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.