And, we're back! This time with intern, Emily Hogan. As with Jenna last week, I'll begin with the question, what draws you to the Greeks?
When I think of the Greeks, I think of universality. No matter where you are in life, there is a myth, or a story, or a character you can relate to. For example, when I was first being introduced to the Greeks in my middle school English class, the wild Degrassi episode of a love life that is experienced by all of the Pantheon mirrored the tangled web I was seeing affect my peers. I have felt Pandora’s immediate regret upon releasing something into the ether that was supposed to be kept inside. Recently, I have had the privilege of being involved in a production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, where every character related to something I was going through, (yes, even The Stones)!
Oh, and the DRAMA. Being from a smaller town, that’s always been a thing that I can relate to. If you replaced the names of people my parents went to high school with names of characters from Greek mythos, you would be astounded at the similarities. “Oh, Emily! Do you remember Penelope? Yes, Odysseus’s wife. You know how we’ve all been trying to get her to remarry because Odysseus was like, obviously dead? Well, guess who I just ran into at WalMart? Oh yeah, Telegonus is gonna be pissed.”
That is what draws me to the Greeks. The way that any story, any play, any character can help you understand a situation you are going through, or even guide your actions when dealing with that situation. There’s something for everyone in the Greeks.
Even these far removed stories relate to us directly. There's some distance too, isn't there? The style is so foreign to what we usually see on stages today. What's the balance? How close/far do you want the audience to be from the characters and events on stage, and what might you do to achieve this ideal relationship?
It’s so amazing, because I feel like the more specific you go with a story, and the more niche the experiences are, the more an audience can find themselves within it in one way or another. It’s a dramaturg’s responsibility to aid in forming the bridge between audience and production, and, like a literal bridge, it’s all about laying the foundation. Dramaturgs live off of facts and conclusions and context and threads, and all of these things aid in specificity. I believe that this can either draw an audience member in closer or farther away from the story, and both have positive outcomes!
If you, as an audience member, are seeing your life played out in front of your very eyes, it can be extremely validating and cathartic. If you are watching a production that couldn’t feel farther from your current situation, you could take a step back, and view it not as a member of that specific community or a certain character or story, but in order to understand situations that other people are experiencing. It is an incredibly humbling experience to not feel farther away from what you are watching. I have had the privilege of having both of these experiences when I have been an audience member, and even when I have been a part of a production, and I have found that it is hard to have every audience member go through the same experience.
So, the thing to focus on would be making the production specific enough, and real enough, so that the interpretation and relationship between audience and production is in the eyes of the beholder.
I'm reminded of what Jenna shared last week, about experiencing "deeper empathy" while watching theatre not written about people like them. Witnessing these plays can be a powerful experience when they feel far from you.
Or near to you!
So it's our job to be as specific and authentic as we can. We don't know all of the specifics for Anya's take on Agamemnon yet, but what are the authentic, essential pieces of that story?
I believe that an essential part of the Agamemnon story is how the audience is forced to see the characters not as totally “right” or totally “wrong,” but as complex beings who make good AND bad choices and have good AND bad motives. As human beings, we tend to categorize. I’m not trying to knock that; it does seem to make life simpler and grants us all a sense of ease and understanding. However, this is dangerous. Failing to admit faults or complexity in your own self or people you care about, and instead believing they are 100% on the right side of any issue, is inherently destructive.
We see this in Clytemnestra. We see this in Agamemnon. We see this today. In our current social and political climate, there is such a strong and wide divide between such deeply held beliefs that we can’t even begin to understand each other anymore. As human beings, we have to see the “other side” as complex people, and we also have to allow our own “side” the same courtesy. We can’t easily put people in boxes marked “good” or “evil”, because then those words lose their meaning, and it only strengthens the divide between us.
Agamemnon definitely translates to an audience today because it allows people to see the duality of man played out in front of our very eyes, and Aeschylus does this with one of the most captivating characters in Greek literature, Clytemnestra. She is one of the most captivating and specific characters I have ever read about because she is complex! She is both good and evil and everything in between. She is a human being.
She is indeed. The Greeks often get pinned with having a message, or moral, in these plays. And those are present. But so too is the argument. There is back and forth between multiple perspectives. It's never simple.
I'm excited to see how the complexities manifest themselves in our work this year!