Theatrical legend JoAnne Akalaitis is awe-inspiring, but she’s not interested in the idea of theatre as an esoteric or exclusionary art form: “I’m not against audiences liking things. I love it when audiences like a show” (Village Voice). Her latest will no doubt be a crowd-pleaser – albeit a very small crowd! Each showing of BAD NEWS! i was there… is performed for less than 100 audience members, who will trek through the depths of NYU Skirball together, steering clear of the traditional seats; accommodations will be available for audience members with limited mobility.

The idea for BAD NEWS! i was there… came at a time when Akalaitis was considering retirement. “Every once in a while I make these announcements that I’m giving up theater for good,” she said. “I call people and tell them I’m giving it up, but no one takes it that seriously. So, [in the case of Bad News,] about two years ago I’d given it up again when someone from Poets House called and asked me to do something for the River to River Festival. I said, ‘No, I’m not in the theater anymore.’ But then I had an idea for a new show.” (Fordham News)

Learn more about the show in Professor Erin B. Mee’s Indefinite Article

Office Hours: Coming Soon!

Get Into It

On Contact: Assault on the Arts
JoAnne Akalaitis on defending the arts, 2017
Distinguished Faculty Lecture with JoAnne Akalaitis
JoAnne Akalaitis on dangerous theater, 2018

Read All About It (and JoAnne)

Apr 1, 1983

Bomb Magazine: An Inteview with JoAnne Akalaitis

“Often I think things sit around in your mind for quite a while and you don’t know why they’re there and then the reason they’re there is because they’re going to be a theater piece.”

Oct 17, 1991

Chicago Tribune: "A Dramatic Challenge"

For several years, [JoAnne Akalaitis] declined to give interviews… ”I’m very private and frankly I’ve got better things to do,” she says.

Jun 2, 2018

Rohan Preston for the Star Tribune

The movingly poetic show, Bad News! I Was There, opened in Minneapolis on Saturday at 5:30 a.m., a liminal time when both the receding darkness and the advancing light are at an equilibrium.

Take A Walk

BAD NEWS! i was there… uses its site-specific setting to ground historical narratives in the audience’s present time, taking audience members on a walk through the ins and outs of NYU Skirball and affording a glimpse of spaces rarely open to public view.

Here, we’ve collected a few guided walks in and around New York City (including an NYU Skirball commission!) that also shift audience perception of public spaces, using quotidian technology rather than live performers to mediate the cityscape.

Get Thee to the LIbrary

Recommended readings to accompany the Indefinite Article by Erin B. Mee.

Simon Critchley, Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us. Pantheon, 2019.

Bryan Dorries, The Theater of War: What Ancient Tragedies Can Teach Us Today. Vintage, 2016.

Edith Hall, Greek Tragedy: Suffering Under the Sun. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Peter Meineck, Theatrocracy: Greek Drama, Cognition, and the Imperative for Theatre. Routledge, 2017.

Deborah Saivetz, An Event in Space: JoAnne Akalaitis in Rehearsal. Smith & Kraus, 2000.

Bonus: The Mabou Mines (1966-2000) archive is housed at NYU Fales. Browse the finding guide!

Plus, a selection from JoAnne Akalaitis’s bookshelf.

Mary Beard, Confronting the Classics. W.W. Norton, 2013.

Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. Penguin, 2019.

Edith Hall, Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western World. W.W. Norton, 2014.

Bernard Knox, The Oldest Dead White European Males, and Other Reflections on the Classics. W.W. Norton, 1994.

Nicole Loraux, Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman. Harvard University Press, 1991.

Seneca, Letters from a Stoic. Penguin, 1969.

Jean-Pierre Vernant (editor), The Greeks. University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Better Believe it

Cassandra taught us how hard bad news can be to hear – and the dangers of disbelieving the messenger. The contemporary corollary is climate denialism, in the face of catastrophic and comprehensive scientific evidence of our worldwide climate crisis. Read more on the dangers of this widespread phenomenon, and remember to heed the prophets and messengers when they come – no matter how bad the news.

Nov 26, 2018

NY Times: "The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial"

Denying climate change, no matter what the evidence, has become a core Republican principle. And it’s worth trying to understand both how that happened and the sheer depravity involved in being a denialist at this point.

Dec 14, 2018

NY Mag: "You, Too, Are in Denial of Climate Change"

The cost of inaction is sort of unthinkable — annual deadly heat waves and widespread famine, tens of millions of climate refugees, global coastal flooding, and disasters that will cost double the world’s present-day wealth. And so we choose, most of the time, not to think about it.

Mar 6, 2019

New Yorker: "The Other Kind of Climate Denialism"

Several years ago, I asked the climate activist and writer Bill McKibben how he was able to keep from falling into depression, given how much time he devotes to thinking about climate change. He answered that fighting is the key.

Extra Credit

Many folks have used music in their adaptations of the Greeks – like peanut butter and chocolate, they go together in endless delicious variations. Here’s one you’ve probably heard before, and two that perhaps you haven’t.

"Way Down Hadestown" - Sung by the Cast of Hadestown on Broadway
"Way Down Hadestown" performed by the Broadway cast of "Hadestown"
I am high above the sound
From "Harper's Arrow" – Odysseus in album form – by post-riot grrrl musician & Classic professor Sarah Dougher
four larks // katabasis
Los Angeles company Four Larks' "katabasis," reimagining Orpheus in a site-specific processional at the Getty Villa