An Affinity of Blood and Lust: An Interview with Helen Edmundson

Helen Edmundson. Photo by Richard Olivier
Helen Edmundson. Photo by Richard Olivier

On Feb. 21, 1948, at the Brooklyn Little Theater on Hanson Place, a production of “Therese,” adapted from Emile Zola’s 1867 novel “Thérèse Raquin,” opened for a limited run. It was a brave move for the Little Theater; the premiere of this adaption had occurred three years before in 1945 at the Biltmore Theater on Broadway. Starring the grande dame of the American stage, Eva LeGalliene, as Therese; Victor Jory as Laurent, her lover and partner in murder; and Dame May Whitty (well-known to American film audiences for playing Miss Froy in Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes” and Lady Beldon in William Wyler’s “Mrs. Miniver”) as the formidable Madame Raquin, the play was not well received, both critically and commercially.

Now, a new adaptation by the esteemed English playwright Helen Edmundson, starring Keira Knightley in her Broadway debut, has opened at Studio 54. In the interim between the Brooklyn Little Theater production and this new adaptation, there have been many other “Thérèse Raquin” incarnations, including a 2001 Broadway musical called “Thou Shalt Not,” with a score by Harry Connick Jr.; a 2007 production by Quantum Theater in Pittsburgh, staged in an empty swimming pool; and “The Artificial Jungle,” a 1987 reimagining of the Zola work as a James M. Cain novel by the enfant terrible of Off-Broadway, Charles Ludlum.

Edmundson’s prodigiously impressive credits include stage adaptations of “Orestes,” “War and Peace,” “Anna Karenina,” “The Mill on the Floss,” “Life is a Dream” and “Mephisto.” In addition, Edmundson has written many acclaimed original plays, among them “The Clearing,” “Coram Boy” and “Mother Teresa is Dead.” Earlier this year, she was the recipient of the 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Drama. In announcing the award, the Selection Committee celebrated her “[A]mbitious plays [that] distill historical complexities through characters whose passions and ethical dilemmas mirror and illuminate a larger political landscape.”

Keira Knightley and Judith Light. Photos by Joan Marcus
Keira Knightley and Judith Light. Photos by Joan Marcus

Recently the Eagle spoke by telephone with Edmundson from her home outside London:

Brooklyn Eagle: What was your greatest challenge in adapting a novel written in 1867 and making it relevant for a contemporary audience?

Helen Edmundson: Whenever I think about adapting something, I first ask myself if the play will still resonate today. Aside from whatever period the play is set in, the ideas in it must be able to leap through time. “Thérèse Raquin” is a study in guilt and the consequences of what happens when we give in to our primal, animal instincts. That is a timeless theme.

BE: Because so much of Zola’s novel portrays the characters’ hidden passions and interior thoughts, how did you handle the challenge of dramatizing these emotions?

HE: There is quite a lot of repetition in the novel, indecision, repressed emotions. In a play, everything has to keep progressing. So, it was important for me to keep things moving, almost inexorably. So much of this production is steeped in the characters’ physicality. For example, the sequence where Therese, Camille and Laurent go to walk by the river. Zola has pages and pages of description. In my adaptation, I wrote physical directions for the actors. The actual look of the scene — the river, the embankment — I left up to Evan [Cabnet], the play’s director, and Beowulf [Boritt], the set designer. When I write my plays, I don’t devote a lot of attention to the sets. In fact, sometimes the plays, as I’ve written them, are set in bare, empty spaces.

Gabriel Ebert, Matt Ryan and Keira Knightley
Gabriel Ebert, Matt Ryan and Keira Knightley

BE: In watching the play, I was struck by its modernity. Parallels with such examples of roman noir as “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Rings Twice,” were inescapable. Do you feel that “the affinity of blood and lust” that Zola refers to in the novel is a universal and timeless theme?

HE: We spend much of our lives controlling our instincts, struggling with the contradictions of societal restraints and human desires, dealing with conflicting forces and emotions. This struggle knows no boundaries of time, place [and] nationality. People have, and always will, wrestle with these strong, elemental forces.

BE: You certainly don’t seem at all intimidated about stepping into the ring with the heavyweights: you’ve written adaptations of Euripedes, Tolstoy and George Eliot. Audacious, brave choices. What makes you so fearless?

HE: No matter how large the canvas — and I like large canvases — at the core, I have to always feel that I can take the essence of the work and run with it. As monumental as the setting may be, it’s always the ideas that I pursue and want to depict. Ideas as embodied by character. That is my way in, whether it’s “Orestes” or “War and Peace” or “The Mill on the Floss.”

BE: Finally, were you ever tempted to have an animatronic version of Francois? [Note: Francois is Madame Raquin’s black cat, who, in the novel, bears mute witness to Therese and Laurent’s passions.] Or to recreate Laurent’s fear of Camille’s portrait?

HE: (Laughing) I have to be realistic about what things are possible on the stage. It would have been extremely difficult to have had a cat, whether real or animatronic, without having the audience giggle. As for Camille’s portrait terrifying Laurent, I left it out because I wanted to strictly follow Therese’s story. She is the fulcrum of the play; Camille, Laurent, Madame Raquin, all rotate around her. It is her story.

Matt Ryan and Keira Knightley
Matt Ryan and Keira Knightley

Maestro Ida Angland and Gateway Classical Music Society Presents Beethoven & Sibelius Violin Concerto in Concert

 

Reviewer Nino Pantano with Maestro Ida Angland & violinist Xiao Wang Photo by Judy Pantano
Reviewer Nino Pantano with Maestro Ida Angland
& violinist Xiao Wang. Photo by Judy Pantano.

At The Little Church around the Corner on the evening of Thursday, October 29th Conductor, Founder and Music Director Maestro Ida Angland and Gateway Classical Music Society and Orchestra presented an evening of music,”up close and personal.” This is the 12th season of presenting concerts and operas to ever growing audiences. In the past such operas as Aida, Rigoletto and Tosca, were presented in concert form and the Verdi requiem to great acclaim. This season the company has been appearing in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York offering different masterworks to appreciative audiences.

The Church of the Configuration located at 1 East 29th Street off Fifth Avenue, also has the nickname that came from a gentleman whose best friend was an actor who had passed away. The large church nearby refused to bury an actor, but as an afterthought the pastor said “there’s a little church around the corner that might bury him.” The name stuck and this beautiful church has been a favorite of theatre folk ever since.

The program opened with a rousing performance of the Tragic Overture Op. 81 by Johannes Brahms. (1833-1897) Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture composed the same year (1880) shows joy and the opposite with the tragic. This composition merely reflects the composer’s emotional versatility. The Gateway Orchestra went from strength to strength under Ms. Angland’s baton making us all the more eager for the Beethoven to follow.

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C Minor, Op. 67 (Completed in 1808) grips the listener with its melodic and rhythmical genius. The master was combating ever increasing deafness at this time.

The opening Allegro con brio movement did not exaggerate the basic theme but the reinforcement of the theme later on stuck with the listener. The entwining themes with various instruments joining in made Maestro Angland a Pied Piper. The strong parts for strings, horns, woodwinds and percussion made for a true joy ride. The final movements with its repetitive theme, almost a sport for the composer, ended in total triumph. Maestro Angland led the orchestra with complete wizardry and mastery. It was a roller coaster ride that earned a wonderful ovation.

The second part of the program began with the Violin Concerto in D Minor Op. 47 by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. (1865-1957) The young violin soloist was Xiao Wang. Mr. Wang with his powerful, subtle, supple playing evoked memories of the great violinists of the past. His cadenzas were executed with ease and brilliance. Mr. Wang had all the ingredients for greatness – introspective like Jascha Heifetz, flamboyant like Nicolo Paganini and warm like Fritz Kreisler. These attributes made for a thrilling and visceral performance. Sibelius’ inner torment could be heard in the violin with its unforgettable dirge like pining. This was like being present at the creation. A brilliant ascending career launched like a rocket!

The program ended with a delightful and spirited Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila by composer Mikhail Glinka. (1804-1857)

Compliments to all the musicians including the violin Concertmaster Gino Sambuco formerly with the new York Philharmonic. We spotted violinist Yelena Savranskaya and principal violist Alexandra Honigsberg both familiar faces from Brooklyn’s Regina Opera. Kudos also to principal cellist Madeline Fayette right in front of us for sublime pizzicato and inspiring playing from the cellos.

As we left, we saw the beautiful and tranquil Madonna grotto and exited with the blue lights of The Empire State Building in the background.

With such musical treats, the Gateway Classical Music Society has let the light in and helped brighten our world. All the musicians deserved and received the ovation and cheers from the very enthusiastic audience many of whom stopped to meet and greet the founder of this musical feast who remains a beacon and inspiration to all – Maestro Ida Angland!

Author & Activist – The Daniela Gioseffi Story

Anton Evangelista & Daniela Gioseffi. Photo by Bob Buchanan
Anton Evangelista & Daniela Gioseffi. Photo by Bob Buchanan

On the evening of Wednesday, September 30, we viewed a private preview screening of the film Author & Activist – The Daniela Gioseffi Story by award winning filmmaker Anton Evangelista at the Maya Deren Theatre on Second Avenue. Evangelista’s film, Umberto E is a documentary on his Italian immigrant father’s orphaned life and survival in America and won him awards.

Anton Evangelista has put together all the pieces of Daniela Gioseffi’s life and laid them bare for all to see. She is a Brooklyn Heights resident and has been a poet of renown, civil rights activist and the author of sixteen award winning books on prose and poetry. They include Blood Autumn, Women on War: International Writings:, On Prejudice: A Global Perspective and her latest book, Pioneering Italian American Culture: Escaping la vita della cucina. A satirical book on the belly dance as a feminine dance of child birth as well as sensuality entitled The Great American Belly Dance was a big seller. A class on the belly dance that my wife Judy took with Daniela was complete with outfit and zills. A whirling dervish and liberated spirit ensued, thanks to Daniela.

With remarkable photos, Ms. Gioseffi discussed her family in Italy, her grandparents, one of whom bore 20 children, her father Donato who arrived here with a limp from an accident in Italy and not speaking English. By strength of will and character he earned a college degree and became a professor and scientist. That grit was transferred to Daniela Gioseffi who kept her Italian name, dabbled in acting and then chose poetry and activism to fill her life. One still hears and feels her passion for justice through the voices of her Italian ancestors.

She defied the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) down South and was molested by one KKK chieftain. She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and currently raises her voice against global warming and is like Pope Francis on the side of the angels for awareness of both racism and climate change.

Ms. Gioseffi who has a daughter, singer/songwriter Thea Kearney and grandchildren still looks radiant and ready to challenge the forces of bigotry and hatred. She laments the lack of progress in the fight for equality for all. Has it been quixotic? Only time will tell if we have a planet left at all.

Ms. Gioseffi ponders these issues from her apartment in Brooklyn Heights with its spectacular venues of bridges and river. That is what she has been doing to unite all humankind as one, from the “old world” to the new – building bridges and crossing rivers.

According to Anton Evangelista, Daniela makes great lasagna. This film is like great lasagna, multi layered, many ingredients, savory and unforgettable! The outstanding film maker Anton Evangelista will make you ponder the vital adrenalin that makes Daniela Gioseffi, unstoppable and what she contributes to make more perfect our vast American mosaic.

The standing room only house and the exciting audience response at the Question and Answer period afterwards indicated a large future following for this vital film. It was nice to see Mario Fratti, playwright (Nine) Maurice Edwards former president of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Lou Barrella opera lecturer, August Ventura, Verdi scholar, Alba Mazza teacher/pianist, Antonio Guarna, tenor/composer and many others from Brooklyn and around the world to whom Daniela Gioseffi is an icon.

The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation’s 41st Annual Concert & Dinner

lapfnd SINGERS 1
2015 Vocal Competition Winners. Photo by Don Pollard.

On the evening of Sunday, October 18th at the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South, The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation hosted its 41st Annual Concert & Dinner. The concert, prior to the dinner, took place at nearby Zankel Hall in the Carnegie Hall complex, The event was in memory of the late legendary soprano Mme. Licia Albanese, patrons Cecil Spanton Ashdown and Maria Theresa Fauci.

Sachi Liebergesell, President of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation gave us all greetings and introduced the genial host, Metropolitan Opera basso Eric Owens. The young awardees then performed and gave us a delicious sampling of opera’s future.

Sachi Liebergesell
Tenor Ricardo Tamura, Sachi Liebergesell and Joseph Gasperec. Photo by Don Pollard.

Soprano Vanessa Vasquez enthralled us with “Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante” (Micaela’s air) from Bizet’s Carmen. Ms. Vasquez’s angelic purity of tone and powerful flights took us to the bright side of the moon, a pity that Don Jose preferred the dark side, to his downfall.

“Canzonetta sull’aria” duet from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro was sung as a delightful blend by sopranos Kirsten Mackinnon and Mia Pafumi.

“A mes amis – Pour mon ami” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment was brilliantly sung by the beguiling Australian tenor Alasdair Kent. The 9 high C’s were cupids golden arrows, each one a priceless gift hurled at the heart of the audience.

A real rarity followed with “Quella e una stra- stra-strada” from Mascagni’s Le Maschere. It is a stuttering song that was brilliantly sung by baritone Dogukan Kuran who lost neither pitch nor his bearings while skillfully hammering each note!

Soprano Alison King and tenor Mario Rojas sang a heartfelt “O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Boheme, walking backstage arm and arm and hitting two powerful high C’s at the offstage finale. Ah! Love, sweet love!

Marjan & Jane Kiepura with tenor Mario Rojas. Photo by Don Pollard.
Marjan & Jane Kiepura with tenor Mario Rojas. Photo by Don Pollard.

“Hab’ mir’s gelobt, ihn lieb zu haben” trio from Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier sung by sopranos Chloe Moore and Heather Phillips and mezzo Megan Marino, blended beautifully like a triple tiered Viennese pastry.

Part two followed with “Suoni la tromba” from Bellini’s I Puritani thrillingly sung by baritone Jared Bybee and bass Andre Courville. A tour de force and a “Golden age” blend by this dynamic Bel Canto duo!

“Pays merveilleux!…O paradis” from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine” was sung by William Davenport whose ringing finale evoked the great legendary tenors Leon Escalais and Beniamino Gigli!

Sol Jin’s beautiful lyric baritone captivated us with “Avant de quitter ces lieux” from Gounod’s Faust. The climactic finale was spun on an ascending web of gold.

Andrew Stenson sang “Firenza e come un albero fiorito” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, his radiant tenor soaring to the heavens with excellent comedic flair.

Top prize winner soprano Marina Costa-Jackson sang “Morro, ma prima in grazia” from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. She was a like a volcano of vocal splendor erupting power and emotion with beauty elegance and style. Marina Costa-Jackson is truly a gift to the world of opera.

The superb accompanists were Jonathan Kelly, courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera and Arlene Shrut.

The guest artists all of whom performed wonderfully were Met tenor Ricardo Tamura, who sang a thrilling “Nessun dorma” from Turandot, Susan Neves whose soprano totally enveloped Tosca’s world in a captivating “Vissi d’arte”, baritone Stephen Powell whose gorgeous singing of “Di provenza, il mar il suol” earned him an ovation and mellow Met mezzo Ginger Costa-Jackson and her soprano sister Marina who enchanted us all with a deliciously androgenous “Barcarolle” from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann.

Betty Cooper-Wallerstein patron and presenter spoke of the need for music in today’s world so lacking in beauty and harmony. In the audience we spotted Met opera soprano and Kennedy award winner Martina Arroyo, Gloria Gari, Board Chair of the Giulio Gari Foundation, pioneer Maestro Eve Queler, Brooklyn’s sparkling Elaine Malbin and Met mezzos Jane Shaulis and Nedda Casei still luminaries of the highest order.

Stephen De Maio, President of the Gerda Lissner Foundation was praised by longtime patron and Executive Director of the Musicians Emergency Fund, Marie Ashdown for his dedication as Artistic Director of the Albanese-Puccini Foundation. Vice President and General Counsel, the erudite Brian O’Connor, Esq. made the concluding remarks noting the importance of beauty and culture in our world and how these talented awardees will enrich our lives.

Host, Met Basso, Eric Owens. Photo by Howard Heyman.
Host, Met Basso, Eric Owens. Photo by Howard Heyman.
Marie and Joseph Gimma with Christine and Alfred Palladino. Photo by Don Pollard.
Marie and Joseph Gimma with Christine and Alfred Palladino. Photo by Don Pollard.
MAshdown and Stephen
Marie Ashdown and Stephen De Maio. Photo by Howard Heyman.

At the elegant dinner afterwards, Chopin pianist Marjan Kiepura, son of renowned operetta soprano (The Merry Widow) Marta Eggerth and famed Met tenor Jan Kiepura spoke of the joys his mother had singing well into her 90’s at the Albanese-Puccini galas. Earlier he presented an award in his parents name to tenor Mario Rojas, accompanied by his wife Jane.

With good food, wine and dessert, we met many friends including Steve De Maio of the Gerda Lissner Foundation with his team, Michael Fornabaio, Joyce Greenberg, Barbara Ann Testa and Cornelia Beigel all of whom contributed greatly to the success of the evening. It was so nice to see Commendatore Aldo Mancusi and his wife Lisa from the Enrico Caruso Museum in Brooklyn. Licia Albanese was a friend and often came to see the mini-theatre that bears her name. We exchanged pleasantries with Opera Index treasurer Murray Rosenthal, Vice President, composer Philip Hagemann, staging wizard Joe Gasperec and also Glenn Morton from Classic Lyric Arts.

Kudos to the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation and in particular Joseph and Marie Gimma, son and daughter-in law of the legendary soprano-founder Licia Albanese (1909-2014) whose spirit prevails and soars! All sent their best to our readers. The Brooklyn Eagle also still soars on the musical and cultural horizon!

BAM to present tribute to legendary actress Ingrid Bergman, celebrating centennial of her birth

Isabella Rossellini (shown above) will perform a theatrical tribute to one of the 20th century’s most iconic actresses — her mother, Ingrid Bergman — at BAM this Saturday. Photo by Andre Rau
Isabella Rossellini (shown above) will perform a theatrical tribute to one of the 20th century’s most iconic actresses — her mother, Ingrid Bergman — at BAM this Saturday. Photo by Andre Rau

Marking the centennial of Ingrid Bergman’s birth, her daughter Isabella Rossellini will perform a theatrical tribute to one of the 20th century’s most iconic actresses. The event will be held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m.

Originally presented at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (where towering images of Bergman, the official “muse” of the festival, dominated the Croisette), the staging incorporates Rossellini’s own memories of her mother, plus interviews, unpublished letters, personal film footage and previously unreleased video clips and images from Bergman’s private archive. Accompanying Rossellini will be actor Jeremy Irons, in what promises to be an unforgettable evening.

In anticipation of the event, the Eagle recently spoke with Rossellini by telephone.

BROOKLYN EAGLE:  How far in advance did all of this start coming together?

ISABELLA ROSSELLINI: Originally about four years ago, then much of the co-ordination of materials about two years ago. It involved so much archival material that required film rights,

Actress Ingrid Bergman is shown in a 1957 file photo. AP Photo/File
Actress Ingrid Bergman is shown in a 1957 file photo. AP Photo/File

legal issues. There were many studios involved. My mother worked in Hollywood, of course, but there were many independent production companies and European studios as well, from which we needed approval for certain archives.

BE: How did Jeremy Irons become involved?

IR: The tribute at BAM will involve readings of excerpts from my mother’s autobiography, newsreels, visuals that require voice over, and there are many voices participating. But you asked about Jeremy. And, thank God, first and foremost, he was available. And I was looking for the right “lead voice” — one that uses impeccable English but has a definite European accent and timbre. How could one do better than Jeremy for that?

BE: What do you think accounts for the “emotional transparency” of your mother’s performance style? What qualities did your mother have that made her so believable, that made her such a consummate actress in such a wide range of roles, from Ilsa Lund, Alicia Huberman to Sister Mary Benedict?

IR: My mother worked in five languages. Her Swedish and German were impeccable, of course, and she spoke French well enough to perform it on stage. Her English and Italian had an accent. But through any language she used, I think, rang a genuine, heart-felt honesty about the role she accepted. (We all believe that great line about truth and beauty, right?)

BE: How did your mother’s archive come to reside at Wesleyan?

IR: The film department at Wesleyan has one of the most comprehensive paper archives revolving around film — the posters, scripts, letters, contracts, etc. My first husband, Martin Scorsese, was very passionate about film preservation and had a connection to Wesleyan. He helped organize my mother’s collection, which was extensive. The effort was also helped greatly by Professor [Jeanine] Bassinger, who is the Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan.

BE: Do you find that younger film audiences don’t really know the breadth and range of your mother’s work? Is one of the goals of this film series and the BAM tribute to introduce your mother’s work to this audience?

IR: Yes, in a word. But remember that in Europe younger film fans are being exposed to her work through film schools and festivals, which always include the many movies she made there. I would guess that younger audiences know her [better] there than here. Time and history have a funny way of rewarding quality, even if not recognized when the film is first released. I am thankful that the quality of my mother’s work in so many independent productions is seen in film schools and festivals.

BE: With your mother’s fluency in so many languages, do you think she could more easily adapt to global film-making, which has become, with so many co-productions, the norm? What current film directors do you think she would want to work with today?

IR: That’s a hard one — naming names? I would not presume. Let me just say I believe she would have flourished in today’s world. Remember that film is a universal art form. We certainly have technology and ability to add translations to the words. But let’s not forget that silent film, before they had to worry about words, was even more universal. No matter how many languages my mother spoke, I think she understood the language of images even more.

BE: Finally, let’s end on a light note: Have you seen the brief homage to your mother in “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation?”

IR: Yes, I saw it. And I met the Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the spy named Ilsa Faust in that movie. At a European film festival there was a screening of a documentary about my mother, “Ingrid In Her Own Words.” Rebecca was there. We met and had a delightful discussion about that little homage in “Mission Impossible”…I thought it was wonderful that she, and the director Christopher McQuarrie, used that in the movie.

BE: Thanks so much for your time, and your Brooklyn fans will pour forth to see you at BAM.

IR: Thanks, I look forward to that.

Sophocles in Brooklyn: An interview with Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche is currently starring in “Antigone” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Photos by Stephanie Berger, courtesy of BAM
Juliette Binoche is currently starring in “Antigone” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Photos by Stephanie Berger, courtesy of BAM

Through Oct. 4, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is presenting the Barbican production of poet Anne Carson’s new, colloquial translation of Sophocles’ “Antigone,” starring Oscar Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche and directed by Ivo van Hove (who is also directing two major Broadway revivals this season, “A View from the Bridge” and “The Crucible.”) The play is presented in association with the Toneelgroep Amsterdam and co-produced by Theatre de la Ville, Paris, Reclinghausen, Germany and the Edinburgh International Festival. With this illustrious pedigree, Antigone is one of the highlights of this season’s Next Wave Festival at BAM.

Since her electrifying breakthrough role in 1985 in Andre Techine’s “Rendez-vous,” followed three years later by her first English language performance in Phil Kaufman’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” Binoche has gone on to make an astounding 42 movies, including such noteworthy films as Anthony Minghella’s “The English Patient” (for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, trumping the odds-on favorite Lauren Bacall), Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors: Blue, White & Red” trilogy, Lasse Hallstrom’s “Chocolat,” Michael Haneke’s “Cache,” Olivier Assayas’s “Summer Hours” and last year’s “The Clouds of Sils Maria,” also directed by Assayas. He has said of Binoche “Hunger and passion are her defining traits … [she] is honest, straightforward, trusting and naive. Once she decides to give, she gives all the way.”

If ever there was a role that demands that commitment it is Antigone. As politically and emotionally urgent today as when it was first produced in 441 BC, the play posits the ultimate existential question: loyalty to state or to family?

Juliette Binoche told the Brooklyn Eagle, “For me, to do ‘Antigone’ is an awakening, a journey.”
Juliette Binoche told the Brooklyn Eagle, “For me, to do ‘Antigone’ is an awakening, a journey.”

By telephone, the Brooklyn Eagle started by asking Binoche about the special challenges of performing a Greek tragedy for a modern audience — and why she decided to take on this challenge.

Juliette Binoche: What Greek tragedies give us are myths, and myths are timeless. They are not just stories. They are towering works about transformation. They reflect a tradition that is beyond time. They ask eternal questions. For me, to do “Antigone” is an awakening, a journey. I hope the audience joins me on this journey.

Brooklyn Eagle: You return frequently to the stage in the midst of your busy film schedule. Do you find working in the theatre revitalizes you?

JB: Because my real roots are in the theater — both of my parents were involved with theater — I feel like when I return to the stage I’m returning home. My original goal was to be a theater actor. My film career just sort of happened spontaneously. I enjoy the challenges and satisfactions of both and I feel lucky to have that freedom to go back and forth between stage and film.

BE: Finally, it seems like you are always working — touring in Antigone, filming “Slack Bay” and “Polina,” recently completing the films “The Wait,” “Nobody Wants the Night” and “The 33.” When do you come up for air? Do you allow yourself some down time for family, friends, just sitting in a comfortable chair, reading a good book?

JB: My pleasure is to work. It is a source of constant joy. My kids, who are grown up now, come to see my work. My choice is, and always has been, to dedicate myself to telling stories. We need these stories to learn about ourselves. And then we take what we learn into our real lives. It’s a sort of circle.

From left: Obi Abili, Juliette Binoche and Patrick O’Kane.
From left: Obi Abili, Juliette Binoche and Patrick O’Kane.