Antinous is a tragedy -- a tale about the fated love that grew between an adolescent and a middle-aged man. But it is also a story about politics, identity, power and powerlessness.
It happened about two thousand years ago in Ancient Rome, when a Greek boy was brought to Emperor Hadrian's palace following a devastating earthquake in his homeland. No one knows when or why, but Antinous became Hadrian's page first, and, then his lover.
Relationships between powerful men and promising youths were then tacitly permitted. Extending the bond beyond adolescence, however -- and certainly, falling in love -- was frowned upon. But they did fall in love. Very deeply.
By all accounts, even those written by unsympathetic historians, Hadrian was a wise, if controversial ruler. Curiously, a sterling general in his youth, as an Emperor, Hadrian became a diplomat. He managed to put an end to most existing wars and stopped Roman expansion. He tried to consolidate what was then a chaotic, multicultural reign. He was also a poet and an architect. And, unlike most Roman rulers, he led an austere life.
Though immensely popular in the Empire, Hadrian was never accepted by the Roman elites. He was always perceived as an outsider. For Hadrian was a provincial. He was born and raised in Italica, a Spanish city near modern Seville. So, if he wasn't going to be a "true Roman," Hadrian fashioned himself as something better still, a Greek. He grew a beard, avoided wearing a toga whenever he could, and took a boy as his companion.
Now. About the young Greek.
There are by far more portraits of Antinous than of most Roman Emperors, and yet we know just a handful of facts about him. We know that he was born in Bythinia (modern Turkey), that he joined the Palatine schools at about fourteen, that he became Hadrian's page and, soon after, his "favorite." We know that he accompanied the man to at least one of his tours of the Empire. We also know that he drowned in the Nile when he was about nineteen under circumstances that are still a matter of conjecture. Most likely, he committed suicide.
Hadrian never recovered from his loss. According to one historian, he "wept like a woman" for months after hearing the news. He had an obelisk and a city built near the spot where the boy had drowned. He had him deified. He even tried to name a constellation after him. The Senate opposed it but, in the modern sense of the term, Antinous had already become a star. Temples to the boy were raised all over the Empire, and his cult survived for centuries.
The Emperor outlived his young lover for seven years, becoming increasingly sick and prematurely old. He surrounded himself with statues of his page and ruled the Empire from his Villa in Tivoli, the place he had shared with him for years. This play, therefore, is a fantasy -- an effort to imagine who this boy might have been, based on the few facts we know about him, and on the many images of him that have survived. Looking at them closely, we suspect that he was a lot more than an exceptionally beautiful boy. Antinous' extant images give us some clues. In them we find an impertinent, temperamental, intelligent, melancholic, vulnerable young man.
This is what our play is about.
Written by Amelia Arenas
Co-directed by Amelia Arenas & John Sannuto
Music by David Sharpe
Light by Daniel Winters
Costume, Image, & Sound by Basil Horn
JAMES McGINN as Antinous
JOHN SANNUTO as Hadrian
JO JO HRISTOVA as Istia
ALY BITTER as Libelula
JULIANA FADEYEV as Keruba/Sabina
Daisy & Jodl as Luna, Antinous' dog
Adult content & brief nudity. Viewer discretion is advised.
The First Floor Theater
74A E. 4th St.
New York, NY 10003
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|