February 16, 2015, 7:30 pm
Cherry Lane Theatre • 38 Commerce Street
Translated by Anne Carson
Directed by Ted Pappas
with Olympia Dukakis, Laila Robins, Robert Cuccioli, Clifton Duncan, Gina Daniels, Phillippe Bowgen, Catherine Gowl, Lara Hillier, January LaVoy, Deanne Lorette, Bhavesh Patel, Jean Tafler, Edward James Hyland
Can you control your love when the Gods are involved? Phaedra’s overwhelming passion for her stepson is brought to vibrant life in a new translation by contemporary poet Anne Carson.
This is the tale of a married woman stirred by her passion for a younger man, but with the epic Greek twists of forbidden desire and divine vengeance. One of Euripides' most admired plays, it is a masterpiece of tension, pathos, and dramatic power.
The OBIE Award-Winning Revelation Readings series provides a unique opportunity to hear new and rarely-produced classic plays performed by many of the finest actors in New York.
ABOUT THE PLAY
“The face as the extreme precariousness of the other…” Emmanuel Levinas, Basic Philosophical Writings
The Hippolytos is like Venice. A system of reflections, distorted reflections, reflections that go awry. A system of corridors where people follow one another but never meet, never find the way out. There is no way out, all corridors lead back into the system. Hippolytos wants to be like Artemis, but even in death he is not allowed to see her face. Phaidra wants to be like Hippolytos, but she has not a single conversation with him in the course of the play. What might such a conversation have changed? What does the face matter? Both Hippolytos and Phaidra systematically avoid certain kinds of precariousness. If you asked Hippolytos to name his system he would say “shame”. Oddly, if you asked Phaidra to name her system she would also say “shame”. They do not mean the same thing by this word. Or perhaps they do. Too bad they never talk.
Aidos (“shame”) is a vast word in Greek. Its lexical equivalents include “awe, reverence, self-respect, shamefastness, sense of honor, sobriety, moderation, regard for others, regard for the helpless, compassion, shyness, coyness, scandal, dignity, majesty, Majesty.” Shame vibrates with honor and also with disgrace, with what is chaste and with what is exotic, with coldness and also with blushing. Shame is felt before the eyes of others and also in facing oneself. To Phaidra most of all, shame is a split emotion. She calls it pleasure then divides it into two kinds: one good, one bad. Scholars disagree on what she means by this distinction but it is clear she believes shame of the bad kind can ruin her and that she must nullify it at any cost. For Hippolytos shame is simple. He personifies Shame as the goddess who guards his private meadow of virtue and celebrates her in his opening hymn to Artemis. Shame is a system of exclusions and purity that subtends Hippolytos’ religion.
- Anne Carson (excerpted from her preface to Hippolytos)
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS
EURIPIDES, last of Athens’ three great tragic dramatists following Aeschylus and Sophocles, was born about 480 B.C. He presented his first tragedies at the Great Dionysia in 455 B.C., but did not win his first victory until 441. This lack of recognition may have been due to the fact that Euripides did not cater to the fancies of the Athenian crowd. He was a pacifist, a free thinker, and a humanitarian in an age when such qualities were increasingly overshadowed by intolerance and violence. Perhaps that is why he chose to live much of his life alone in a cave on the island of Salamis. Despite this, 92 plays have survived intact, more than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles together, partly due to mere chance and partly because his popularity grew as theirs declined. He became, in the Hellenistic Age, a cornerstone of ancient literary education, along with Homer, Demosthenes and Menander.
Forcing his characters to confront personal issues, not just questions of State, many consider Euripides the forerunner of the modern psychological dramatist. In Hippolytus and The Bacchae, he explores the psyche of men attempting to contain their sexual impulses. In Medea, it is the frenzied jealousy of a woman who has lost the interest of her middle-aged husband. Even his traditional nobles such as Agamemnon and Menelaus were anti-heroic, as if he wanted to show the Athenians what their beloved military heroes were really like. A few of his dramas, such as Helena, come surprisingly close to being comedies of character. Even in The Bacchae, he mixes comedy with the tragic form as Dionysus coaxes Pentheus into women's garments. By dissolving the rigid structure of tragedy, Euripides opened the door for new forms of drama.
ANNE CARSON is a poet, essayist, translator, playwright, and classicist. With her background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art, Carson blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. She frequently references, modernizes, and translates Greek mythology. She has published more than a dozen books, all of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translation, dramatic dialogue, fiction, and non-fiction.
Anne Carson’s translation of Sophokles’ Antigone will premiere later this month at Théâtre National du Luxembourg, in collaboration with the Barbican in London, starring Juliette Binoche and directed by Ivo van Hove; the production will go on to tour London, Paris, and New York. Anne’s adaptation of The Bakkhai, directed by James Macdonald and starring Ben Wishaw, is set to premiere this July at the Almeida Theatre in London. Anne is also currently collaborating with Simon McBurney on the cult classic Autobiography of Red. Classic Stage Company produced three of Carson's translations: Aeschylus' Agamemnon; Sophocles' Electra; and Euripides' Orestes (as An Oresteia), in repertory, as part of their 2008/2009 season.
Works include: Red Doc; Antigonick; Nox; If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (translation); The Beauty of The Husband; Men in the Off Hours; Economy of the Unlost; Autobiography of Red; Plainwater: Essays and Poetry; Glass, Irony and God; Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay; Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera; Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides (translation).
Carson is a MacArthur Fellow; she has received the Lannan Prize, the T.S Eliot Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and was an Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, Fall 2007.