Greek Chic: Adapter Stuart Bousel Discusses ‘The Theban Chronicles’

So the question is, why the Oedipus plays at Theater Pub? Why, when the objective of a theater company in a bar is to be informal and entertaining, would you choose to do something both incredibly ancient and perhaps not immediately accessible to the beer and pretzel crowd?

Well, for starters, it’s important to always remember that Greek Theater and drinking basically go hand in hand and have for thousands of years: the drama was born in a festival atmosphere, as much a part of the worship of the god of drinking as it was the god of poetry, an attempt to marry the Dionysian and the Apollonian elements of our nature. Therefore a bar might in fact be the most appropriate setting for a Greek tragedy, if it is for any kind of theater at all. Secondly, when we first sat around discussing the prospect of a Theater Pub, one of the earliest suggestions from our hosts at Café Royale was to do some kind of serialized theater piece- something that would move from episode to episode, like a soap opera, building on itself progressively. The Greeks, with their love of family drama, political intrigue and scandal, life or death plot lines and obsessive, passionate heroes, were a natural place to look for long-form material, and the Oedipus saga, one of the few myths that every extant Greek writer felt a need to weigh in on, was an obvious fit when it came to picking a story both familiar and mysterious all at once.

It’s total speculation why we never get bored of this legend, but Freudian symbolism aside, I personally found, in the course of adapting four interwoven but still disparate classic plays – The Phoenician Women by Euripides, Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus, and Antigone by Sophocles – into one long story, that the world of Oedipus, Creon, Antigone and Ismene is a haunting one that easily captures the imagination. All the elements of a good story are there: the shining and cosmopolitan city in the midst of a rambling, wild countryside with a history of ferocious creatures roaming the hills and gods walking amongst men; an exiled prince leading a band of mercenaries on a five year deathmarch against his own homeland; the sister princesses traveling by horseback and foot from one kingdom to the next seeking asylum and intervention from virtuous kings, corrupt aristocrats and dispassionate prophets. Seen as a collective whole- The Legend of Thebes- and not just in its individual parts- Oedipus Rex or Antigone for instance- the saga really has more in common with Lord of the Rings than it does with “Days of Our Lives” and yet both find their roots in this ancient drama. One is a story of a society plunged into peril by destiny and one or two bad decisions; the other is a tale of squabbling families connected by romantic and political ties that only intensify as the various members attempt to escape; the Theban Chronicles, as I’ve taken to calling our epic soap opera, is both.

THE THEBAN CHRONCILES is a four part event opening June 15. All shows are performed at Cafe Royale on Post and Leavenworth in San Francisco. Admission is free.

Part I: The Phoenician Women by Euripides, directed by Meg O’Connor: June 15 at 8PM
Part II: Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, directed by Maryanne Olson: June 21 at 8PM
Part III: Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus, directed by Sara Judge: June 28 at 8PM
Part IV: Antigone by Sophocles, directed by Amy Clare Tasker: June 29 at 8PM

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