Name: Chas LiBretto
Hometown: Glen Rock, NJ
Education: BA in Drama, Creative Writing – Washington College; Atlantic Theatre Company Conservatory
Select Credits: Cyclops: A Rock Opera (Odysseus, Psittacus Productions - LA); I Shall Comply With Your Desire (Ensemble, Beyond the Usual Prod - LA); A Tale Told By An Idiot (Banquo, Psittacus Productions – LA)
Why theater?: I wrote something long-winded about immediacy, and danger and truth, but really I just like being in a room with a lot of people telling stories.
Tell us about Cyclops: A Rock Opera: Cyclops: A Rock Opera is a new, original rock n’ roll musical based on the only existing Ancient Greek Satyr Play, set to open at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) on September 29th. Borrowing its plot from the Cyclops episode of the Odyssey, it features an on-stage rock band, The Satyrs, acting as an anarchic chorus as war-weary veteran Odysseus finds himself captive of the Solipsistic cannibal Polyphemus. The LA Times called it “a thrilling freak show…a musical for people too cool for musicals” and “a proud cousin to Rocky Horror and Hedwig” by Bitter Lemons (an online theater review aggregator created and hosted by John Cameron “Hedwig” Mitchell’s brother!
What is it like to write and perform in Cyclops: A Rock Opera?: A blast! I get to live out a rock n’ roll fantasy, while also attempting to understand what makes Odysseus, one of the oldest characters in all of literature, tick. The process of writing the show (with Jayson Landon Marcus, responsible for the show’s score and lyrics, Ben Sherman responsible for much of the show’s ‘sound,’ and Louis Butelli, who staged the whole damn thing) has certainly been a learning experience. The project started by putting Percy Bysshe’s Shelley’s verse translation of Euripides’ Satyr Play to music, and mutated into a very different project. Our musical veers into territory barely even hinted at in the original play, exploring Polyphemus’ backstory, the tragedy of PTSD through Odysseus, and even brings in elements of another Satyr Play fragment (Sophocles’ “Tracking Satyrs”). All the while, it shifts musical genre from calypso, to Glam to Doom, to Punk, to Metal, to Folk.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as artists?: Psittacus Productions, the company I co-founded with Louis Butelli, explores the intersections of the classical with the modern and vice-versa. While that’s a pretty broad spectrum, it basically means theater that explores how where we’ve come from informs where we’re going. I shy away from self-indulgent one-man autobiographical shows, and the “theater of the ironic.” I’m very fond of the political “idea” playwrights Britain produced in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s –Edward Bond, David Hare, and Howard Brenton etc.
Any roles you’re dying to play?: I’d literally do anything that allowed me to have a Capuchin Monkey for a sidekick.
What’s your favorite show tune?: Can it be from my own show? There isn’t a song in Cyclops that doesn’t stick in my head – I think audiences are going to go nuts for “Love Potion.” “Sing Muse” is pretty devastating, “I’m a Cyclops” gives me chills, and “Sodomy,” and “More for the Whore” are two of the catchiest songs you’ll ever avoid singing at work.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I’d be delighted to work with anyone out there who wants to plop Cyclops into a theater, and allow it to happen 8 times a week.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh, I’m so bad at answering these sorts of questions. One always comes off as conceited or with a bloated sense of themselves. I’d love a ridiculous action movie about the work involved in starting Psittacus Production, though in the film Dolph Lundgren would play me, Psittacus Productions would be a benevolent Utopia of the future, and the dreaded Form 990 would be a horde of space ninjas.
Maybe I can get away with playing myself and we could call it “How to Convince People You Know What You’re Doing While Making it Up on the Go.” We wouldn’t even need a screenplay with a title like that.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: I wouldn’t shut up about Jerusalem for months.
What’s up next?: I’m really hoping to get through NYMF alive. There are tentative plans to produce a “classically inspired” retelling of a myth at the Getty Villa in Malibu, but its far too early for me to be able to say anything concrete about the playwright, or really anything of substance.
To get a sneak peak of Cyclops: A Rock Opera, take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IwVmMyySUk. For tickets, visit http://www.nymf.org/cyclops For more information on Psittacus Production, visit http://www.psittacusproductions.org/