Byzantine Choral Project Releases Musical Drama ‘Icons/Idols: Irene’

By Chris Ruel

Byzantine Choral Project (BCP) has announced the release of “Icons/Idols: Irene,” a 12-episode musical drama available for free on all major streaming platforms. The first two episodes dropped on Sept. 22, 2021, and BCP will release new installments each Wednesday until Nov. 17.

BCP is a collaboration between playwright Helen Banner and composer Grace Oberhofer to make theater for women and nonbinary voices. Critics praised the “Idols/Icons: Irene” when BCP presented excerpts at New York City’s New Ohio Theatre in May 2021.

Set to Oberhofer’s Byzantine Chant-inspired score, “Icons/Idols” is a tetralogy of choral plays spotlighting the lives of the purple empresses, Irene, Maria, and Euphrosyne. Banner and Oberhofer adapted and recorded the first play during the shutdown. In its first installment, “Icons/Idols” recounts the rise of Empress Irene from provincial Athens to the seat of Byzantine power. Irene carries with her a treasonous secret, making her the enemy of her husband and son, and forcing her to choose sides in the iconoclastic wars.

The musical drama features 10 women and non-binary performers, including Hilary Asare, Iris Beaumier, Isabella Dawis, Hannah Eakin, Julia Izumi, Grace Oberhofer, Lukas Papenfusscline, Shanta Parasuraman, Yael Shavitt, and Kay Weber.

Additional members of the creative team were Robert Frost (music direction), Nathan Leigh (audio engineer), Nicole Orabona (featured Foley artist), Emily Caffery (producer), and Jonathan Alexandratos, Pelin Iscan, Berhan Koral, and Tony Zosherafatain (cultural and sensitivity consultants). Grace Oberhofer and Nathan Leigh doubled as sound designers.