Get excited for Oedipus-just don't gouge out your eyes!
Last night, the Department of Theater and Dance transformed Pickard Theater into a Greek stage with the opening of its fall production, Sophocles's Oedipus the King.
The department chose this play out of a desire to perform a classic piece of theater. Director Joan Sand said, "We thought Greek would be fun because we haven't done that in a while."
The cast of nine students has been working on the production since early September. "It's big. I'm proudest of how theatrical it is. It's really about environment and theatricality in the midst of telling a story," Sand said.
This unique production strives to defy convention. Sand emphasized that the audience may think that they know the play already, but she tries to tell the story in a new way. She said that the audience will "have to stop and pay attention."
The play attempts to retain the feel of Greek theater, while simultaneously bringing something new to the stage. It utilizes a single set, which is a common element in most Greek tragedies, as scene change would have been difficult and awkward on the ancient stage. The costuming is Mycenaean dress, which reflects the time in which the play takes place.
"I didn't want to do what people typically thought of as Greek costumes," Sand said.
The story of Oedipus is well-known, which can be partially attributed to Freud's Oedipus complex theory in psychology. In the play, Oedipus has replaced the late Laius as king of Thebes and has been given the hand of Queen Jocasta in marriage.
Creon, Oedipus's brother-in-law, visits Apollo's oracle to determine how to help rid the Thebans of the Sphinx. The oracle tells him the problem will be solved once Laius's murderer is cast out of the city. Upon hearing this, Oedipus demands that a blind seer tell him the identity of the murderer and the prophet names Oedipus himself as the criminal.
Eventually, it is revealed that Oedipus has lived out the prophecy given at his birth: that he would grow up to kill his father and have children by his mother. The tragedy ends with Jocasta committing suicide and Oedipus stabbing out his own eyes, which was the punishment he intended to give Laius's murderer.
Oedipus was a new experience for many of the actors. Colin Dieck '04, who plays Oedipus, said, "It's been a huge learning experience. It's a unique production compared to anything I've ever worked on."
The use of masks provided a challenge to the actors as well. Aaron Hess '04, who plays Creon, said, "The puppet style is very interesting; it's a different discipline."
Susan Coyne '07, who plays Jocasta, echoed this sentiment, saying that it was difficult to animate the masks, which were supposed to be the actors' primary focus. She described the masks as very "tribal looking."
The actors also created their own movements to go along with the choral text. The movements evolved from various figures on Greek urns. The actors then connected the movements in a way they felt was most natural to the words. Coyne added, "They're really simplistic because none of us are dancers."
Equal effort was put into the set design. Dieck said, "The set completely changes the way Pickard works besides being cool and really fun."
"The set and lighting design are fantastic. It's very impressive visually," said Coyne.
Oedipus will also be performed tonight and tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. in Pickard Theater. Tickets are free to the public and can be obtained at the Smith Union information desk or at the door.
Dieck said, "Anyone who has any interest should see it. It's a classic."