Posts Tagged Homer
Every year Ashland, Oregon holds Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) that lasts from mid-February to early November. It is an incredible experience for theater lovers. I visit every year with several friends in my book club. There are three stages in close proximity and eleven plays are produced during any given theater season. These are not only Shakespeare plays. In fact, this year, we did not watch any original Shakespeare play. My friends and I watched 4 plays in 4 days we spent there. In addition to several plays going on simultaneously, the little town also has music festivals, bands, choir, other outdoor events, salsa dancing, poetry readings and more. Small town is beautiful with tons of unique shopping opportunities and incredible eateries with some of them offering seating by the riverside.
We drove from the Bay Area and spent a night at half-way point on easy 10 hour drive there. Next day we reached there early and saw one play at night and saw two more on the second day and then on the last day there we saw one play, and then started on our return journey. So we had a beautiful all girls road trip to and from the festival.
Here are the four plays we saw.
Homer’s Odyssey is a timeless classic but it is complex and it’s not always easy to keep the characters in mind. We attended pre-theater reading when we got a quick synopsis of the story. The play performed at open-air Allen Elizabethan Theatre was a treat of pomp and circumstance. After a decade long war, after the defeat of the Trojans by the Greeks, all surviving fighters reached home, but not Odysseus (Christopher Donahue). Odysseus languishes on a faraway island, refuses offers of love from Calypso, battles angry Poseidon’s fury, and after 20 years reunites with his wife Penelope (Kate Hurster), who was battling suitors during his absence.. This story of Odysseus known as a “story of that man skilled in all ways of contending”, according to Bill Moyers, “changes the way we see our world and ourselves”. Kudos to Scenic Designer, Daniel Ostling and Costume Designer, Mara Bluemenfeld for incredible scenes and costumes.
Shakespeare in Love
There can’t be moviegoers who were not enthralled by the film, Shakespeare in Love. Beautiful story of young and innocent and yet deep and binding love written as a love letter to theater and theater people encompassed several contradictions beautifully. Along with cheap puns, there were Shakespearean dialogues. What’s not to love when you hear “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,. My love as deep. The more I give to thee,. The more I have, for both are infinite“? Then there was sexist politics of the time juxtaposed against the most powerful monarch in Tudor history. William DeMeritt as Shakespeare is amazing. Director, Christopher Liam Moore did an excellent job, beginning with exploration of how an artist’s mind may work when creating a brilliant work of art.
Developed and directed by Robert O’Hara, Unison brings the story and life of poet August Wilson and his poetry to stage, in a unique way. August Wilson’s work depicts comic and tragic aspects of African-American experience and has inspired a huge group of poets. When meeting at his funeral, through the stories they share, a sense of reverence they have for August Wilson, reverberates on the stage.
At times the poetry is glorious
“You know you love me, I know you care Just shout whenever, and I’ll be there You are my love, you are my heart And we would never ever ever be apart Are we an item?”
At times the poetry is frightening
“Red blood in the river, there’ll be red blood in the river”.
Off the Rails
Adapted from the work of playwright Randy Reinholz, Off the Rails tells the story of native Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Such a story would be too tragic. But instead director Bill Rauch has adapted the story as a musical and infused it with romance and humor, while also depicting the indigenous resiliency among native Americans, in the face of attempted genocide. The story is also interspersed with Shakespearean quotes like “it is excellent to have a giant’s strength but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant”. This was an excellent and heart rending play that makes one break out in laughter from time to time and yet leaves you with deep sadness.
Homer’s Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem, set during the Trojan war, a long ten year siege on the city of Troy, by Greece. The poem is long and complex and centers more specifically around the short period of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the great warrior Achilles. Setting this poem to a performance on stage, would seem like a challenge of epic proportion. But it is effortlessly done at the current production of the “Iliad” running at www.thestage.org, in San Jose, CA.
Based on Homer’s Iliad, writers Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, created the stage piece, over a period of 5 years, utilizing video, video transcriptions, improvisation, original music and diligent research. It was translated by Robert Fagles. Kenneth Kelleher is a brilliant director who has directed over 20 productions for The Stage, and once again he did a marvelous job, in The Iliad.
Jackson Davis in the role of the poet, gives a spell binding performance. Although the story itself covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad alludes to the preceding events, including the cause of the war, the hundreds of thousands of wounded soldiers who returned home to find their spouses and fashions changed, and those who kept fighting but had forgotten the true cause of the war. Towards the end, it sets the stage for the sequel, the Odyssey, also attributed to Homer. This poem is regarded as more or less a complete narrative of the Trojan War. Davis holds the audience as he tells this complex tale, alternately playing various characters, and using the many props, to set the stage for the next sequence of events.
Paris, a wayward and handsome younger brother of prince Hector of Troy, abducted Helen, the most beautiful woman and wife of the Greek king Menelaus, and brought her to Troy, as his wife, and thus began the Trojan war, that lasted for 9+ years, and took tens of thousands of lives. Towards the end of the war, where the poem begins, Agamemnon, the Greek leader has abducted Chryseis, a daughter of a Trojan priest, and he refuses to give her up, despite being offered wealth and riches by the father. Chryseis prays to Apollo who causes plague on the city. Agamemnon returns Chryseis back but abducts Briseis, Achilles’ captive, as compensation. This angers Achilles and he refuses to support Agamemnon any more in the fight against Troy. This sets the stage for the succeeding epic battle.
Without Achilles, the Greek side is enormously weakened, and is getting slaughtered, prompting his closest and most dear friend Patroclus to beg Achilles, to allow him to don the great Achilles’ armor, and fight in his stead. Soldiers imagine Patroclus to be Achilles, and Patroclus inflicts great casualty, before he is found out, and killed by Hector of Troy. Achilles is mad with grief upon hearing of Patroclus’s death, and in turn not only kills Hector, but drags and dishonors his body. King Priam of Troy comes to Achilles to beg for his son’s body. Achilles is deeply moved, and not only returns Hector’s body, but halts the war for 9 days, allowing Troy to mourn Hector’s death.
Like any war, this is a classic tale, with all critical ingredients, like politics, regret, deep losses, innocent victims, and women taken as captives, against their will. Like any war, time and again, the fighters, winners and loosers alike, appeal to the higher power, for mercy, for compassion, for winning. This is one of the greatest stories ever told and Jackson Davis does a fabulous job of conveying this complex narrative. There is a point when he puts this war into larger perspective and names every single war fought and recorded in history. Wow, wow, wow! Sickened by war and the destruction it inflicts, the poet says, “Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time”.