Timon of Athens takes the stage next week. Here’s a peek into the rehearsal hall for Shakespeare’s rare and unusual drama. See it at the Center Theatre January 9-February 4.
Duke Ellington loved theatre and loved Shakespeare, but did you know that Ellington composed music for a production of Timon of Athens? Take a listen to his jazzy interpretation of Shakespeare’s false friendships and fortunes lost.
The character of Timon is an unusual tragic protagonist. There are shades of King Lear in the character as well as Iago from Othello. Since Timon of Athens is so seldom produced, actors tend to jump at the opportunity to play the title role. From Richard Thomas to Simon Russell Beale to Anthony Heald, some of the world’s most celebrated artists share their views on the play and the very challenging role of Timon.
Because it’s not performed all that often, chances are you’ve never seen a production of Timon of Athens. You may not have even known it is one of Shakespeare’s plays. Don’t worry. You’re in the same boat as a lot of other people. And we’re here to help give you some of the inside scoop on this rarity from Shakespeare’s canon.
So What’s the Story?Timon is a big-spending philanthropist who burns through wealth. After turning to friends for help, Timon gets turned away and retreats to the wild. While wandering and digging for food, Timon discovers a cache of gold. Will Timon return to his old life and false friends? Read a more detailed synopsis here.
In IsolationTimon is Shakespeare’s only central character who has no significant relationships. The character doesn’t have a spouse, children, parents, or any family.
Rare and UnknownTimon of Athens was written at about the same time as King Lear and shares some of its sense of disillusionment, but is the least known and most rarely performed play in the canon.
Writing BuddiesThere are questions about the play’s authorship as Thomas Middleton, possibly the author of an earlier Timon play, has been suggested as co-dramatist and responsible for at least a third of the play.
The Yellow SlaveShakespeare enthusiast Karl Marx was impressed by Timon’s tirade against the corrupting influence of gold.
The Duke and the BardIn 1963 jazz great Duke Ellington composed 20 original songs for a Stratford Festival production of Timon of Athens set in the roaring 1920s.
Where Are the Women?Timon of Athens is the play with the fewest lines for female designated characters – just eleven lines…and they’re given to the camp followers.
Weighty RoleThe character of Timon speaks 850 lines…more than a third of the entire play! It is the 7th largest role in Shakespeare’s canon of plays.
Political UnrestWhen Shakespeare wrote Timon of Athens, England was in political turmoil after a royal assassination attempt, the Gunpowder Plot, had failed.
Written But Not PerformedTimon of Athens is one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays to date as there is no record of a performance in Shakespeare’s lifetime. Its style suggests that it belongs alongside King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra.
The Currency of LoveTimon of Athens and The Merchant of Venice are the two Shakespeare plays that primarily deal with tangled relationships to money.
Stage SymmetryIn Timon of Athens watch for counterpoint repetitions in the play: two banquets, two encounters with the poet and the painter, and two sets of occasions on which Timon faces flattering friends.
Are we made by the company we keep? Shakespeare peels away a dark layer to expose human selfishness in a whole new light in the rarely-staged drama Timon of Athens. John Kazanjian directs the play for Seattle Shakespeare Company which runs January 9 through February 4, 2018 at the Center Theatre. “I’m thrilled our company has the opportunity to present this play at this time,” said Artistic Director George Mount at the first rehearsal for the play. “I think there is an urgency and a need to tell this story. And, in a sense, to discover it a new.” This production will be the first time that Seattle Shakespeare Company has presented Timon of Athens. “I’m also thrilled to have someone whose life in the theatre has been one long term discussion and conversation about how we interact in social, political, emotional, and intellectual ways,” said Mount about director John Kazanjian. “He’s going to bring to bear all of that passion, history, intelligence and artistry on this production.” online.