All literature reflects. Drama is unique, however, in that the characters as presented by the actors are immediately present with us during the performance. The images we see are as real as possible since they are neither words, nor images, but living, breathing human flesh. The moment I lighted on Cassandra's first lines, I knew that I had to see the Oresteia on stage.
The story of Cassandra is one that has haunted me since I first read those excerpted lines in high school. Since then, the Trojan prophetess has been there at the boarders of my consciousness as both archetype and muse. Whenever I write, inevitably she creeps in; stealing softly through the portals of imagination to take her stand by the altar.
It didn't surprise me, then, when I took up the pencil and started drawing one night. Line followed line with unusual precision until a perfect image was formed: a girl, slight, with long dark hair, downcast eyes, wrapped in an German officer's coat and seated upon a ruined wall. The time was out of joint. She was here too, in the ashes of Hitler's Reich. I saved the picture.
I saw a series of Greek works once. Each cover had a picture of a momentous event in American history. The Iliad sported and image of a landing craft opening its door on Normandy. Oedipus Rex showed a haggard Nixon looking bleakly out at the Washington mall. The Oresteia had Douglas MacArthur riding through a ticker-tape parade. The images fit. Past and present met; history and archetype. The door was left open and something got out.
That something caught up with me on a rainy April in Oxford. For four years, I'd been badgering my poor friend who led a student theater club back in California to put on the Oresteia. After all, it was required reading in the honors department. She was interested in the project and we had the "go ahead." I took out a pencil, opened my book, and began outlining. Five months later, we had a working script.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
In this series of posts, I've found myself creating what could be called a spiritual geography; charting the landscape of my psyche with my favorite authors as a guide. Since my wife and I have finished our tour of Tolkien's completed works and started work on the Oresteia, I've decided to continue the project.
The story of the House of Atreus has appealed to me ever since I stumbled upon the references to it in Watership Down. The book opens with a quote from the Agamemnon: "Chorus: Why do you cry out as at some sight of horror? Cassandra: The hall is wet with the smell of dripping blood. Chrous: How so? 'tis but the scent of the altar of sacrifice. Cassandra: The stench of it is like the breath from a tomb. The lines struck me much the same way, I suspect, that "Balder the beautiful is dead, is dead" struck Lewis. New vistas opened up for me with sights that I only dimly understood. A few months later, we read the Odyssey, and a little of that dimness began to clear. That was during my freshman year of high school. It wasn't until college that I actually picked up a copy of the Oresteia.