Thursday, May 20, 2010

Myths on Stage: Unwanted Truths

"What is a myth? The oblique image of an unwanted truth, reverberating through time. And yet, the first, the Greek meaning of myth, is simply what is delivered by word of mouth, a myth is speech, public speech."
~ Timberlake Wertenbaker, The Love of the Nightingale

Red Tape Theatre held our Myths on Stage panel on May 16, 2010. Chicago artists who'd recently directed, dramaturged or adapted fresh adaptations of Greek myths shared their experience.

Gender politics were a common theme. Marti Lyons, dramaturge for The Love of the Nightingale, asked the audience to consider why some stories stay in our culture while others fade. Sociologists have suggested that destructive women like Medea, Electra and Phaedra are given more stage time today than victims of injustice like Iphigenia or Philomele. Timberlake Wertenbaker's script for Nightingale brings the sexual politics of the Philomele myth to the forefront as she and the women’s chorus repeatedly reject the men’s attempts to turn them into objects.

In a contrasting case Tim Speicher, Artistic Director of The State Theatre, combined the well remembered story of the martyr Antigone with the lesser known story of the fallen warrior Ajax. The stories were linked with the theme of burying the dead and what one does with the bodies of the disgraced. Dramaturge Sarah Sapperstein played the role of the Chorus in AjaxAntigone (pictured) as a single entity. In a time when Greek women were silent the Chorus was given the power to debate and challenge the political figures on stage.

The motive for retelling the myth was different for each panelist. For Thomas Murray's production of Living Quarters: After Hippolytus the myth was a gateway into a personal story of recovery from grief. For Cory Tamler the story of Iphigenia offered a lens onto a "What If" scenario" for contemporary US politics. For Tim Speicher there were universal truths to explore: "When audiences see characters who try to accomplish something they attach to them."

"But we cannot rephrase it for you. If we could, why would we trouble to show you the myth?"
~ Timberlake Wertenbaker, The Love of the Nightingale

The Love of the Nightingale is Jeff Recommended and runs through May 29.
Get your tickets through our website!

No comments: