18 May, 2015

Trojan Women 2015

“Troy’s Gone…. Nothing to block the wind of Asia now…”

This play is not about Then, or about Now.
It is about Always.

‘The Trojan Women’ (Ancient Greek: Τρῳάδες, Trōiades), also known as ‘Troades,’ is a tragedy by the Ancient Greek playwright Euripides. It was originally produced in 415 BC. 415 BC was a savage year in  he lives of the Ancient peoples—the Peloponnesian War was in full horrific swing, the capture, slaughter and subjugation of the Aegean island of Melos by the Athenians, the scandalous desecration of the hermai were only a handful of gruesome events which may have influenced Euripedes.

The story of Hecuba, Queen of Troy and her devastated family has been imagined and reimagined with global and personal relevance, over and over again, for over two thousand years. These women are symbols, but they are such because we see ourselves within them.
Our anger. Our humanity. Our grief.
My intention was to turn these symbols on their heads, slice them open and revel in the drain of their universal humanity.

“Widowhood is grief but also chance, and falls of cities both finishes and starts. ”

For ultimately, Trojan Women is a play about loss.  But what is loss? Loss of a city is no different than the loss of one’s sanity, family, love, principles.  In the aftermath of any ‘war’— be it literal or metaphoric; we are asked to cleanse ourselves and begin anew.  War is our story because all men, throughout all of time, have the capacity to hate. Troy is no different from Rwanda, Dachau, Sarajevo, Syria, or our very own World Trade Center and Ferguson, Missouri.

“‘Helen of Troy’ was a triumph—a legend—
a Woman who made her mark upon Your World
—never mind if that mark was a scar. ”

We hear from Hecuba and her family—the mad priestess Cassandra cursed with a gift of prophecy that no man shall ever believe; Andromache, the widowed wife of Trojan hero Hektor (who symbolizes a collective loss not at all unlike America’s Jacqueline Kennedy); and Helen of Troy, the “most beautiful woman in the world” who bears the bitter responsibility of whatever it is society deems to currently be “beautiful.”

“Should we not reach down beyond the known for once?”

New to this adaptation are some additional characters.  The additions of the three goddesses responsible for the Trojan War—Athena, goddess of wisdom, Hera, goddess of women, and Aphrodite, goddess of love. Their presence offered the play an opportunity to self-reflect, as well as directly challenge the audience in the de-familiarizing styles of Brecht and Artaud. Also new is Creusa—royal princess of Troy and wife of Aeneas (noted hero of Virgil’s Aeneid). Her absence in the original always seemed intentional, and bringing her back into the scenery showed itself to be a necessary and arresting presence. Creusa’s singular personal agency as the one “Trojan Woman” to escape Troy of her own accord presents us with a crucial alternative voice. Finally, the presence of the two Greek soldiers Diomedes and Teucros—both characters from Homer’s The Illiad—gave us what is probably the most important new piece of humanity. What is a war story without its soldiers? Are they not victims too? They experience losses even as victors, and I felt it essential that we hear from them.

“It is not true that everyone wants to be Entertained…
Seeing agony, we are made greater.”

Finally, this play is brief.
But it is hard.
Art that means to shift our deepest conflicts is always hard work, and that hard work can be an honor.

Thank you for joining me, and my commissioner Dutch Kills Theatre.



11 May, 2015

The Instance

There was one instance that stuck out in her mind...

Shura had suddenly had the shape of a woman far before her mind could catch up, leaving her open to a throng of unwelcome taunting. Walking down the main thoroughfare in town a collection of Yeshiva young boys skulked behind her thoroughly fascinated; observing her walk, her curves and calling out names.

That day, a boy named Dovidke had followed her to the livery from the schoolhouse, plunged his hands into a trough of cold water, and when Shura exited, he threw the water in her face. She returned home soaking wet, red-faced, in a terrible upset.

Later,  Sarah came to ask what was the matter, and was she ever furious—insisting that Shura name the boys before she left the house at a clip. 

The following day the boys came all the way up to their house. They asked permission to see Shura, and in a gallant voice Dovidke spoke on behalf of all of them.
     "We are all terribly sorry for using such harsh words with a lady..." he looked to the other boys for help, "And, we are remorseful for being so crass and cruel. It will never happen again. Oh! And, if anyone else ever bothers you, we will take care of them." They bowed their heads and quietly left. 


It wasn’t until many weeks later that Mama said Sarah had gotten herself into serious trouble with the Yeshiva—apparently she had made quite a scene.

    “But—" though Shura, "but Sarah doesn’t even like me…” said Shura, “Why on earth would she do that...?

Mama simply smiled.
Mama's always know.


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