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  • Writer's pictureSam Baldwin


It shouldn't surprise me that working on Greek tragedy brings about surprises. In the structure of these plays, even when reader and audience are fully aware of the inescapable outcome, we still are astonished when the anticipated events come to pass. So surprise is inherent in what Orphic does.

This is not limited just to the content of Euripides' or Sophocles' texts. Because our writers possess their own unique voice as they modernize particular stories with various themes, every process is different. When Brian Kettler adapted Iphigenia Among the Taurians, I was surprised to see him generate such a strange assortment of scenes that seemed at times unconnected in tone and chronology. The angst of young adulthood collided with farcical phallus routines. Tauris, this place that defines the action, was both a luxurious spa and a body-strewn beach. And then we went to Fort Wayne, IN. I was surprised. It challenged my expectations. But it all came together. It was tragic and hilarious and cosmic. And at the end of that project, I knew it couldn't have gone any other way.

This play, Remain(s), brought to life from the dead Ajax by Karin Magaldi, has followed a very different trajectory in development. If Iphigenia was trapped on a utopian island where anything could happen, Jac and Tess are trapped in a frighteningly real place that has been created by things that did really happen. It's because the play is built around the voices of veterans, and those who have seen our modern wars with their own eyes. Karin has carefully listened to those that have stared across the vast deserts of Iraq and come home to ours. She has conducted hours of interviews, and has heard many difficult things. For the past several weeks, our interns and myself have accessed the recordings of these interviews. It's not easy stuff.

Karin's scenes have come at a different pace than I originally expected. It is not the surge of strange material that jumped out of Iphigenia. These moments have been slowly coaxed from the experiences of our soldiers.

I should not be surprised. This is a very different play from a very different writer. We don't have a shareable draft at this point. But we have a story, and one that is vital to tell. It is contained in these interviews, and it has taken a shape in what Karin has written. It is raw, and personal, and we're not yet ready to show it. We will be in January, but it's going to take time.

I can't post the recordings or transcripts of the interviews. But be assured that Riley, Adele, and Karin are working through them, distilling them, and translating them. And in this next week, they will post here, sharing their responses to this process. Please follow along, and read what they say.

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