Stage Door News

Toronto: Rick Roberts’s “Orestes” has its digital world premiere February 3

Monday, January 18, 2021

Tarragon Theatre is thrilled to announce the world premiere of the re-imagined, live online production of Orestes. The play, written by Rick Roberts, will livestream February 2 - 14, 2021 (opening February 3, 2021).

Orestes (Cliff Cardinal) has been de-platformed! His unimaginable crime of matricide is stuck on autoplay and his banishment has driven “the poet laureate of the internet” offline. Disconnected and stranded in the silence of the real world, can Orestes survive? What happens when the media is turned against us? And in a world defined by online identity who are we when that’s ripped away?
 [click here for extended description]

Back room politics, a sex tape and murder have hacked this classic drama, seen through a lens befitting the current day. Orestes is a political satire that explores who we are when most of our lives are lived online and how we survive when our identity is blurred, then cancelled, across social media platforms.

Performed in real time with a production that’s been expanded by its digital presentation, audiences will watch political events unfold and then journey into back rooms that reveal the recesses of our characters’ minds. With a total of 10 performers streaming separately, Orestes is one of the most ambitious digital productions to open in Canada amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Originally slated as the opening production for Tarragon’s 2020/2021 season, Orestes has been fully reworked to be an epic, interactive storytelling experience, performed as a live online event. Starkly mirroring the events of today’s news cycle, Director Richard Rose muses, “We want the Theatre to represent the values of life, but not for life to operate with the values of Theatre.  With Orestes, the performative and post-truth has replaced the moral and the actual - the virtual world wrestles with the real world, while on the periphery the spiritual world haunts this story of the electronic age.

Playwright Rick Roberts notes, “My original script for Orestes already dealt with the consequences of our actions through the veil of an online world. The transition to a virtual theatre has allowed me to explore the behind-the-scenes politics of the story in a new and incredibly dynamic way.  Audiences will have freedom to track individual characters, and it’s brought a new depth to the story. It has truly become an epic mythic adventure. Roberts continues, “We’re not simply staging the original version of Orestes online, we’ve completely overhauled it. In making these changes we’ve expanded the bounds of what this play could be, re-imagining it and developing the technology to accommodate this new vision in tandem, while still maintaining the essence of the piece.” 

To create an interactive, engaging and safely produced piece was a significant endeavor. “This is uncharted territory for Tarragon,” notes Rose. “The scale of the production mirrors what has become the epic scale of the online event. With green screens, multiple cameras, arms-length sound and lighting design, each of the 10 cast members will inhabit what is essentially a mini studio, performing Orestes from the safety of their own spaces and homes.

This production is the result of working collaboratively to figure out how to produce Orestes for audiences to watch from home. We wanted to draw audiences back into a theatrical experience - and a big part of that was our tech build. Rather than viewing it as an obstacle, we worked closely with Frank Donato on video and stream design and the toasterlab team to create a virtual theatre for Tarragon audiences to enjoy from the safety of home,” continues Rose. “Audiences will engage with Tarragon in an entirely new way and we’re excited to share the work.” 

Orestes features Cliff Cardinal (Stitch, Huff), Richard Clarkin (Tarragon’s New World, The Faraway Nearby, Saltwater Moon, “Murdoch Mysteries”), Bren Eastcott (Tarragon debut), David Fox (Tarragon’s No Great Mischief, returning from retirement), Eleanor Guy (Tarragon debut), Jeff Ho (Iphegenia), Krystin Pellerin (Bunny, Stratford Festival, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Soulpepper), Anthony Perpuse (Tarragon’s Theory), Lisa Ryder (Helen Lawrence, Canadian Stage, “Andromeda”) andGabriella Sundar Singh (Prince Caspian, Playboy of the Western World, Shaw Festival). Orestes is written by Rick Roberts (Tarragon’s Enemy of the People) with direction from Richard Rose (Tarragon’s Hamlet, Tarragon’s Buffoon).

Orestes runs live online from February 2 - 14, 2021, opening officially Wednesday, February 3.

written by Rick Roberts
directed by Richard Rose

February 2 - 14, 2021 (opening February 3)

Euripides’ genre-defying classic has been hacked, warped and chopped – rebooted for the electronic age. Orestes, “the poet laureate of the internet!” is blurred and bleeding across YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok. His unimaginable crime of matricide is stuck on autoplay. De-platformed, disconnected, stranded in the silence of the real, he must claw his way back online and survive there by any means necessary.

written by Rick Roberts
directed by Richard Rose
scenery and costume design by Shannon Lea Doyle
lighting design by Kimberly Purtell
sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne
video and stream design by Frank Donato
virtual theatre by toasterlab
assistant directed by Makambe K. Simamba
stage management by Sarah Miller
apprentice stage manager Alysse Szatkowski

starring Cliff Cardinal (“Orestes”), Richard Clarkin (“Menelaus”), Bren Eastcott (“CASMR@NDRA”), David Fox (“Tyndareus”), Eleanor Guy (“Hermione”), Jeff Ho (“Pylades”), Krystin Pellerin (“Electra”), Anthony Perpuse (“RuDaGold”), Lisa Ryder (“Helen” and “Clytemnestra”) and Gabriella Sundar Singh (“MandLbrot”)