[NoHo Arts District, CA] – Cassandra, an original chamber musical with a story by stage veteran Kelly McMahon, a book by Anthea Carns, and featuring the songs of punk icon Patti Smith, makes its world premiere at studio/stage this June as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
It was grad school when accomplished stage director Kelly McMahon first really started exploring Cassandra, the legendary priestess of Greek mythology who was cursed to utter prophetic truths to deaf ears. McMahon delved deep into her backstory and the famous tales told about her and realized she had something unique to present in Cassandra’s history, which was often shaped by men.
Cassandra was now going to tell her own story.
Cassandra makes its world premiere at studio/stage this June as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Cassandra is an original chamber musical with a story by McMahon, a book by Anthea Carns, and featuring the songs of Patti Smith. After centuries of having men write about her––and put words in her mouth––Cassandra is given the opportunity to tell her own story. Invited by The Three Fates, she relives and reflects upon her life, her prophecies and the relationships she has with the three important women in her life: her mother (Hecuba), her avenger (Athena) and her murderer (Clytemnestra). Most powerfully, she considers a question all can find resonant: if you know your actions can’t or won’t change things, why do you bother?
“This is a story people think they know told from a very different perspective,” McMahon said. “In this play, Cassandra is given agency. She both chooses to first go with Apollo, then, after the snakes lick her ears and she gets the gift of prophecy, she chooses to go back to the mortal world and try to save Troy…even though Apollo tells her it won’t work.”
Framing the piece is music from punk icon Patti Smith that is being recorded by acclaimed musicians from the Seattle rock scene (Chris and Rick Friel, Justin S. Davis and Kathy Moore). McMahon originally used Smith’s songs as placeholders as she was developing the piece, but soon discovered that they were the perfect match. With her Seattle ties, she found the right collaborators to support her piece. She also has a solid lineup of skilled stage actors, including Thursday Lyons in the title role.
An associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, McMahon has earned acclaim for her stage work across the country and has a history of incorporating rock icons into her work. Two of her most notable works include The Faithful, an original Gen-X play featuring the music of Pearl Jam, and The Optimist, inspired by the lyrics of Jimi Hendrix.
Cassandra was set to debut in Seattle when the pandemic hit, so it was delayed to this summer, marking its premiere in Hollywood. McMahon would like to expand the production locally and eventually perform in Seattle, where the show was born.
For now, McMahon is focused on the Fringe production and providing more than just Cassandra’s story. McMahon hopes her audiences come away with something to remember not just about the piece, but about their lives.
“I want audiences to come away feeling empowered themselves!”
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