If Oedipus Lived In Suburbia

08ebe27874749.560b326f820e9

According to a NYTimes review, the “experimental Irish theatre company” (Brantley) Peter Pan has staged a show called “Oedipus Loves You,” which takes the original Greek story of Oedipus and places it in modern day suburbia. The story, told in “latter-day drag” (Brantley), opens up telling the audience that the show is meant to be shown “in an age of postmodern theory and the birth of postdramatic theatre” (Brantley), and it aims to examine “the metaphysical,political, and quasi-religious aspects of the Oedipus myth as it has been applied in recent theater history” (Brantley). We talked a lot in class about the importance of theatre to Athenian life, and how ALL theatre performed back then had a religious context. Peter Pan’s production does exactly that, but molds the well-known myth for a modern day audience. Someone going to see a original production of Oedipus in Ancient Athens would probably be going for the same reasons someone would go see Peter Pan’s re-staging of Oedipus Loves You; for commentary on political and religious issues in the safe space of an artistic sanctuary. According to Brantley, the actual production of the story is amusing in relation to the themes of the original story; the major difference being the show’s use of Sigmund Freud’s major concepts, like the Oedipus Complex, which obviously wasn’t talked about while Ancient Athenians went to see the play. As the show is shown in modern times, it has become much more of a comedic story then a drama, due to the absurdity of events in the original story. Ancient Athenians might have seen events in Oedipus as common occurrences, but Peter Pan’s production plays on the how amusing the events are, and “also considers the tenacity of the hold of that story on the Western imagination” (Brantley).

Brantley, Ben. “Oedipus Loves You.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 May 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/05/24/theater/reviews/24oedi.html?mcubz=0

Camille, Team Diana

 

A Cross-Cultural Take on Oedipus the King

“The patients become the playwright’s plague-weary Thebans, the playwright’s grim and fearful chorus. Like the cast, they are all black, and the resonant but never stated implication is that they have AIDS.”

“…As a result, his fall has an element in it of just deserts, as though he were being punished for his hubris, and this robs from the mounting human tragedy that gives the play its brutal power.”

These quotes are from a 2001 New York times theater review of an adaptation of Oedipus the King set in contemporary Africa.

As a result of setting the play in Africa, the context of the story changes, meaning that there are different reasons as to why events in the play occur. The writer of the review, Bruce Weber, notes that instead of going through a devastating plague, the people that Oedipus rules over are struggling with AIDS. A plague as gruesome as the one that the Athenians were concerned with at the time of the original Oedipus story is not an issue that would concern anyone today, or in 2001, and so it is understandable that this detail would be altered for a modern adaptation. The use of AIDS instead of the Athenian plague makes for a much more relevant comment on modern African life for that time period, as in 2001, when this play was written, AIDS was prominent issue in Africa. The ideas are similar enough for the use of AIDS in the story to seamlessly work in the story – the people are upset that something so horrible has spread, and so they turn to their leader, Oedipus, for guidance. The story of Oedipus himself and his prophecy continues from there.

Furthermore, Weber observes how Oedipus’ weakness is still hubris, but his fall is somewhat different in this adaptation, which could also affect the theme. Weber claims that “…it’s hard to imagine him as a revered leader. He’s Oedipus the Prince, someone who suffers on his sleeve, who doesn’t have layers of self-certainty to be peeled slowly and inevitably away as his heritage and his fate are revealed to him.” Oedipus in this adaptation is a young, privileged, and somewhat lucky character. His demise is only seen when he blinds himself at the end. In the original play, Oedipus’ decision to uncover the killer of Laius by any means necessary in order to help his people is a noble one, and the audience can pity him when his fate is revealed, which adds to the purpose of the play itself – to find a “reason” for the Athenian plague. In this contemporary version, there may be a comment being made about leadership in Africa and how the situation regarding AIDS may have been handled poorly. There is a change in theme and purpose.

Citation:

Weber, Bruce. “Timeless Tragedy, Transported in Time.” The New York Times, 30 Jan. 2001. Accessed 5 Sept. 2017.

Link:

Tags:

OnStage, CLAS2, Euripides, Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus, Medea

 

 

 

A modern take on Antigone

“You get the feeling that it’s not just the ill-fated souls of ancient Greece that this sun looks upon. It’s staring straight into the audience as well. That stately drumbeat that we hear every so often is marking the pace of everybody’s death march.”

“It may be Mr. van Hove’s intention to show that even the most adamantine souls can be brought wailing to their knees by life’s blows. The point registers, for sure. But like much else in this thoughtful but strangely detached production, it’s one we register in our minds but not in our hearts.”
       In regards to the quotes from the article connecting to the play, death played a major role in Antigone, as it essentially sets the stage, and is the driving force between the main character, Antigone’s, desire in the play. With the death of her brother she yearns to pay her respects, despite the king’s authority telling her not to, and these issues and themes most definitely connect to a contemporary, and ancient Athenian audience. These issues are similar to what the Ancient Athenian audience might have been thinking about, as they enjoyed plays that had a central theme, and those that had a deeper meaning. Fate and rules, which are themes of Antigone both have relevance to a contemporary audience and ancient Athens. Fate because of the fact that it was beyond Antigone’s control that her brother Polynices had died, but felt as though in her heart it was her duty to honor him by burying his body, despite defying Creon’s wishes. To a contemporary audience, fate is something we can all understand too well, when we often have to make a decision between two important things. Rules can most definitely relate to an ancient Athenian audience, as it played a major role in society, In regards to theater, it was often used as a form of tax, as wealthier citizens would pay for theater production, and also the housing and feeding of the actors. However some differences in issues that the ancient Athenian audience may have been thinking about is a play’s particular relevance to their daily live, and the times in which they would attend to go see a play. In ancient Greece, theater was apart of a religious festival, so while it was used for entertainment, similar to modern day, it also had an important purpose, which can be considered sacred on some level. 


Brantley, Ben. “Review: In ‘Antigone’ at BAM, Agony and Despair in Inexorable Motion.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Sept. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/theater/review-in-antigone-at-bam-agony-and-despair-in-inexorable-motion.html?mcubz=1.

Oedipus and His Position of Power

 

We’ve spent time discussing Oedipus’ fatal flaw: Hubris. His prideful manner led to his downfall. He was rash in his decisions and quick to anger. What we haven’t asked ourselves is; what made Oedipus a tragic hero? As quoted by Ben Brantley of The New York Times; “Power makes a freak of those who wield it”. Oedipus, alone at the top, was presented with a problem that was his to fix. A Plague had spread throughout Thebes leaving its citizens devastated and Oedipus is committed to finding the cause of it. Tiresias the oracle reveals that Oedipus himself is the curse. Proud as ever, Oedipus immediately refuses to accept this as truth and threatens to kill Tiresias. We see here how power has affected his mindset. Oedipus is so focused on using his power to fix the problem that he is blind to the answer right in front of him. In addition, his pride doesn’t allow him to see the god Apollo’s truth as greater than his own. We see these traits fairly often among modern day politicians. One example of this is in recent events, when president Putin of Russia decided to invade Crimea and the Ukrainian mainland after being warned by the western nations not to. This resulted in heavy sanctions being placed upon Russia and its people. The sanctions were placed on the import of Russian oil and export of food to Russia. This resulted in the inflation of the ruble and lack of food for the public. Similarly to the people of Russia, the people of Thebes were suffering because of decisions made by their leader. When a leader only listens to himself and does not heed the advice of others, he will find himself much like Oedipus, “Lonely both at the top and at the bottom”.

Gabriella, Team Hestia

Brantley, Ben. “THEATER REVIEW; Private Horror Made Public.” Nytimes.com, 6 Oct. 2000, http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/06/movies/theater-review-private-horror-made-public.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Ftheater.

 

The Agony of Complacency and the Despair of Resignation

Amidst the horrifying complacency of our daily lives, resignation to one’s supposed ‘fate’ has become a disturbing norm. Whether or not fate exists though, it’s true that many live life while blindly following hypothetical outlines and miserably prideful constraints. In fact, the depths of our history contain those that met with grim fates due to the complacency they found meager shelter in. A modern example of retelling a tale that consists of falling victim to self-satisfaction is Seneca’s “Oedipus” by the Theater of the Blind. The review by one Honor Moore intricately describes the perfectly construed agony of the modernized play. This in turn makes the events of the play relevant and sympathetic to the contemporary audience. For one, Moore states that “there is no wisdom except through resignation to one’s fate, becomes true not only for a blind king in ancient Thebes, but for each of us, in our blindnesses, as well.” This statement is certainly true to many who blindly accept veiled truths without question and live within a shell. Fate is quite a beloved concept as it states that we have a path we’re ‘meant’ to follow in life. Those of ancient times embraced this and many in modern times embrace this as well. After all, isn’t it better to be blind to the harsh truth rather than to accept said harsh truth? Life is difficult and without certain guidelines, one can get lost. Those in ancient Athens accepted the harshness of their degradingly strict society just so that they would be satisfied with having a set path in life. In comparison, those in modern times do this as well. Whether you have strict parents that regulate you or illusions that prevent you from pursuing your true dreams, many blindly accept and follow the paved road in front of them instead of building their own. In a way, it’s sort of heartrending. We haven’t changed at all. There are those that stay blind or become blind and resign themselves to ‘fate’, just as Oedipus did.

Additionally, Moore also states that “just five actors play all the characters and double as the chorus, the production gathers intimacy as we come to know the performers as human beings who both witness and endure the play’s tragic events.” The importance of this quote is how it correlates the usage of ‘masks’ by people in present and ancient day. Yes, while the modern actors themselves had masks to play several parts just as the ancient actors did, it’s also true that the characters themselves have certain ‘masks’ they wear in order to portray different aspects of themselves to the appropriate people. Oedipus for example, wears the mask of a ruler and the mask of a husband. Everyone in real life does this as well. Depending on who you interact with, you act a certain way. It’s a simple yet true fact of life. However, with time those masks can break. Those masks can shatter and your core can be bare to the world. Those in contemporary society wear masks and all of those masks can very well break. It can either be due to trauma or despairing resignation but it’s still very possible in a variety of several other events. When the actors switched roles and masks on stage, they themselves were experiencing the tragedy they were unfolding along with the character’s breaking masks. Seeing Oedipus accept his literal and metaphorical blindness at the end of the play can easily connect to the audience as it shows that beneath all the masks that someone has, there is a core that contains all of your vulnerabilities and truths. This is as true for me as it is for you.

We can never truly know how the Ancient Athenian audience felt about anything they wanted to keep secret. The masks they unconsciously wore and the blindness they embraced might’ve been things that they never fought or thought about. Though we can infer since these convoluted plays existed back then. Women definitely must’ve had dilemmas with the masks they had to bare to the world. They were homemakers and weren’t intricately involved with many outside of the house. They were also consistently ignored and treated as convenience tools for the upkeep of home. There were most definitely times when women questioned their blind devotion to the man-made laws they had to abide to. After all, agonizing blindness to one’s self can make you question the state of things and cracking masks can easily break from repressed rage. It doesn’t matter if it was ancient times or not, feelings still existed and it would’ve caused women especially to have outward and internal conflicts about their place in life. They were more suppressed than men were. Were they just going to live life on a moving road that they themselves didn’t even construct? Living the way they wanted to was a pipe dream however, as illusions to resignation were as common then as they are now. There must’ve also been men who didn’t want to participate in war. Not everyone has the same ideals and hopes. While war was a relatively constant reality, there had to have been other aspects of life that they enjoyed. Some may have enjoyed those other aspects more than war. Despite all of the tragic acceptance and selfish toleration that those in Ancient Athens felt though, we can certainly infer that since they’re human, they had to have faced identity and role crises just as we do today.

Moore, Honor. “The Oedpial Anguish Illuminates the Darkness.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 June 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/14/theater/reviews/the-oedipal-anguish-illuminates-the-darkness.html

Bailey Seemangal, Team 5 Hephaestus

 

Antigone is Still Relevant

THEATER; An Ancient Drama Whose Wisdom Is Always Modern

The themes of Sophocles Antigone is still relevant today as it was 2500 years ago. The NYTimes review of, “An Ancient Drama Whose Wisdom Is Always Modern” describes how the themes of Antigone is relevant to a contemporary audience. Lydia Koniordou, who plays the title role in this modern staging of Antigone says, “’the audience knows what the play is about…but they’re not just here for the story. They’re here for the poetry that comes out and for the depth of the thought as regards ideas and problems and dilemmas that are part of our civilization today.” This might be similar to the matters Ancient Athenians thought about because, in both civilizations, theater tackles issues that reflected the society at large. And these issues were able to link the audience to the story of the play. The review also emphasizes how artistic elements such as costumes, masks, the poetry and the songs presented in the play attracts both audiences and transcend time through its elaborate and unique aesthetic.

Another theme of Antigone that is relevant to the contemporary audience is that the play “doesn’t divide the world into black and white” as said by Ms. Koniordou. In modern-day where there is such diversity in our culture, religion and personal perspective, the line between rights from wrong is often blurred. What is right in one culture, might be revolting in another, thus the play inspires the audience to not divide one perspective as being right and the other wrong. The Ancient Athenian audience might have had similar thoughts while watching Sophocles Antigone which performed in 438 BCE, right after the Samos Revolt. The Ancient Athenians punished the Samians brutally, and the theme and plot of Antigone as she rebels against Creon to perform her duty to her brother and God might have reminded the audience of their action. The play transcends the barrier of time as it makes both Ancient Athenian and the contemporary audience think of these issues in society.

Wolf, Matt. “THEATER; An Ancient Drama Whose Wisdom Is Always Modern.” The New York Times. 27 Oct. 2002.

Masuma, Team Mercury

#CLAS2, #Onstage #Sophocles, #Antigone