Adapted by Colin Teevan
From the book by Ryszard Kapuściński
Directed by Walter Meierjohann
Co-Produced by the Young Vic, HOME, and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg
“A resonant and troubling metaphor for the great melancholy of power.” — The Guardian
Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA; Jeffrey Horowitz, Founding Artistic Director) kicks off its 2018-2019 season with the U.S. premiere of The Emperor, featuring virtuosic shape-shifting actor Kathryn Hunter and Ethiopian musician Temesgen Zeleke, founder of Krar Collective. Walter Meierjohann directs this parable about power in decline—an adaptation by Colin Teevan of Ryszard Kapuściński’s celebrated and controversial 1978 book of the same title, about the downfall of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. With two performers onstage,The Emperor explores political power by foregrounding the stories of those operating under it, from Selassie’s many servants (including his pillow-bearer, purse-bearer, and dog-urine wiper), to government bureaucrats, to students opposing Selassie’s rule. Performances of this co-production from the Young Vic, HOME, and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg run September 9-30 at Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Place), TFANA’s home in the Brooklyn Cultural District.
The Emperor marks Hunter, Teevan and Meierjohann’s return to TFANA following their acclaimed Young Vic production of Kafka’s Monkey (based on Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy”), which came to TFANA in 2013. Once again, they present an engaging theatrical adaptation anchored by Kathryn Hunter’s riveting storytelling abilities.
Hunter—who has also played at TFANA as a memorable Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by Julie Taymor) and in The Valley of Astonishment (directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne)—is a remarkable artist. The first British actress to play King Lear in a professional production, she transforms to create the physical shapes and inner hearts of characters she plays—female, male, animal, or spirit. When the play made its world premiere at the Young Vic in 2016, the “tiny, nimble, crackle-voiced” Hunter was praised for “her particular mixture of gravity and irony” (The Guardian), and, in a tour-de-force performance of 10 characters in loyal service to the Emperor, for being “probably…genuinely the only performer alive who could possibly pull [her shows] off.” (Time Out) “Tremendous musician” (The Guardian) Temesgen Zeleke, a former student of legendary Ethiopian jazz artist Mulatu Astatke, was praised for “beautifully reinforc[ing] the shifts in mood with his krar and pedal-drum” (The Independent), and as an actor and singer embodying various aspects of insurgency.
Jeffrey Horowitz, TFANA’s Founding Artistic Director, says, “The Emperor raises important issues that extend beyond the production. TFANA is presenting this extraordinary work of art in part as an invitation to our audiences to engage in the complex conversations that this parable of power elicits. Our hope is that the dialogue will be as illuminating as the artistry on stage.”
Kapuściński, who many considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize during his lifetime, cagily used The Emperor to illuminate corruption and avarice in his native country, communist Poland. Today, as adapted and performed by this acclaimed theatrical team, the material just as strongly illuminates our world’s continuing and disturbing fascination with despotism. A series of panels will contextualize the production and the questions it provokes, and will be held on September 15, 22, and 29.
The cast of The Emperor is Kathryn Hunter (Southwark Playhouse’s Cyrano de Bergerac; TFANA: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Young Vic’s Kafka’s Monkey) and Temesgen Zeleke (leader of Krar Collective). The creative team includes Walter Meierjohann, Director (HOME’s Artistic Director, Theatre; In the Red and Brown Water at the Young Vic, TFANA: The Young Vic’s Kafka’s Monkey); Colin Teevan, Adaptor (The Bee starring Kathryn Hunter, Duke of York’s Doctor Faustus, TFANA: The Young Vic’s Kafka’s Monkey); Ti Green, Design (RSC Swan’s Dido, Queen of Carthage, Watford Palace/Bolton Octogon’s I Capture the Castle); Imogen Knight, Movement (West End: The Birthday Party; Royal Court Theatre’sNuclear War, National Theatre’s Amadeus) Mike Gunning, Lighting (West End: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice’s Adventures Underground ); Paul Arditti, Sound (The Young Vic’s The Inheritance and The Jungle, National Theatre’s Macbeth); Louis Price, Video (HOME’s The Funfair, the Barbican’s Unleashed); Dave Price, Music (National Theatre’s From Morning to Midnight; Royal Shakespeare Company’s Cymbeline, A Soldier in Every Son); Kathryn Hunter, Creative Associate; and Cat Robey, Assistant Director.
Performance Schedule, Ticketing, and Other Information
Performances of The Emperor will take place in the evenings, September 9, 11-16, 18-21, 25-28, and October 2-5 at 7:30pm; matinees on September 22, 23, 29, 30, and October 6 and 7 will take place at 2pm.
Panels will be held Saturday, September 15 at 5:30 (before the evening performance), Saturday, September 22 (after the matinee performance), and Saturday, September 29 (after the matinee performance).
Theatre for a New Audience is committed to economically accessible tickets and offers tickets at a range of prices for The Emperor.
$20 New Deal: all Performances. Age 30 and under or full-time students of any age. May be purchased online, phone, or at the box office, in advance or day-of, with valid ID(s) proving eligibility required at pickup.
$20 Brooklyn Pass: all Performances. Members of local Brooklyn non-profit organizations through Brooklyn Pass program.
$28 TDF: selected performances.
$60: all performances with a TFANA subscription.
Special Discounts: TFANA offers special discounts available by joining TFANA mailing list at www.tfana.org.
$90-$100: all performances.
$125 Premium Seats: all performances.
Polonsky Shakespeare Center is located at 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn.