The purpose of Orphic is to resurrect the theatre of the ancient Greeks within contemporary culture. The organization is philosophically, spiritually, and pedagogically interested in the thirty-six extant tragedies from 5th-Century Athens. It assists modern playwrights in retelling these ancient stories, and through this process, educates the current generation of young adults as dramaturgs. Orphic commissions writers to adapt the work of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, maintains multiple dramaturgical internships for undergraduate college students, and by sharing the resulting work both digitally and via workshop readings, forwards the conversation about ritual theatre on today’s stage. Orphic seeks not only to study these plays, but to give them new life as new plays, enriching the audiences and artists that experience them.
How does Orphic’s commissioning process work?
The commissioned playwright is selected by Orphic's board of directors–it is an individual that is not only comfortable working with college students, but excited by the insight that young adults can bring to the new work development process. Orphic is greatly interested in which particular plays draw the attention of a writer, thus the initial conversation is rather open ended. Once the source text is agreed upon, the writer is paid a portion of the commission fee, and begins work on the script.
Are these new versions faithful adaptations, or departures from the original text?
It varies based on the playwright. Orphic’s chief goal is to find a way to share these stories on the modern stage, and so the plays must in some way be made accessible to contemporary audiences. If a writer feels that they can best relate the story by adhering closely to the circumstances and structure of the original text, they have approval to do so. If the writer feels the need to change the plot, blend characters, or deviate from the source material in any number of ways, that might also serve the story, and this project. Orphic remains in discussion with the playwright from the first meeting onward, always with the intention of helping the play move forward in time, and thrive in a very different culture than that of 5th century Athens.
There is an education component as well?
Orphic’s work is built around its education component. Dramaturgical internships are offered to one or more undergraduate college students, or recent graduates. These interns then become involved in the script development process, and enter into direct communication with the playwright, while simultaneously researching the original play and how it was perceived in its own time. The project culminates in a script-in-hand workshop, performed by professional actors and produced, in part, by the interns. This workshop is both an experimental laboratory for the developing script, and an opportunity for the interns to showcase the work of several months.
What is Orphic's current project?
In 2017, Orphic engaged playwright Karin Magaldi to write a play inspired by Sophocles' Ajax. The result was Remain(s), a modern retelling set in the aftermath of the Iraq War. It was workshopped in January of 2018, as part of the Fertile Ground Festival. Orphic is currently considering a handful of writers for its 2018 commission.
So stay tuned!