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.

Meg O’Connor on ‘The Phoenician Women’

In preparation for her reading of The Phoenician Women, we asked director Meg O’Connor to share some thoughts with us about what drew her to Euripides and to the play. In an email, O’Connor called Euripides a “dream boat” saying he “voice to ancient Greek women, he’s imaginative, he is relevant.” She also had this to say:

“I love that Euripides is always surprising. In his work you find these deeply sincere, heart-breaking, and human scenes. In the case of Phoenician Women, the audience is presented with a mother who wants nothing more than for her family to piece back together, quarreling brothers fighting for power, a father who must decide whether to protect his country, or his son. It is a play about a dysfunctional family, and while we may not relate to all aspects of the play (incest, war, ancient curses), we can surely relate to a brother’s jealousy, a patriot’s pride, or a parent’s love.

I love how Euripides’ does not make it easy for the audience. There is no clear winner or loser in The Phoenician Women. Instead, we are presented with questions. Does Polyneices deserve the crown? Is Eteocles stubborn or protecting his country? Where should Creon’s allegiance lie, to his country or his family? Is he a coward, no matter what decision he makes?

Euripides has distinguished himself from the other two tragedians by writing strong, clever female characters, which is part of what attracts me to this play. Jocasta is sharp. She has been to Hell and back, lost face in front of her country, and yet she can still act with grace and intelligence. Antigone and Ismene refuse to abandon their father, holding their ground. Unlike the male characters, they cannot easily cast off a family member, in spite of how unseemly his past may be. And then we have the Phoenician Women, stuck in war-torn Thebes on their way to Delphi, observing this family, offering their wisdom, and feeling their misery.

Finally, I love Euripides for his imagination. At the end of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Jocasta takes her life after she discovers the truth, but Euripides asks us to imagine what would happen if she tried to make it work, if she tried to repair the damage? He gives Jocasta a second chance, but she still meets the same end, forcing us to examine how much tragedy a person can endure.”

Meg O’Connor has recently directed in the BOA festival, as well as the Hidden Classics Reading Series with Cutting Ball Theater. She is a proud member of the Inkblot Ensemble, where her play All’s Fair (co-written with Jess Thomas) premiered with the last summer. Meg serves as the Literary Manager for Cutting Ball Theater and the Administrative Director for the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco, and will be producing San Francisco Theater Pub’s Pint Sized Plays Festival in August.

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.

The Theban Chronicles: The Story So Far

In preparation for our four part serial THE THEBAN CHRONICLES, we thought it would be helpful for our audience to have some context for the myth. It is important to know, first of, that there is no definite version of the story. Each of the three writers whose plays we use in the series, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and undoubtedly all of the other Greek playwrights’ whose work has been lost, have slightly different takes on what happens when, which characters are present, and even who lives and dies. At the end of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, for example, Jocasta commits suicide, but at the beginning of Euripides’ Phoenician Women (the start of our serial) she is alive and (at least physically) well, and an entire year has gone by since the horrifying revelation. In preparing the serial, we’ve had to reconcile some of these differences between the writers and arrive at a sort of compromise.

That having been said, here’s what you need to know:

The chain of events that reaches its horrifying conclusion in THE THEBAN CHRONICLES begins when Laius, king of Thebes, consults the Oracle of Delphi after being unable to father a child with his wife Jocasta. The Oracle tells Laius that, were he to have a son, the son would kill him and marry Jocasta. In spite of the Oracle’s warning, Laius sires a son by Jocasta. Wary of the prophecy, Laius pins the infant’s ankles together so it cannot crawl, giving it the name Oedipus (“swollen footed”). This done, Laius gives the child to a servant to abandon on a nearby mountain, where it will die of exposure.

The servant cannot bear to kill the child, and instead gives the infant Oedipus to a shepherd from Corinth. The shepherd brings the baby to the court of Polybus, the king of Corinth. Taking pity on Oedipus, the Corinthian royal family adopts him as one of their own, and raises him as a prince.

When Oedipus is an adult, Polybus reveals to him, while drunk, that he is not his real father. When Oedipus asks Polybus again, the king (this time sober) denies it. Oedipus heads to the Oracle of Delphi to learn the truth, and though the Oracle does not reveal who his parents are, she tells him that he will one day kill his father and marry his mother. Worried by the prophecy, Oedipus decides not to return to Corinth and instead heads to Thebes.

On the way to Thebes, Oedipus comes to a crossroad at Davlia where he meets a man driving a chariot. Oedipus and the man get into an argument over who has the right to pass first. The man attacks Oedipus, and Oedipus kills him in self defense. Unbeknownst to Oedipus, this man is his father, Laius, and he has just fulfilled the first part of the prophecy.

Further on down the road to Thebes, Oedipus encounters a monster, the Sphinx, who has been plaguing the city by eating travelers unless they can solve the answer to a riddle – “What walks on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three at night?” Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx  by answering “man” (who crawls as a baby, walks upright as an adult, and uses a cane when old), whereupon the Sphinx kills itself, freeing the city. Hailed as a hero upon entering Thebes, Oedipus is married to the widowed queen, Joscata, and becomes the new king. With Oedipus, Jocasta gives birth to four children – two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene. Oedipus reigns contently for several years, unaware that he has fulfilled the prophecy.

After many years of calm, a plague of infertility strikes Thebes. Concerned for the future of the city, Oedipus sends his brother in-law, Creon, to the Oracle at Delphi to ask for guidance. The Oracle advises that the family consult the seer, Tiresias, to learn the source of the plague.

Oedipus summons Tiresias to Thebes. Tiresias says the plague can only be lifted if the murderer of the last king, Laius, is killed or exiled. Oedipus demands that Tiresias reveal the identity of the killer, but Tiresias refuses. Oedipus presses the seer, until Tiresias, provoked, reveals that Oedipus is the murderer. Oedipus is enraged, convinced that Creon is working in collusion with Tiresias to gain the throne, but as other messengers arrive bearing news pertaining to Oedipus’ past, and Jocasta relates the story of her husbands death, the full truth is revealed. Horrified that he has fulfilled the prophecy by killing his father and marrying his mother, Oedipus is driven nearly insane. He gouges out his eyes and retreats into the royal palace, cursing his family and the city.

With Oedipus no longer fit to govern as king, a power vacuum is created. His sons, Polynices and Etoecles, are wary of the curse their father placed on them – that they would not be able to share rule in Thebes without bloodshed – and Creon, having been passed over once before, now sees an opportunity to reinstall his family on the throne. To escape their father’s curse, Polynices and Eteocles agree to share governance of Thebes, alternating every year with one of the brothers ruling as king and another living in exile. Creon, in turn, sets in motion plans to arrange a marriage between his son, Haemon, and Antigone, the older daughter of Oedipus.

A year passes following the revelation of Oedipus’ disgrace. The curse still hangs upon the city. Oedipus, blind and deranged, wanders the palace, unable to rule but also unable to bring himself to leave. Though a year has passed, Eteocles refuses to give up throne to his brother as promised, and, in response, Polynices marries into the royal family of Argos and raises an army to march on Thebes. Jocasta and her daughters Antigone and Ismene, Creon, his wife Eurydice, and sons, Heamon and Menoceus, Tiresias the seer, and the rest of the city now brace themselves for civil war.

This is the world were The Phoenician Women begins. And the worst is still to come…

-Bennett Fisher and The San Francisco Theater Pub

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

Check back on the site soon for a description of the characters and more exciting announcements from San Francisco Theater Pub