Oedipus Rex XX/YY
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Mark Greenfield
January 31, 2013
What is your job on this show?
What is your show about?
It is OEDIPUS REX performed exactly as Sophocles intended -- only this time the role of Oedipus is being played by a woman.
What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I like to work on ensemble-based shows with large talented casts and design teams who take the work beyond my initial vision; shows where “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” I like to work on shows that get the audience’s blood racing; shows that manage to be both meaningful and entertaining. It is important, however, that in presenting “meaningful theatre” one goes beyond two-dimensional didactic truths that could just as easily be read in a pamphlet. There has to be something to a piece of theatre that words alone cannot describe.
Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this winter that...?
…...does Greek theatre “exactly” as Sophocles intended…sort of. It’s OEDIPUS THE KING with an all-male cast, vibrant masks, bouzoukis and drums, platform shoes, and highly stylized and specifically orchestrated approach to text and movement. Only now, Faux-Real has a woman playing the role of Oedipus.
Is there a particular moment in this show that you really love or look forward to? Without giving away surprises, what happens in that moment and why does it jazz you?
I look forward to the moment when the audience realizes that they have permission to laugh, even though this is a tragedy. This usually happens at the point when Tiresias enters. Without giving anything away, let’s just say Faux-Real’s Tiresias is different than what audiences have come to expect from more somber productions of OEDIPUS. Tragedy does not mean “every moment must be solemn and grim and filled with grievous gravitas.” The standard difference between comedy and tragedy is that at the end of one, the hero is rewarded, and at the end of the other, the hero is punished. But up until that ending, tragedies and comedies ought to have moments of both pathos and humor.
Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
Toss up between SMART & SURPRISING. The show is smart enough to have a sense of humor about itself, and surprising in that what the Greeks were doing on stage 2441 years ago would be considered radical by today’s standards.
How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
In the theatre that I “see”, I am not so concerned with diversity. People ought to create the theatre that they want to create. In the theatre that I “make” I am very concerned with diversity, because I believe casts that are diverse in age, ethnicity and gender, tend to create more expansive productions. The role of gender in casting is definitely something Faux-Real is playing with in our all-male production (which stars a woman). When Faux-Real initially began to develop OEDIPUS REX as an outdoor workshop production in 2010 we did the show with an all-male cast. The aim was to see the effect that having a man play Jocasta would have on the text and how this would contrast with the modern Freudian interpretation of the play. A musician friend whom I tried to enlist to play in the show refused to participate, because he felt that doing an all-male production in a society where casting opportunities are so biased towards men, was a poor choice. I told him that I was experimenting with the Greek aesthetic of mono-gendered theatre, and that I would be delighted to reverse the experiment. Next year, Faux-Real performed Aeschylus’ SEVEN AGAINST THEBES with a cast of all women. The response to both shows was extremely positive, and there is definitely a power within the mono-gendered aesthetic. It highlight’s the character’s as elements of the human psyche. The all-women cast of SEVEN AGAINST THEBES also helped to flesh out feminist aspects within Aeschylus’ ancient play. In 2012 Faux-Real did a co-ed production of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS as a part of SummerStage NY. There is definitely something to be said for co-ed as well. There was a palpable playfulness in the co-ed production. In the process of doing these shows, I met an actress who was perfect for the role of Oedipus. The company members became taken by the idea of reworking OEDIPUS, this time with an all-male cast spearheaded by a woman. The idea is to see what happens when this proto-male of a character is played by a woman in a world of all men. Again, we are taking a different approach, but with the similar aim of going beyond the Freudian notions of “boy loves Mom,” re-examining Oedipus with modern eyes (pun intended), to shed new light on this classic tale of the dark urges lurking inside of us all.