The Benefits of Hindsight with The Oedipus Project
Art has always been a lens through which to perceive society. It is as much a reflection of society as society comes to reflect it.
Literature is arguably the most powerful tool at society’s disposal for making sense of a chaotic reality and creating certain expectations as to how the threads of chaos will stitch into something cohesive with a neat fourth act realisation of ultimate futility.
In times such as these, when we’re starring in an oddly biblical s***show, we need literature more than ever to allow us the fantasy that perhaps the skills we’ve acquired in our short lives will help us deal with the year 2021.
But of course, we are living in the world we are living in. And if we had ever prioritised learning our historical lessons via literature en masse, we wouldn’t be the horrific week-old breakfast cereal of sadness, anger, bigotry, horniness and toilet paper we are today.
But then perhaps we are being overly critical of ourselves.
Perhaps it’s time we test out our capacity for self-reflection through past literature via The Oedipus Project.
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, Glenn Davis, Marjolaine Goldsmith and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
The tale of Oedipus Rex concerns an ego-maniacal man driven by his own dogged desire to uncover a certain truth about a horrific crime, unaware that he was, in fact, the criminal responsible. His tragic self-immolating doom would not have occurred had he not been intelligent enough to figure out his own culpability.
In the tragic fatalism of the play, intellect and talent are imperative forces.
So turn it up! That lady from Friends with Money and that guy from The Big Lebowski are doing a Zoom gig and we’re gonna live forever!