Watching the Theban plays unfold on the IMA's lavish gardens is like watching a television epic. Instead of Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones, the chorus religiously follow The Oedipal Cycle. As super-fans, we introduce audiences to our favorite epic, highlighting key moments and occasionally stepping into frame. We walk a nebulous line between players and watchers, moving through the fourth wall like specters capable of living in both worlds.
My fellow chorus member, Zachariah Stonerock, and I are essentially rehearsed audience members. Our primary job in rehearsal for this site-specific piece is as a tool for the directors to keep the audience's presence in mind. Where do they stand? How will they move? We use our focus to cue audience focus. We speak from amongst them.
In other ways, the chorus has been left to our own devices, to discover who we are in terms of the world of the play. How do we feel about what happens in our favorite saga? Who do we like or dislike? And why?
Not until the plays found their shape beyond the script could Zach and I formulate these opinions. Now that we've finally experienced a few run-throughs, we're able to discover who we are in context of these stories. I met with Zach prior to a rehearsal at the IMA to discuss:
"It's interesting that we go through our own arc in the cycle," says Stonerock. "In the first show [Oedipus Rex], we're really distanced and detached from the action. It's most clear with Oedipus. While Oedipus is trying to get away from his fate, we disrespect him. But when he finally excepts it, he's like good ole' Grandpa Oedipus. We respect him. You can always tell when somebody's not being true to themselves."
We discuss this realization in terms of what we have created thus far. Our conversation turns to television: our entry point for understanding how modern audiences might perceive the play. While our watching habits differ, we both follow Breaking Bad, and do our best to compare the two epics. While our main character, Oedipus, doesn't run his own crystal-meth lab, he does grapple with his destiny like the central character in the AMC smash-hit.
"That character that Brian Cranston plays..." I say.
"Walter." Zach interjects.
"Yes. Walter seems like he's going against his destiny. But we see his true nature come out. It becomes obvious what his destiny really is."
"I think that's why its easy to like him," says Zach. "He had it in him the whole time. We see his transformation in the first season. We like him because he chooses to embrace his destiny."
"Even though his destiny is morally wrong?" I ask.
"Well that's in our play too," Zach answers. "Some characters have a destiny that isn't morally right. But their destiny has to occur so Oedipus' destiny becomes truth. It's an interesting philosophical question. Really, the play would argue that right and wrong doesn't matter, because you're going to do it. What you think is essentially irrelevant. Oedipus clearly didn't want to sleep with his mother, but it's going to happen. So whatever, good luck dealing with it."