Based on 18 poems by Constantine P. Cavafy, Approaching Ecstasy imagines what it must have been like to be a gay man in Egypt a century ago.

Though Greek by origin, Cavafy lived most of his life in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a curious combination of an conscientious, up-tight businessman-bureaucrat and a freethinking, adventurous poet, sensualist, and gambler. In a long battle with cancer, he had a tracheotomy and spent his last few months of life unable to speak.

The piece is 86 minutes in length, without intermission. In various combinations, a choir of 40 men and women perform the poetry in English and in Greek. The English words of each poem are sung a cappella and in unison by some or all singers of a smaller group of 16. The Greek versions are sung in more complex arrangements and open out into dance.

The love poems, chosen and translated by Eric Banks and choreographed Olivier Wevers, are straightforwardly sensual. Their overt meaning is seldom veiled or obscured. Yet considerable subtlety is required of music and dance that hopes to explore their layered, even contradictory complexities.

This powerfully dark but ultimately uplifting multi-media performance […] closed among “wows,””ohs”, and whispered “goddamn” from the opening night audience last weekend at Cornish Playhouse.

Melody Datz Hansen, City Arts Magazine

It is a work of timely and timeless beauty, and a very great artistic accomplishment for everyone involved in its development and presentation. This is a work that should be widely seen, not only for its mastery of so many art forms, but for its profound insight into the sad burden of injustice suffered by gay people past and present.

 Sharon Cumberland, Seattle Gay News

Fine visuals, fine dance, fine score — “Approaching Ecstasy” has it all.

 Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

Approaching Ecstasy


May 18, 2012
Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center


Olivier Wevers


Original composition by Eric Banks

Music performed by

Syros Quartet, Melissa Achten Klausner, The Esoterics


Mark Zappone


Casey Curran


Michael Mazzola