These Are the Men began its life in 2008 as a part of Mixed Precipitation's Minneapolis Pinter Studios. Somehow I convinced them that it would be a good idea for me to create a new piece examining the Oedipus myth using Pinter’s style. The 5 short scenes that we performed throughout the roving festival were difficult, interesting, and the spark for a number of great conversations. Then we put it to rest, where I assumed it would remain.
Then in 2011, as Laura and I were talking about what piece we might make from opposite sides of the world, she brought up These Are the Men. We eventually decided to tackle another Greek story - out of those conversations came The Ravagers. But These Are the Men remained unearthed.
We scheduled a workshop for early 2014. In preparation for our season fundraiser, we needed a scene to present, and I had to decide whether we would use the old material, or make something new. I started writing a new scene between Oedipus and Jocasta, about the day that they meet, after Oedipus has defeated the Sphinx and has been promised Jocasta's hand in marriage. And when I got to the end of the scene, I imagined them hearing their children laughing and singing somewhere just out of reach.
So. What if Jocasta had knowledge of her entire story? What would that mean about free will and fate, things that are already inherent to the story of Oedipus? Why didn't we know anything about Jocasta, other than the facts: who she married, how many children she had, how she died? What if this story was about her, from her perspective, and what if she knew all along? How might that change the story?
By the time our 2014 workshop rolled around, we had 17 performers in place to begin to answer some of these questions, but really, to ask more.
So many questions. How would time work? Would choices be possible for Jocasta? What if this was a love story? What might make her choose her life as it is? How might we explore/create the rich inner life of this woman, who we found to be as much a tragic hero as her son/husband?
I am fascinated by finding the beauty in ugliness, so it was one of my desires to find love in the darkest, most twisted corners of this story. As Laura and I have written, as Megan has helped us with structure and intentions, as the actors have begun to give life to each of these strange, lovely characters - there's even more beauty that I could have expected. Even those who seemed villains have layers, have goodness. People make mistakes and suffer for them, people are horrible to one another, but those same people care about each other, are generous, are doing the best that they can. This story in this form makes me cringe, makes me laugh, makes me swoon, brings tears to my eyes. It is difficult and scary and delightful and strange. It is full of magic.
THESE ARE THE MEN opens March 14, 2015 at The Southern Theater