1. JoAnne Akalaitis is beyond legendary – who else among us has gone mano a mano with Samuel Beckett and emerged triumphant?! – but she refuses to rest on any laurels, instead continuing to develop exciting new site-specific work.
2. …but don’t be intimidated. Akalaitis is committed to making theatre accessible: “Great theater cuts across gender, race, income. It speaks to everyone.”
3. This is your chance to get behind the scenes at NYU Skirball – the audience moves with the action through the lobby, dressing rooms and backstage before emerging for an onstage finale.
4. Get your polyglot on, with dialogue in English, Greek, French and German.
5. It’s a tragedy mash-up, with the greatest hits from the greatest playwrights – including excerpts from Antigone, The Bacchae, and The Persians – and translations from Anne Carson, Bertolt Brecht, and Caryl Churchill.


It’s a sad story; I saw it with my own eyes. 

Theatrical legend JoAnne Akalaitis creates a site-specific processional performance exploring the monumental impact of the messenger character from classic drama.

Audiences are split into four groups, each led on a unique a journey through NYU Skirball’s lobby, hallways, and out-of-the-way spaces where some of history’s most memorable messengers bring them tidings of bad news — and they do not spare the gory details. Taken from the works of Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Racine, and Brecht, tragic monologues are spoken and sung in a harmonious chorus of English, interwoven with Greek, Latin, German, and French, with movement influenced by the Indian Kathakali tradition. All paths lead to the empty stage where the performers tell the battle story from The Persians by Aeschylus, the oldest surviving play in Western Literature.

Created in the spirit of the Greek polis — where audiences came together to witness tragedies that called into question the rationality of mortals and the justice of the gods — Akalaitis draws a parallel between this ancient theatrical device and contemporary media coverage of horrifying events, where eyewitnesses often repeat a heartbreaking refrain of “I was there.”

This piece is a NY premiere with an original score by Bruce Odland, visual design by Julie Archer and lighting by Jennifer Tipton. Performed by Rachel Christopher, Kelley Curran, Katie Lee Hill, Jenny Ikeda, Henry Jenkins, Howard Overshown, Jasai Chase Owens, and Rocco Sisto. BAD NEWS! i was there… is presented in cooperation with the Guthrie Theater and is supported through the generosity of the Gallatin Fund for Classics and the Contemporary.

“Engaging … invigorating … movingly poetic” — The Star Tribune

After the show, join JoAnne Akalaitis and Daniel Fish for a conversation on directing – Monday, September 16 @ 7PM. More information here.

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JoAnne Akalaitis is a five-time Obie Award-winning theater director and writer, co-founder of the critically acclaimed avant-garde theater company Mabou Mines, former artistic director of the New York Shakespeare Festival and a Drama Desk Award recipient. In addition to creating many works at The Public Theater, she has staged her own work and works by Euripides, Shakespeare, Strindberg, Janáček, Beckett, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams and Harold Pinter at Lincoln Center, New York City Opera, Goodman Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Court Theatre, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Hartford Stage, New York Theatre Workshop, and Guthrie Theater.

BAD NEWS! i was there… is presented with support from the NYU Gallatin Fund for Classics and the Contemporary.

Photo: JuCoby Johnson and Megan Burns inBAD NEWS! i was there…at Guthrie Theater in 2018 (Photo by Dan Norman)

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