collapse into four eternal Helens who might be speaking from any point in time, they are timeless, they are full of memory and story. Each Helen presents two texts, offering an audience member the choice of two evocative words or images. When she’s finished reading that selection, she might keep packing, or go to sleep, or put on her make up in silence until her listeners drift away. Or she might walk away into the audience of another Helen’s story. At the end of the audience’s one-hour visit to Helen’s bedroom, the sun will rise and The Face will say goodnight.
Interactive Fiction: In addition to the ephemeral performance editions, the eternal edition of The Helen Project lives online, as an interactive fiction experience. In its final iteration, we hope to involve a global community of artists in an online interactive experience in which an audience can construct their own individual experiences of Helen (Megan explains this best).
“Cohen and Tasker masterfully juxtapose the recorded text of Helen with sensory and emotional detail that never made it into the histories. From the moment Helen convinces herself to abandon her children, to the public contempt and shadow of a marriage she returns to after the war, the audience is right beside her. The result is eerily intimate, as though you were watching shadows of Helen’s memory flit by.” Read More…
-Setsu Uzume for Art Animal, June 2013
2014 FACE TO FACE FESTIVAL (London)
directed by Sharon Burrell and Amy Clare Tasker.
featuring Angela Bull, Rachel Handshaw, Anna Martine, Pearl Mackie, Georgina Panton, Kandy Rohmann and Serafina Salvador.
textual sound design by Megan Cohen; musical sound design by Xander Edwards.
movement direction and voiceover by Anna Martine.
Proscenium Edition: Our next 5-actor version took place in London with a new team of artists, exploring how a multi-Helen piece could be part of a solo festival. We told the story one Helen at a time, connected by interludes from The Face between each Helen. Our July 2014 performance told the story backwards, beginning with Unpacking Helen’s grief and ending with Packing Helen’s hopeful adventure just beginning. In October, we reprised the same text in the other direction, which changed the overall tone of the piece. Our Face interludes became soundscapes of found text and a moving statue of the iconic Helen.
Installation Edition: A one-on-one experience in a mirrored studio space. Guided by The Face and her suitcase of artifacts, the audience moved through the story one Helen at a time.
5 STARS “Poignant, provocative, and engrossing, you’ll never look at the Iliad in quite the same way again.” Read More…
– James Waygood for Grumpy Gay Critic, London, October 2014.
“I had never been made to think about the Helen myth in this way before… Really effective, really bold, really challenging. I loved every Helen.”
– #freshoffthestalls video review October 2014. Watch it on YouTube