SITI Company's Death and the Ploughman
June 15-19, 8pm at On the Boards in Seattle
Death and the Ploughman, written in 1401 by the Bohemian humanist Johannes Van Saaz, frames a debate between the grim reaper and a simple farmer whose young wife has died. Saaz (a minor clerk) wrote the work in response to the death of his own wife in childbirth as he grappled to understand loss in relation to his faith. The work poetically, forcefully and occasionally humorously meditates on the religious, philosophical and psychological complications of living in the world where death is your inevitable reality. In the day it was written its relevance was particularly profound as it marked a shifting moment in human history – when theretofore accepted medieval sensibilities of faith, meaning, religion and authority were suddenly called into question, ushering in the Renaissance. The SITI Company’s mounting of West’s new translation revitalizes the play as a work of remarkable contemporary relevance, as contemporary society’s paradigms of faith, values and meaning are also being called into question.
The piece is performed by three veteran SITI Company actors Will Bond (The Ploughman), Stephen Webber (Death), and Ellen Lauren (Woman), with company members designing integral production elements: James Schuette on set and costumes, vivid sound design by Darron West and lighting by Brian Scott. The piece exhibits the company’s acclaimed hallmarks, “…finely disciplined acting, highly stylized images and movement and a procession of powerful effects.” (Curtain Up).