During this bizarre time of quarantine, Theater of War Productions presented on Thursday, May 7th, an entirely online version of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, with some well-known actors Zooming in from their home laptops while 6K viewers Zoomed in on laptops of their own to watch. I was part of that online audience. Above you see a photo of Oedipus on my computer, and to the left, a facemask I was wearing earlier in the day.
If you had told me a few months ago about this, I imagine my first question would have been, What is Zoom? But the times have pushed us into circumstances, and the ramifications of them, while all very strange, are not all terrible. It was a very compelling performance, and many points of contact with our current situation were notable: the plague, of course, with its widespread death and misery, the arrogance of the leader, the willingness of those around him to spin false narratives, and the sense of spiraling horror.
Oscar Isaac’s Oedipus is intense, by turns quick to anger, threatening, and petulant, but he is also– and here we sense a disconnect with the present– committed to finding the truth and taking responsibility for it.
From Theater of War’s description page:
The Oedipus Project is an innovative new digital initiative by Theater of War Productions that will present acclaimed actors performing scenes from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King as a catalyst for powerful, healing online conversations about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon diverse communities throughout the United States. Sophocles’ ancient play, written and performed in 429 BC during the time of a plague that killed one-third of the Athenian population, is a timeless story of arrogant leadership, ignored prophecy, and a pestilence that ravages the city of Thebes. At the time the play was first performed, the audience would have been reeling in the wake of a pestilence and its economic, political, and social aftermath. Seen through this lens Oedipus the King appears to have been a powerful public health tool for helping Athenians communalize the trauma of the plague, through a story that is as relevant now as it was in its own time.
Featuring performances by Frances McDormand, Oscar Isaac, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Frankie Faison, David Strathairn, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
TRANSLATED, DIRECTED and FACILITATED BY BRYAN DOERRIES
Presented by Theater of War Productions, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Brooklyn Public Library.
Registered audience members will receive a Zoom link prior to the event. This is a premiere zoom event for Theater of War Productions. We are convening our events online and our format remains as close to our live events as possible:
- The actors will read the play.
- Four community panelists will kick off the discussion with their gut responses to what resonated with them across time
- We will open the discussion to the audience, facilitated by Bryan Doerries. During the discussion, please raise your hand using the button at the bottom center of the screen. If called upon, you will be promoted to speak and you will be visible and heard by the entire audience for the duration of your comments. If you would prefer not to be seen, please disable your video when entering the event.
Below are some screen shots I took during the broadcast: