Alyssa Bresnahan as Thetis in the 2000 Denver Center Theatre Company production of Tantalus. Photo by p. switzer

Tantalizing Tidbits About TANTALUS

Greg Hicks (left) as Agamemnon and Alyssa Bresnahan as Cassandra in the 2000 Denver Center Theatre Company production of Tantalus. Photo by p. switzer

Greg Hicks (left) as Agamemnon and Alyssa Bresnahan as Cassandra in the 2000 Denver Center Theatre Company production of Tantalus. Photo by p. switzer

  • Denver was the only US city to present TANTALUS.
  • 60+ masks were used in TANTALUS
    Based on sketches by set and costume designer Dionysis Fotopoulos, the DCPA Theatre Company staff created 60+ masks for TANTALUS, each of which required six steps:

    • A mold was made of each actor’s head.
    • The mold was used to create clay sculptures to represent each character in the play.
    • A rehearsal mask was made for each actor using the clay sculpture as a model.
    • A second rehearsal mask was often needed for a different character or fit.
    • A mold of the clay sculpture was made upon which the final mask was constructed.
    • The performance masks were made from carbon fiber and covered by light-weight pig skin.

Each mask for the principal characters took approximately 32 hours to create while each chorus and ensemble mask took approximately 27 hours to complete. That’s an average of 1,770 hours of mask making!

  • 1,000+ hours needed to rehearse TANTALUS
    TANTALUS rehearsals started on March 27, 2000 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Actors rehearsed nine-hour days for 25 weeks. That’s 125 days and 1,125 hours of rehearsals!
  • TANTALUS was written in verse
    Playwright John Barton used a three-fifths iambic pentameter to form the verse structure for TANTALUS. This three-beat verse form sounds like regular speech when spoken correctly.
  • Translating 10-plays, a monumental task
    Japanese lighting designer Sumio Yoshii, didn’t speak English — but his assistant, Miyu Hinata, did. Her first task was to translate the 465-page script before rehearsals began. Upon arrival, she had to do it repeatedly as rewrites took place during rehearsals.
  • Taking TANTALUS from the page to the stage
    TANTALUS took more than 17 years to write and, despite the fact that no one had seen the script, the Royal Shakespeare Company continued to fund the project through the tenure of three artistic directors — an unprecedented show of support for its author, John Barton.
  • Yards and yards and yards…
    More than 600 yards of fabric were used to create the 93 original costumes for TANTALUS.
  • All that glitters is gold
    Helen of Troy appeared on stage painted gold. Thirty-two ounces of gold paint and two ounces of gold glitter were used to transform actress Annalee Jefferies into the golden Helen. That’s 640 ounces of gold paint and 40 ounces of gold glitter throughout the production.
  • All that sand…in Colorado?!?
    TANTALUS took place on an island in the Aegean Sea. Fittingly, 15 tons of sand were brought in to create a beach on which the action took place. The sand consisted of a special mixture that gave off little dust in order to protect the actors’ lungs.
  • Document this…
    Denver Center Media, the former film and television arm of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, filmed a documentary on the making of TANTALUS. During the rare six-month shoot, DCM used 372 reels of 400-foot film. That’s 148,000 feet of film — more than is used in an average full-length feature. The documentary was aired nationally on PBS February 2001.
  • The TANTALUS workout program
    The nine members of the Ensemble had to don suits of armor, helmets and heavy boots. Sounds easy? Try fighting and dancing, let alone walking on sand, in a suit that weighs 20+ pounds!
  • That’s a jolt!
    TANTALUS required so much power that production had to being “borrow” 600 amps of electricity from other parts of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Let there be Light
    More than 470 fixed lights were setting the mood for war, celebration, love and death in TANTALUS. Add to that 57 moving lights with 1.2 million color possibilities, 81 color scrollers with 516 sheets of color, a moon box with 170 100-watt light bulbs and four spot lights with more than 250 cues and you had yourself quite a show! It took more than 200 hours of programming time, not to mention 503,000 watts of electricity, to bring TANTALUS to light.

TANTALUS Production Photo Gallery

TANTALUS Rehearsals Photo Gallery


For more information on TANTALUS, playwright John Barton, directors Peter and Edward Hall, the designers and, of course, the Greek mythology that gave rise to these incredible stories, please enjoy a selection of reading material: