‘The Theban Chronicles’ ends tonight with ‘Antigone’

Our four part series THE THEBAN CHRONICLES and the bloody history of the House of Oedipus comes to a close tonight with Sophocles’ Antigone, directed by Amy Clare Tasker, at 8pm tonight in the Cafe Royale Bar (800 Post Street). Considered one of the finest plays from the golden age of Greek drama, Antigone remains one of the most poignant and moving portraits of empathy, defiance, and justice, but seeing this play in the context of the other three – The Phoenician Women, Oedipus at Colonus, and Seven Against Thebes – the audience is able to appreciate it not just a play of ideas, but the climax of a deeply personal family drama. Antigone’s rebellion and Creon’s tyranny are all the more complex and, ultimately, human when one is able to see the progression of the relationships informed by the distinct voices of each of the three writers. We hope you join us for the final chapter.

‘Seven Against Thebes’ tonight

Join us tonight at 8pm at the Cafe Royale (800 post street) for the third installment of THE THEBAN CHRONICLES, Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes directed by Sara Judge.

In the most stylistically distinct play of the cycle – which reads more like an extended poem than a conventional drama – Eteocles and the other Thebans steel themselves for battle as Adrastus, Amphiaraus, Capaneus, Hippomedon, Parthenopeus, Tydeus, and Polyneices (yes, there you go, that’s the seven) march against the city. Aeschylus, himself a veteran of Marathon, flexes his lyrical muscles in this stirring and profound exploration of conflict and hubris, proving that, of the three tragedians, he’s probably the most likely to win a game of bloody knuckles. Aristophanes may have put it best in The Frogs when his Aeschylus, fighting in the poetry slam of his life against fellow playwright and general malcontent Euripides, claims “no one could see that play without wanting to go straight out and slay the foe.”

We hope you show a little restraint after seeing it.

SFTP Collaborators Top 60

After making a page listing all the people we have collaborated with for San Francisco Theater Pub so far, we found that we have worked with over sixty writers, directors, actors, technicians, assistants, and producers. In less than six months, we’ve collaborated with more individuals than many theater companies do in several years – and we still have not reached the largest project of our season, THE PINT SIZED PLAYS in August.

We want to take a moment to acknowledge all of the support and dedication that group has shown. And, for those of you interested in working with us, come find us after a show and talk!

– Stuart Bousel, Victor Carrion, Bennett Fisher, Brian Markley

Amy Clare Tasker on ‘Antigone’

With the final two installments of THE THEBAN CHRONICLES coming next week, we approach the two most renown plays in the cycle. Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, though largely overlooked by modern producers, was widely popular when it was written, winning first prize at the City Dionysia. But, even with all its success, the acclaim of Seven Against Thebes pales in comparison to that of the most recognizable title amongst the four plays: Antigone. Sophocles, the author of an estimated 123 plays (of which 7 survive in their complete form), was the most awarded playwright in ancient Greek history. Of the 30 competitions he participated in, historians believe he won 24 first prizes, and second prizes for the remaining 6. Antigone received such praise at the time of its writing that Sophocles was given a generalship and Aeschylus changed the ending of Seven Against Thebes so that it might lead more fluidly into Sophocles’ play. It seems fitting, therefore, that the two plays should be presented side by side on consecutive days.

In spite of its popularity, Antigone presents a distinct challenge to a director since most audiences are more familiar with Jean Anouilth’s famous anti-fascist adaptation, staged in Nazi occupied Paris in 1944 (the most commonly performed version today, but also one that takes great liberties with Sophocles’ original text). In Anouith’s story, there is more of a give-and-take between Antigone and Creon, and perhaps a murkier conclusion. Even those who believe they “know” the play may still find Tuesday’s reading beguilingly unexpected. Director Amy Clare Tasker has this to say:

“Of all four plays presented in this June’s offering of THE THEBAN CHRONICLES, Antigone is perhaps the most recognized – it is the play we have all read in school at one time or another, and we suffered through dry literary dissections of the role of government and religion in a civil society, and the chaos that ensues when man’s law transgresses the gods’ laws. I remember writing my first college essay on the nature of power and the difficulty of pinpointing a definition of the word on which Sophocles’ characters could all agree. Without diminishing the importance of this text as literature, I must confess that I laughed out loud re-reading the etymological findings of my 18-year-old self. What a drab world it would be without theater! Antigone is a compelling story, not a study. Here is this young woman, probably about age 15, who has lost everything. Her family is disgraced; her mother, father and two brothers have died in extreme circumstances. She has just returned from a year living in exile with her father while her younger sister Ismene (more of a bad-ass than we usually give her credit for) has been riding back and forth between the wanderers and the battlefields of Thebes with news for Oedipus. And when everything has finally hit the fan, Antigone has a choice to put the past behind her, marry her betrothed and become queen of Thebes.  Of all the crossroads that these Theban characters face, Antigone’s decision is perhaps the purest, strongest, most selfless, stubborn, and self-aware. Oedipus doesn’t know that Jocasta is his mother when he marries her, nor that Laius is his father when he slays him; Eteocles is a second son motivated by the shining scepter suddenly within his reach; Polyneices acts out of the entitled indignation of having lost the throne he had been groomed to inherit; Creon is a coward Ismene is too afraid to do anything at all, and all the other women simply commit suicide when the going gets too tough (sorry, did I spoil the ending?). Antigone embraces her fate with eyes wide open, knowing full well she will sacrifice her life for what she believes is right. She speaks her mind and stares down both king and executioner. (If only we had such female characters in the modern American Theater!)

I hope you’ll join the Theater Pub on Tuesday, June 29 to enjoy the final chapter of this compelling story – then stay and have a drink with us before you head back to the lecture hall.”

THE THEBAN CHRONICLES continues next week with Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, directed by Sara Judge, and Sophocles’ Antigone directed by Amy Clare Tasker, perform June 28 and 29 respectively. All shows begin at 8pm, and are free to attend.

Oedipus and Ubu

Tonight, we are pleased to present the second installment of THE THEBAN CHRONICLES, Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, directed by Maryanne Olson. In this complex, subdued, character study of a fallen hero searching for a place to rest, Sophocles, with superb subtlety and nuance, hones in on all the intricacies, contradictions, petty pride, and unspeakable offense, that make the house of Oedipus so captivatingly dysfunctional. Curtain is at 8, but we hope you will arrive early and have a beer.

Sitting in our rehearsal yesterday, I was struck by how odd it seems that the beginning of Oedipus at Colonus feels a lot like the end of our July offering at San Francisco Theater Pub, Afred Jarry’s UBU ROI.

UBU ROI incited riots when it was performed in Paris in 1896. Audiences were scandalized by Jarry’s bawdy, nihilistic lampooning of power in excess. I was midway through my translation of the play when we read Stuart’s adaptation of four plays that make up THE THEBAN CHRONICLES in his living room one weekend, and I was struck by how much Pere Ubu resembles the thuggish characters of these plays: Polyneices, who is both naive and abrasive, Eteocles, who is unabashedly currupt, and Creon, a brute using the state as a shield for his own weaknesses.

Discovering that cutting barb, the inner tragedy nestled beneath the playfulness and clownishness of Jarry’s language, has done a great deal to inform my adaptation. UBU promises to be a spirited affair – boasting a host of wonderful comic actors and deejayed by Wait What, whose mash up album The Notorious XX, has received international critical acclaim (learn more at http://www.waitwhatmusic.com/) – but what makes the play so raucous the danger of showing oppressors, of any time and era, for what they really are – foolish, haughty, bullying, and juvenile.

As we move forward with this play and the last two plays of the series, Seven Against Thebes and Antigone, it is striking to see how nobility and power diverge. The humbled Oedipus and the gentle Theseus in Oedipus at Colonus convey more majesty than the warlike Polyneices or Creon. In Seven Against Thebes, Eurydice and the chorus show true bravery in decrying the war. Finally, in Antigone, perhaps the most famous portrait of power and justice, simple decency and humanitarianism proves to be a more forceful weapon than the edicts of the state. In UBU ROI, likewise, the only character worth sticking up for (arguably) is the one who speaks the least – Bougrelas, the rightful heir to the throne, who in his first line recognizes and condemns Pere Ubu for the idiot he is.

Originally, we conceived these two projects – THE THEBAN CHRONICLES and UBU ROI – as contrasting performances: one old and one modern, one tragic and one comic, etc. The more I get into both, the more they seem like two lenses looking at the same object.

-Bennett Fisher and San Francisco Theater Pub

THE THEBAN CHRONICLES continues Monday, June 21 at the Cafe Royale (800 Post Street, San Francisco, at Leavenworth) with a reading of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, directed by Maryanne Olson. Parts III and IV, Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, directed by Sara Judge, and Sophocles’ Antigone directed by Amy Clare Tasker, perform June 28 and 29 respectively. All shows begin at 8pm, and are free to attend.

‘The Theban Chronicles’ Continues Monday with ‘Oedipus at Colonus’

This Monday, the next installment of THE THEBAN CHRONICLESOedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, directed by Maryanne Olson – picks up a year after the end of Euripides’ The Phoenician Women (Sophocles himself, of course, has his own distinct version of the legend with a few notable differences, but we’ve reconciled those inconsistencies in our adaptation). Since his banishment from Thebes by his son, Eteocles, following the suicides of his wife and mother, Jocasta, and his nephew, Menoeceus, the blind, weak, but still defiant Oedipus has wandered as an exile, guided by his daughters, Antigone and Ismene. Exhausted, he reaches The Temple of the Furies at Colonus, on the outskirts of Athens – perhaps, at long last, a place of refuge. But with civil war still looming over Thebes and Oedipus, though disgraced, a great asset to those vying for power, it is difficult to say whether he will find rest. In this uncommonly introspective tragedy, much quieter and more meditative than most of the canon, Sophocles paints a subtle and moving portrait of a fallen hero.

The cast of characters:

Oedipus (Carl Luciana) – The disgraced king of Thebes, now banished from the kingdom by his son, Eteocles. Having wandered blind, in exile for a year, he is very near the end of his life.

Antigone (Leigh Shaw) – The elder daughter of Oedipus. Having accused her brother Eteocles of cowardice and cruelty, Antigone leaves Thebes with Oedipus to act has his guide, abandoning her intended marriage to Heamon, son of Creon, and relinquishing her claim to the throne.

Ismene (Megan Biggs) – The youngest daughter of Oedipus, who has accompanied him in the first part of his exile. At some indeterminate moment, she has left her father’s side to live in Polyneices’ camp with the Argive army.

Theseus (Charles Lewis III) – King of Athens, the most powerful city-state in Greece. Theseus is a model of chivalry, piety, and graciousness, quite unlike the rulers of Thebes.

Priestess (Jessica Rudholm) – Caretaker of the Temple of the Furies at Colonus and suppliant to the gods.

Creon (Dimas Guardado) – Brother in-law to Oedipus. Creon has great political sway in Thebes, and with the civil war between Oedipus’ sons, Eteocles and Polyneices, sees an opportunity to install himself as king. He resents Oedipus for the deaths of his son and his sister, but understands his potential as an ally.

Polyneices (Bennett Fisher) – The elder son of Oedipus, an exile seeking to supplant his brother, Eteocles, and install himself on the throne of Thebes. Having delayed the invasion a year on account of the deaths of Menoeceus and Jocasta, Polyneices musters his forces once more to march on Thebes.

The Captain (Vince Faso) – An officer in the Theban armies, assisting Creon in his expedition to Athens.

The People of Colonus (Katarina Rose Fabic, Xanadu Bruggers, Danielle Doyle) – Attendants at the Temple of the Furies, they serve as the play’s chorus.

Who lives? Who dies? Who suffers the worst? Who makes it out ok, all things considered? Come Monday night to find out.

THE THEBAN CHRONICLES continues with Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus directed by Maryanne Olson on Monday, June 21 at the Cafe Royale (Post and Leavenworth, San Francisco). 8pm show, admission is free.

Director Sara Judge on ‘Seven Against Thebes’

Of all the plays in THE THEBAN CHRONICLES, adapting Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus proved to be the most difficult. The play’s lyricism and formality makes it more similar to an epic poem than a dramatic tragedy, presenting both a beguiling and demanding challenge for any director. Yet, there is something at the core of Aeschylus’ work, in its commentary about war, ambition, and gender, that resonates as undeniably immediate, in the same way that the language is wonderfully classic. Director Sara Judge had this to offer:

“Taking on the task of directing the staged reading of Seven Against Thebes was a welcomed yet unlikely project for me. I’ve felt most comfortable as a director staging new works with modern language by living writers. However, the challenge and initial uncertainty of being able to envision a compelling reading for this ancient tragedy quickly transgressed into an unexpected and fascinating journey.

It’s difficult to talk about Greek tragedy without getting political.  So much has stayed the same—politics, family and the internal struggles behind the scenes. I thought, in all seriousness, about the possible struggles between George W. and Jeb Bush.  Why wasn’t there more evidence of in-fighting there? Polynices and Eteocles fought brother against brother. Maybe kings have learned how to stay in power. Share with your brother and you both enjoy the spoils of the crown. Battle your brother and risk losing everything.

What fascinates me most about Seven is the role of women in the play. Though rarely in the forefront of our minds, the status of women has been elevated since the times of ancient Greece. Just the fact that I’m writing to you from this platform right now, and I’m free to leave the house for non-religious events tells its own epic story. In fact many critics of the time disapproved of any significant roles for female characters in Greek theater. In my research I found that even, “Plato complains of the dangers of the theatrical impersonation of social inferiors such as women and slaves and of feminine emotions.” What were they so afraid of?

Female characters remained essential in telling these ancient androcentric stories. Female characters allow the audience to more clearly examine the behavior and motives of male characters.  In Seven Against Thebes, the warnings and emotional cries of female voices (the Chorus and Eurydice) create tension by exposing fear and revealing the nature of irrationality inherent in all people. Only women could provoke such investigation into the tenderest parts of humanity. After all, in these ancient times, where women are reproached and sent back into the home for criticizing the war, men very likely would have been killed for treason.

Eteocles’ interplay with the women sheds light on the complexities of his own emotional state and the inner battles he’s fighting in the midst of his greatest ambition—risking death and the destruction of his city to retain the power of the crown. He cries out in frustration, “Where womankind has power, no man can house. Where womankind feeds panic, ruin rules alike in house and city.”  Eteocles denounces “womankind” along with his own fears by rationalizing, “with plans prepared,” in order to move into battle and meet his fate.

Eteocles’ failed attempts at quieting the wailing Theban women and escaping his fate is reminiscent of a game of groundhog at a carnival. There is comedy within tragedy and teetering on that thin line between, humanity is most earnestly revealed. My journey with Seven has led me here.”

THE THEBAN CHRONICLES continues Monday, June 21 at the Cafe Royale (800 Post Street, San Francisco, at Leavenworth) with a reading of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, directed by Maryanne Olson. Parts III and IV, Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, directed by Sara Judge, and Sophocles’ Antigone directed by Amy Clare Tasker, perform June 28 and 29 respectively. All shows begin at 8pm, and are free to attend.

Writers and Directors Announced for ‘Pint Sized Plays’

The results are in. After considering a massive amount of wonderful scripts submitted to us from Bay Area writers, we have finalized our selections for THE PINT SIZED PLAYS in August. The evening of plays will run for three performances on three consecutive Mondays, August 16, 23, and 30. The plays range from the short to the very short, showcase a range of styles and genres, but one thing remains constant throughout: beer.



written by Elena McKernan, directed by Meg O’Connor


written by Bennett Fisher, directed by Alex Curtis


written by Stuart Bousel, directed by Julia Heitner


written by Jeremy Cole, directed by Claire Anne Rice


written by Molly Benson & Karen Offereins, directed by M. R. Fall


written by Marissa Skudlarek, directed by Sara Staley


written and directed by Megan Cohen


written by Victor Carrion, directed by Paul Cello


written and directed by Ashley Cowan

The Theban Chronicles Begins Tomorrow with The Phoenician Women

We are just a day away from the the start of our four part serial, THE THEBAN CHRONICLES – Theater Pub’s largest project to date. Part One, Euripides’ The Phoenician Women, picks up a year after the events of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Jocasta (still alive in Euripides’ version of the myth), laments the tragedy of her family’s past and future as her two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, ready their armies to fight for control of Thebes. In keeping with the tone of moral ambiguity that separates Euripides from the other two tragedians, more questions are raised than answers are given. Is treachery every justified? Should all promises be kept? Is the life of a family member worth more than the fate of a city? And, perhaps most importantly, is fate or human weakness that perpetuates suffering? In this wonderfully lyrical and often overlooked play by a master of tragedy, we see these existential questions interwoven with a powerful family drama.

Last week, we featured a short segment on the story so far. In preparation for this play, we are going to introduce you to the key players in the first part of the story:

Oedipus (Carl Luciana) – The disgraced king of Thebes. Having blinded himself after learning that he has killed his father and married his mother, Oedipus now lives as a self-imposed prisoner in the royal palace, cursing himself, his family, and especially his two sons, Eteocles and Polyneices.

Jocasta (Stacy Sanders) – Wife and mother of Oedipus, and former queen of Thebes. Shamed by the revelation that she has married her son, Jocasta now lives in mourning in the palace. Now that her sons are on the brink of war, Jocasta, though disgraced, is perhaps the one character capable of brokering a truce.

Polyneices (Bennett Fisher) – The elder son of Oedipus, Polyneices went into voluntary exile so as to share the throne with his brother, Eteocles. After a year passed and Eteocles refused to give up the throne, Polyneices married into the royal family of Argos and has levied an army against his former homeland, demanding his brother’s capitulation.

Eteocles (Stuart Bousel) – The younger son of Oedipus. Eteocles took the throne when Oedipus was disgraced, agreeing to step down after a years time and go into voluntary exile, after his brother Polyneices returned to rule. After a year, Eteocles has refused to share power, provoking the civil war that now threatens to engulf Thebes. Shares his father, and his brother’s, famous short temper.

Antigone (Leigh Shaw) – The elder daughter of Oedipus, though younger than both of her brothers. She shares her brother’s fiery temper, but not their propensity for breaking oaths, but has been largely removed from the family intrigue.

Ismene (Megan Biggs) – The youngest daughter of Oedipus. Milder and more innocent than her sister, Antigone, she too has largely been sheltered from the families tragedy due to her young age.

Creon (Dimas Guardado) – Brother to Jocasta, and member of the original ruling family of Thebes before the arrival of Oedipus. Creon has great political sway in Thebes, and has largely sided with the ruling brother, Eteocles. Prudent though opportunistic, Creon has simultaneously tried to distance himself of the stigma surrounding his sister’s family while taking steps to increase his power and influence.

Eurydice (Rena Webber) – Wife to Creon, and mother of Heamon and Menoeceus. More cautious than her husband, she seems acutely aware of how dangerous trying to profit from the political turmoil can be.

Haemon (Sunil Patel) – Elder son of Creon and Eurydice. Mild-mannered and largely deferential to his father, Creon.

Menoeceus (Ricky Saenz) – The youngest son of Creon and Eurydice. Named for his grandfather, king of Thebes before Laius (Oedipus’ father and Jocasta’s first husband) and Oedipus. Admirably moral and selfless, somewhat unlike his father.

Tiresias (Jay Smith) – A powerful seer, blessed and cursed with the ability to see the future. Somewhat of a social pariah after revealing the true parentage of Oedipus, Tiresias nevertheless continues to hold considerable influence in the city. His prophecies, while always true, are rarely welcome. Wary of the temper of Oedipus and his family, he is often hesitant to share his insight, for fear or repercussions.

The Captain (Vince Faso) – An officer in the Theban armies, serving under Eteocles.

The Phoenician Women (Rosie Hallett, Nirmala Nataraj, Addie Ulrey) – Would be attendants to the Oracle of Delphi, waylaid in Thebes because of the looming civil war. They serve as the play’s chorus.

Who lives? Who dies? Who suffers the worst? Who makes it out ok, all things considered? Come Tuesday night to find out.

THE THEBAN CHRONICLES opens with Euripides’ The Phoenician Women directed by Meg O’Connor on June 15 at the Cafe Royale (Post and Leavenworth, San Francisco). 8pm show, admission is free.

San Francisco Theater Pub in Theater Bay Area Magazine

Heard of San Francisco Theater Pub? Well, yes, probably if you’re visiting our site. But now Theater Bay Area has. The June 2010 issue of the Theater Bay Magazine features a short article on the Publicans on p. 16 with some delightful quotes from co-founder Stuart Bousel about our mission, our past projects, and our future. It’s nice to see that even though we are not yet half a year old, San Francisco Theater Pub’s presence is starting to be felt in the local theater community. Check it out.