Photo by Peter Vitale
"The Seven" from Ten Thousand Things
Brother Love — Kinaundrae Lee (left) and H. Adams Harris play brothers who’d rather not fight.
Following her stunning production of In the Next Room at the Jungle, South Dakota native Sarah Rasmussen has returned to stage The Seven, Will Power’s hip-hop retelling of Aeschylus’s The Seven Against Thebes, for Ten Thousand Things. Artistic director Michelle Hensley feels the story—of two brothers who try to rule their kingdom peacefully despite their father’s curse—will resonate with both the theater’s traditional audience and the one it plays to in prisons and homeless shelters.
“The tragedy is a universal human story,” she says. “The sons of Oedipus are cursed by a bad parent to fight, and they try to find ways not to. That’s an issue for our non-traditional audiences and for our traditional audiences as well. It is a huge question for our world right now.”
Power’s hip-hop approach gives the play a contemporary, street-wise energy, in part because hip-hop and Shakespeare have more in common than one might suppose. “[When we do Shakespeare] we ask our non-traditional audiences to come into a linguistic universe that traditional audiences are comfortable with. I’m excited to ask our traditional audiences to do the same thing through [the linguistics of] hip-hop.”
In each case, language is the door through which the audience accesses the play, and mining the nuances of language is what Ten Thousand Things does best. “Hip-hop is just an extension of what we find in verse plays of 400 years ago,” says Hensley. “There’s a real understanding of the rhythms of poetic speaking. That elevated sense of language helps audiences plummet to the depths of the tragedy.” Feb. 15–March 10. Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 800-838-3006, tenthousandthings.org