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Remaking the chorus: Charles Mee Jr's Orestes 2.0.

If, as playwright and historian Charles Mee Jr. suggests, a Greek tragic structure is like a Rolls Royce, then what function does the chorus serve? Is it, as it was for Aeschylus, the engine that runs the machine? Or is it instead more like the rearview mirror: we occasionally check it out to see what is behind us, but it does nothing to help propel us forward. The song and dance of the choral mode was a marker of the best of civilization for Plato, modeled by the gods and used by the elite of Athens to educate, integrate, and propagate their cultural myths and mores. Helen Bacon claims that "Greek audiences would have experienced the choruses of Greek drama as a natural and necessary form of human interaction which they had witnessed and participated in since childhood, a social reality, rather than the artificial artistic convention they seem to us." (1) Nonetheless, contemporary adaptors and directors continually stage the chorus, sometimes by approximating some semblance of movement, song, and chant based on fragmentary knowledge of ancient Athenian staging, music, and dramaturgy; and other rimes making the choruses smaller or even into distinct characters, decidedly more contemporary and conversational than ancient and choral in the sense we imagine they were in the fifth century BCE. (2) In many ways, this insistence on using a chorus is ironic, as its effect in contemporary production is often probably the opposite that it likely had in the Athenian context: instead of enhancing an event "by giving it context and meaning in terms of traditional values so that it can be understood and become a permanent possession of the society," (3) it distances many contemporary spectators from the dramatic event by making it more difficult to comprehend and contextualize.

Mee's play Orestes 2.0 contains his most radical refiguring of a chorus, divided among nurses and war victims, individuated but not "characters," as they serve as mouthpieces for different voices taken from popular and scholarly texts ranging from Soap Opera Digest to Elaine Scarry. (4) Mee sees his own theatrical project as a way to express the social nature of human existence. He purposefully problematizes the characters and narratives in his texts in order to emphasize that we are "social creatures--that we are the product not just of psychology, but also of history and culture, that we often express our histories and cultures in ways even we are not conscious of,-that the culture speaks through us, grabs us and throws us to the ground, cries out, silences us." (5) For Mee, all of the texts he uses to inspire his plays are "historical documents ... evidence of who and how we are and what we do." (6) Mee discusses the social basis of the theater and the cultural aspects of originality in his own theatrical texts in ways that make him think of his own project as similar to that of the Greek tragedians. In his Orestes 2.0, Mee does very little to change the structure of Euripides' play. In fact, the episodes with the main characters are in many cases almost identical in both form and content to Euripides' play. Ina Jamesonian-like pastiche, Mee expresses a critique of a structure and a culture while also speaking in the "dead language" of that very structure. The most significant changes take place in Mee's remakings of the public aspects of the work: the choral interludes and the trial scene.

Mee's stress on the choral interludes speaks directly to his interest in the social aspects of the plays. However, he does not create a chorus out of a single large group of characters, but rather of different kinds of characters with different voices. There are female nurses and male patients, and even within those groupings there are significant separations. This is primarily because Mee's choral figures speak the found text of contemporary culture, which is fragmented in such a way as to make each choral voice both distinct and difficult to identify. Because Mee stays so close to Euripides' narrative and dramatic structure, his choral odes also maintain an analogous relation to the Greek playwright's chorus as a representation of the larger society in and around the personal or familial drama of the main characters. Structurally, Mee uses this style in his other remakings of Greek texts as well, although the choruses in his other plays tend to be closer to the Athenian chorus than the fragmented chorus of Orestes 2.0. (7) Like Euripides, Mee uses the basic dramatic structure of an extant narrative; but by changing the role that the larger society plays in the story by making it more contemporary he changes the possibilities of the narrative. Euripides made the society around Orestes into one that already had democratic features and laws for dealing with murderers, unlike earlier versions of the narrative, especially Aeschylus's influential Oresteia. The society in which Orestes finds himself is very much like Euripides' own Athenian society in its laws and mores. According to William Arrowsmith, in his introduction to his translation of Orestes, this typically Euripidean anachronism functions to "uproot a myth from the cultural context of a remote and different time and intrudes it forcibly into a contemporary world, thereby altering its motives, its characters, and its meaning. By doing so, he effectively contrasts the ideal with the operative values of his own society." (8) Arrowsmith assumes that Euripides was using the mythical example or the precedent narrative as an ideal; in Orestes the mythical model is made as problematic as the more contemporary, and it seems that, if anything, the anachronism makes spectators more aware of the negative aspects of that mythical culture. Euripides was not only criticizing his own culture by comparing it to an older, "better" culture, but he was also criticizing the exemplary status of that culture and showing how it was not that different from his (and our) own. (9) Mee emulates Euripides again here by subverting the possibility of an idealized past culture entirely. His remaking of the chorus is central to this, since the chorus in ancient Athens served to provide a sort of historical and political context that would help the spectators understand both the story being performed and its significance to their present moment. By splitting the chorus into a series of fragmented individual voices, Mee's chorus does not help to achieve "the coherence that unites the Athenian audience, and all subsequent audiences, in assimilating the many-sided implications of the event and integrating them into their experience." (10) Instead, his choral choices reflect the uncertainty of a culture that struggles to find models for behavior.

Mee makes the story feel even more fragmented than Euripides, whose own narrative jumps quickly from scene to scene and has several severe and sudden plot and character shifts--especially in the behavior of Orestes--not present in Aeschylus's more unified telling of the Orestes story. Euripides' Orestes incorporates a level of intertextuality and allusiveness not seen in other Greek tragedies. As Froma Zeitlin points out, the play's text provides such an abundance of references to other contemporary literature and art that the culture itself seems to be a literary construction, a "reservoir of resonances" unable to see itself beyond its own mythology. (11) Mee uses similar techniques, but his references and interruptions, while also of a fragmentary nature, are not purely literary, since they cover a broader cultural horizon that includes the more contemporary arenas of pop culture and media.

Orestes 2.0 is set in the ruined, decaying city of Argos six days after the murder of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, still in political chaos and filled with "thrilling sounds of bombs, rockets, whistle flares, and other explosions and sonic marvels [that] make the theater rock and shudder." (12) Even the "palatial" royal estate provides evidence of some sort of corruption or construction, as "the lawn is ruined, with dug up sections of dirt and water." (13) Mee sets his play outside the house of Argos, just as Euripides does. However, Mee initially complicates the setting by recognizing that "the setting is both inside and out." (14) Rather than describe Orestes in blankets outside the door, as Euripides does, Mee places Orestes both outside the palace but also "inside" a sort of guerrilla mental ward, complete with hospital beds, three nurses, and other patients. This mental ward is enclosed with "yellow police-line tape" (15) and also includes a morgue slab with a female body on it. Furthermore, Electra sits at a table and smokes as if being interviewed by "a jury or ... homicide detectives." (16) This multitude of images and sounds creates a theatrical space that is many things: it is both outside and in, a war zone and a place of recovery, a crime scene and an interrogation room, a morgue anda sanctuary for a killer. It is also both like a Greek theatrical facade, set in front of a building, and unlike it because of the cacophony of bodies and set pieces. (17) Mee's initial stage picture suggests that what was before told to us will now be shown to us, that what was once hidden might now be played in the open. However, Mee follows Euripides (and most of the extant tragedies) in keeping most of the violence offstage, and only the trial scene is moved from an offstage to onstage event. By creating a collage of spaces in one theatrical space that has variant and sometimes contradictory possibilities, Mee creates a space analogous to his own interests in limiting the distinctions between the spaces, a distinction that often has great import in Greek tragedies. The distinction between the outside and the inside, between the social and psychological, is purposefully blurred by this visual architecture, especially the "outside" asylum, which manifests Mee's initial attempts to externalize the psychological and connect it explicitly with the social, where he thinks it belongs anyway.

The first interruption of the Euripidean narrative in Mee's remaking occurs during the scene between Electra and Helen, and involves two characters, Nod and John, who have been onstage from the beginning and are dressed in "camouflage hospital gowns." (18) After Helen has blamed Apollo for the murder of her sister Clytemnestra, Nod breaks in, saying, "Some people say murder is a terrible thing, bur then you hear of other things that make you think murder is a blessing." (19) Nod and John then have a conversation about types of torture that must be worse than death, but their conversation is not a direct part of Helen and Electra's, nor does either pair of characters seem to interact with the other. Instead, we have a commentary that stops the action of the Euripidean characters but then has them start up again without seeming to have noticed the pause. There is no indication in Mee's text that there is any interaction, and the details elsewhere suggest that he would mention it if he intended there to be one. However, the audience obviously hears the interruption, and as such begins to relate the material it contains with the scene it has interrupted. As it is, then, these are two separate bur at least thematically related realms of action embedded, like the montage-like stage picture, into a single (and in this case linear) narrative. (20) This type of interruption is actually rare in Mee's Orestes; still, this particular scene serves as a precursor to the choral-type interludes that begin regularly after the scene between Helen and Electra. It also introduces the potential for various and even multiple realms of action occurring simultaneously in the performance. The relationships among the various realms are not established clearly by this first scene with Nod and John.

This layered dramatic world is further complicated by the group of nurses who serve as one part of Mee's chorus. These nurses are not Argive women who play a role in the political world and influence Orestes and Electra by their reactions. Instead, they are basically ignored by the main characters and left to take care of their duties. Another chorus-like character, identified as "Tapemouth Man" because he has tape over his mouth, is "tied up in a wheelchair" (21) in the midst of the other victims in the hospital. In his first outburst, he begins listing the names and means of death of soldiers, beginning with a couple of ancient Greeks and moving to more contemporary names before being slapped by a nurse and having the tape refastened on his mouth. Another silent character who enters later with Menelaus helps the nurse in gagging Tapemouth Man, which might be the most significant clue as to the relationship between the chorus-like victims and nurses and the Euripidean characters: the victims and nurses are present and doing the work that needs to be done, but simply not recognized. Only with their brief outbursts, which interrupt the main dramatic characters, do they participate. These are clearly marginal characters; but even if their voices are not heard by the central characters, they are not always completely silent.

Of course, in tragedy the chorus usually represents a marginalized community, from the political disenfranchised elders of the The Persians and Oedipus Rex to the non-Greek women of The Bacchae. This marginalization serves to create a distance between the characters and the chorus that allows for and necessitates the dialogue; it also works metaphorically in many cases to represent the relationship of the spectators to the tragic performance: they are witness and to some extent participants, but even in the chorus-heavy tragedies of Aeschylus, rarely are they the primary subjects of the action. Nonetheless, the chorus still maintains a collective unity and some influence, or at least useful commentary that helps shape the event for the Athenian spectators. Euripides' choruses tend to be especially marginalized, not just from the community of both the main characters and the Athenian spectators, but also from the action of the tragedy itself. The chorus in Euripides' Orestes reflects the "irreconcilably divided" community of Athens in 409 BC, where an "elite had recently staged a coup and would soon try again." (22) Mee follows the cues from Euripides' chorus members who, according to David Wiles, "become sympathetic onlookers with no active involvement in the plot .... There is no sense of interaction between the individual and the collective. A gulf has appeared between a man's personal identity and his public identity as a citizen." (23) What might have been perceived as a narrow gap between individual and choral actions becomes in Euripides and Mee a gulf that suggests the disappearance of a collective political state that includes both the chorus and the characters. Thus, in Euripides' play there is no meaningful public engagement as "embittered aristocrats seem willing to allow their whole world to crash down with them" and "a democratic assembly is controlled by those who have the greatest facility with words." (24)

Mee's revision of the Euripidean chorus is significant here, however, as the segregated world of the chorus, while not directly affecting the world of the characters, is engaged in its own discussion of sexuality, privacy, and even justice. In the monologue that Tapemouth Man delivers just prior to the climactic trial scene, the subject matter is the relationship of the body to the political world:
   What is remembered in the body is well remembered, and quietly
   displayed across the surviving generations. The record of war
   survives in the bodies, both alive and buried, of the people who
   were hurt there--just as, from day to day the nation is embodied in
   the gestures and the postures, the customs and behavior of its
   citizens. (25)

The possibility posited here, borrowed from Scarry's The Body in Pain, that the body has this sort of memory that expresses itself in people's everyday behavior, provides an explanation for a world that continues to devolve into violence because it is somehow impossible to erase that violence and start anew. This sort of body-memory would also seem to exclude the possibility of true reconciliation, unless there were a physical action suggested that could have a healing effect on the body-memory. There is no such possibility suggested here, however. Instead, "A Nurse replaces the tape over his [Tapemouth Man's] mouth." (26) Tapemouth Man's gagged situation obviously signifies some sort of need for him to be silenced, whether for just being annoying or being somehow improper or provocative. And in fact, the other hospital patients kill Tapemouth Man at the end of the trial scene, after his third and final outburst. This example of a self-censoring chorus both reflects and expands Euripides' marginalized chorus: Mee's chorus is either not politically savvy enough to recognize that it is killing its own potential for change, or it is trying to maintain control so that whatever stability it already has is not taken away. By actively maintaining their marginalization by silencing voices of dissent, the chorus members are potentially trying to sympathize with and be sympathetic to the more powerful central characters. In a sense, here the choral characters are submitting to their duty as a part of a democratic enterprise. As Goldhill describes it,
   The tension between the community and the individual has a special
   charge in democracy, where the individual is expected to
   participate fully in the community to the point of giving over his
   life and livelihood for its benefit. Speaking with a communal voice
   has a unique force in democracy. (27)

Or, in this case, the chorus is silencing an individual voice that disrupts the community, even when that voice offers a hopeful future. The irony of the "democratic" impulse in this context, which Euripides also expressed, feeds not the collective good but instead the individual desire for stability and security, which usually maintains an unjust status quo.

In that final outburst, Tapemouth Man speaks "cheerfully, like a smiling Buddha" of the imagination and its possibilities and limitations:
   The imagination works
   by a principle of sympathy
   with the suppressed and subversive elements inexperience.
   It sees the residues,
   the memories, and the reports of pastor faraway social worlds
   and of neglected or obscure perceptions
   as the main stuff with which we remake our contexts.
   It explains the operation of a social order
   by representing what the remaking of this order would require.
   It generalizes our ideas
   by tracing a penumbra of remembered or intimated possibility
   around present or past settlements.
   By all these means
   it undermines
   the identification of the actual
   with the possible. (28)

Tapemouth Man's theory, taken from social theorist Roberto Unger, is based on the idea that the imagination, by its vague recollections of possibility not yet achieved or achieved elsewhere, allows that the possible is not limited to what has occurred already. His murder severely limits the efficacy of his statements, but they still suggest a vague hope, even if it is one that may only ever exist in theory. Tapemouth Man expresses the problem of "true" progress, which is seen as desirable but difficult to grasp. Nonetheless, his insistence on speaking and the content of his speech reflect what Mee sees as an essential element of Greek tragedy, and one of the reasons he uses it so frequently: the idea that "'our project is to live a civil life inspite of indifference and exhaustion' even if the ideals that spur us on are 'unrealistic' or even 'illusions.'" (29)

This struggle for meaningful change becomes most evident in the trial scene, which Mee chooses to stage rather than keep as a messenger's speech. It emphasizes the private conversations of the nurses over the public trial of the public actions of Orestes, Electra, and Pylades. Mee makes a point of this in the long stage direction that precedes the trial scene:
   During the trial, there are two levels of text: one delivered in
   the foreground, one in the background, sometimes simultaneously.
   The foreground text, which is mostly what we hear, is all about the
   private--indeed, intimate--life. The background text, which we
   mostly don't hear, is the text of public life, the trial--which is
   treated as so irrelevant that even those speaking it sometimes
   neglect to listen to it. In short, the judicial system is in ruins.
   This is the Crazy Trial. (30)

The foreground text is spoken by the nurses, who are sitting at a table speaking over microphones, which obviously amplify the volume of their voices mechanically and can control it by mechanical means as well. There is no indication that the "public" text is amplified, putting those actors in a more difficult position to be heard. (31) The nurses' "foreground" text begins as a rather banal conversation about love and marriage, turns into a very explicit monologue by Nurse 2 about her sex life and the various ways that she finds satisfaction, and then veers into a conversation about "turning" a homosexual man "straight" for sexual pleasure. In the meantime, war victims John, Nod, and William, who serve as prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, and jury in this trial, discuss finding war criminals and what types of punishments they deserve. Menelaus briefly pleads for Orestes and Electra, but the outcome of the trial seems to have been decided already. As John and Nod say very early in the trial, "I think they should be stoned to death." (32) This is then followed by Nod reading a couple of sexually crude jokes without punch lines, and an interlude about who "put pubic hair on my Coke can," (33) a direct reference to the 1991 Congressional hearings of US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Again, there are brief fragments of Pylades, Tyndareus, and Orestes pleading their cases, bur the major piece of testimony comes after John and Nod decide the only reason Orestes has a hearable case at all is because he killed his mother, not his father. The trial concludes in the same manner as in Euripides, as Orestes accepts the guilty verdict but asks that he and Electra be allowed "to take our own lives" in order to "end the chain of/murder that has cursed the house of Argos/and with our deaths let us restore/the public order." (34)

The movement of the "public" legal trial to the background and the foregrounding of Mee's "private" choral elements is emblematic not only of the system of jurisprudence in Orestes' situation (and the analogous contemporary one), but also suggests a dissonance in even the idea of communication and meaning. The ubiquity of monologue throughout the play demonstrates the problem of communication, as even dialogue between two people in the "private" sphere is rare and often consists of the two merely speaking without listening or understanding the other. This is presented explicitly in the structure of the trial scene, in which each character thinks he has the key to understanding, (35) whether it is how he receives pleasure (or how others should) to what a just killing entails. What Mee does by foregrounding the "intimate" text is to subvert the importance of the "public" narrative. The audience might struggle to hear the text of the legal trial but are prevented from focusing on it entirely by the sexual material that is louder. Mee plays upon the idea that our interest tends toward the prurient because our "private" interests tend toward those same things; in this context, true public discourse is simply not that compelling, and the judgments that come from it are equally unimportant and decidedly undemocratic. The apathy toward the trial itself by the onstage audience is emblematic of the theatrical audience's own supposed interests, which, Mee seems to suggest, are not primarily focused on the political or jurisprudential aspects of society, but rather on the personal and, in this case, the sexual and the violent.

The entrance of Apollo as deus ex machina, resolving the situation after the trial by saving Helen and sentencing Orestes to a brief banishment to be followed by the reign of power in Argos and Hermione as a wife, is almost ignored by the other characters, and "the city goes on burning, even as Apollo speaks." (36) Mee has taken the veneer of immortality even further away from this Apollo than the already subversive Euripides does, as he is to speak "in the manner and accent of whoever is the current American president." (37) He is simply a powerless political leader. (38) While Apollo offers solutions for everyone, along the same lines as Euripides does, "those who listen to him become bored and stop listening" (39) and return to their hospital beds or offstage, until Apollo is left by himself. After giving a speech about the greatness of the nation that they all live in, he is picked up "like a piece of furniture" (40) and carried offstage while the city continues to burn and the characters seem to remain about where they began. Mee, like Euripides, undercuts the potential for hope, leaving the future unknown and the violence that has occurred lacking clear consequences or justification.

The chorus members here, instead of helping "give to events the coherence and meaning that constitute civilization," (41) participate in creating an incoherent political and legal process, anda confusing and fragmented theatrical event. This is certainly in part because they are prevented from participating entirely in the workings of the civilization. The chorus does not fulfill its traditional role here because the role itself is revealed as inadequately proscribed: this is a chorus without an accepted voice in the workings of the political organization of its society, or even in the workings of the theatrical event, an event which itself is revealed as corrupted and lacking political legitimacy. The chorus of the idealized Athenian tragedy was a vehicle for learning and civilization, but, as even Euripides' version of Orestes shows, that role is inherently corrupted when the civilization it is meant to propagate can no longer rely on the perception of an idealized past. The contemporary tendency to valorize the Athenian chorus is tempered when considering more closely the kind of civilization it was representing; democratic, perhaps, bur only for the oligarchy in power. As Athenian tragedy was not democratic in our contemporary sense, neither was the chorus truly representative of the entirety of the Athenian civilization. Mee recognizes and shares a nostalgia for community and theatrical relevance that tends to be contained in the valorization of Greek tragedy in its Athenian context. However, his choral choices resist the illusion of progress and community engagement that many contemporary adaptations of Greek tragedy embrace.

At the end of Orestes 2.0, the main characters have all left the stage, and only the chorus of nurses and patients remains. The final moments of the piece are spoken by William and the nurse who is trying to dress his wounds. Like a traditional chorus, William tries to distill several of the various messages we have heard throughout the play:
   What we need now are some strong, straightforward actions that
   you'd have to be a fool not to learn the wrong lessons from ....

      Every man must shout:
      There's great destructive work to be done.
      We're doing it! (42)

But this, as with the other choral elements in this play, offers us meaningful context for comprehending the work only by making us less certain about the world and our place in it. Mee's own view of history suggests that this is an accurate reflection of our relationship to the past: even though our already fragmentary knowledge of any historical event is always already colored by perspective, bias, and ideology, we nonetheless "act, presumably, on the basis of what we know; and what we know is invariably incomplete, or wrong." (43) Mee recognizes the structures, of society and of Greek tragedy, but sees their limited value; extending his metaphor of the Rolls Royce, they are functional for a very few, and are at best an aesthetic pleasure for others. His chorus provides a version of an ancient Greek chorus that is redefined to reflect a more contemporary sensibility of both a revised Athenian past anda difficult present: a heterogeneous group of individuals without a meaningful voice in a corrupt and violent oligarchy that does not demonstrate the ability for significant change or progress.

Ramapo College of New Jersey


(1) Helen Bacon, "The Chorus in Greek Life and Drama," Arion, ser. 3, 3 (Fall 1994-Winter 1995): 6-24 (7).

(2) In How to Stage Greek Tragedy Today (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), Simon Goldhill discusses several significant productions in terms of the efficacy of their chorus, and separates them into two categories: "The Full-scale Chorus" and "The Reduced Chorus" (56-67). The full-scale chorus is utilized in productions such as Ariane Mnouchkine's Les Atrides and Lee Breuer's The Gospel ar Colonus, in which a fully realized version of a chorus replaces the ancient Greek one, revising it but maintaining "a collective sense of identity" as a part of "a rigourously non-realistic theatrical aesthetic" (63). The reduced chorus, as exemplified by different productions of Electra, one directed by Deborah Warner, the other by David Leveaux, focuses more on the characters and uses the chorus in a minimized role, reflecting the productions' interest in the individual behavior and psychology of the characters above that of the collective; in Leveaux's version, the chorus was reduced to one.

(3) Bacon, 16.

(4) Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).

(5) Preface to Charles L. Mee, History Plays (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), vii.

(6) Mee, preface, vii

(7) His remakings of Suppliants (Big Love), Trojan Women, and The Bacchae also retain the general dramatic structure, maintaining the Greek characters and transforming the chorus significantly but maintaining them as a single "kind" of character. Texts of all of Mee's plays are available online at (accessed May 2011).

(8) Euripides, Orestes, trans. William Arrowsmith, in Euripides IV, ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 105-208 (107).

(9) See Froma Zeitlin, "The Closet of Masks: Role-Playing and Myth-Making in the Orestes of Euripides," Ramus 9 (1980): 51-77, for an extended discussion of the way that Euripides poses the conflict between older cultural models of the Greek epic heroes and Orestes' struggles to find his own place within them. She examines this conflict in relation both to the actual literature that precedes Euripides and the behavioral models that the characters in that literature suggest for the character of Euripides' Orestes: "But in so far as Troy is represented in its Homeric terms, it might be said that Orestes looks to Troy and its epic symbolism as a model for heroic action. It might also be said that he looks to Ithaca for a positive reenactment of his original Odyssean role in Argos" (62).

(10) Bacon, 20.

(11) Zeitlin, 57. Zeitlin continues: since "the allusions are fragmentary and sometimes apparently random, culture itself is seen as open to fragmentation, already fragmented, for words, gestures, and acts can be drawn out of their original contexts for the purpose of play, distortion, and dissonance, for reduction of meaning, for parodistic echo, and, above all, for a kind of treasonous and deliberate misunderstanding."

(12) Mee, 89.

(13) Ibid.

(14) Ibid.

(15) Ibid.

(16) Ibid., 90.

(17) In the 1993 En Garde Arts production of the play (available on video at the Theatre on Film Collection of the New York Library for the Performing Arts), performed in the deserted Penn Naval yards on the Hudson River, director Tina Landau exploited the sights and sounds of the city to increase the collage of noise and image. The decaying pier served as the facade, and the production's soundscape included the "natural" sounds of New York City, especially those of sirens and helicopters, which helped enhance the atmosphere of war and chaos.

(18) Mee, 89.

(19) Ibid., 96.

(20) The interruption is also delineated by lighting and sound in productions. As an example, in the En Garde Arts production, the lights focus on the speaking characters and go out on the nonspeaking characters, making for a nonrealistic jump-cut feeling that seems to suggest that each scene literally pauses as the other progresses.

(21) Mee, 89.

(22) David Wiles, Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 59.

(23) Ibid.

(24) Ibid.

(25) Mee, 127.

(26) Ibid.

(27) Goldhill, 49.

(28) Mee, 135-36.

(29) Sarah Bryant-Bertail, "The Trojan Women a Love Story: A Postmodern Semiotics of the Tragic," Theatre Research International 25, no. 1 (2000): 40-52 (41).

(30) Mee, 127.

(31) In fact, in the En Garde Arts production, the only text in the entire piece that was not amplified was the background "public" text of the trial. The foreground text was amplified at an exaggerated volume making the background text not only quieter but actually quite difficult to hear at all.

(32) Mee, 130.

(33) Ibid., 132.

(34) Ibid., 135.

(35) In Anne Bogart's 1992 production in Saratoga, New York, the only part of the play that offered simultaneous multiple texts was the trial scene, which, according to Marianne McDonald in "Orestes' Mania: Euripides,' Mee's and Bogart's Apocalyptic Vision," Illinois Classical Studies 18 (1993), 73-82, was played in a manner that purposely presented an atmosphere in which no real justice could prevail; instead, the scene posited the "suggestion" that "he who shouts the loudest carries the day" (75), which indicates that instead of discussion and attempts at understanding, mouologue and insistence were the only forms of communication.

(36) Mee, 155.

(37) Ibid., 154.

(38) In several productions, the role of Apollo is not done in the voice of the president, but is instead portrayed by and as a young child. In the premiere production of the play, directed by Robert Woodruff at the University of California, San Diego, in the spring of 1992, Apollo was a "televised child" (Sylvie Drake, "A Wildly Uneven Orestes at Mandel Weiss Theatre," Los Angeles Times, 14 March 1992: F10) trying to restore order, seemingly emphasizing the powerlessness of Apollo in instilling order. In the En Garde Arts production, however, the child, portrayed by a young Brendan Sexton, III, entered the stage as if he were directing his own fantasy video game, running around and telling everyone where they should go and how their story should conclude. When he was dropped off, seemingly into the Hudson River, it was a moment that mixed the humor of silencing the annoying child with a deeper resonance as we pondered where the game might end and begin. Anne Bogart's production in Saratoga, New York, in the fall of 1992 followed Mee's working text at that time, which was closest to the published text: "Apollo's voice continues to be miked [after he has been carried off stage] so that he can speak very quietly, Reagan-like, and his voice still fills the theater" (quoted in McDonald, 79). The text I am using was published after all three of these productions, and the Ellen Beckerman production of May 2001 more closely followed the directions in the published text. Her Apollo was a voiceover that sounded like George W. Bush. Aftera short acknowledgment of the helicopter noises that preceded Apollo's speech, the characters remaining ignored Apollo completely. The effect of these two very different characterizations is surprisingly similar, perhaps because Bush is often caricatured as being childlike in his ignorance and stubbornness. However, if we were to imagine a different president (Barack Obama, perhaps, or Richard Nixon), it has the potential for a very different effect.

(39) Mee, 155.

(40) Ibid., 156.

(41) Bacon, 8.

(42) Mee, 157-58.

(43) Charles L. Mee Jr., Playing God: Seven Fateful Moments When Great Men Met to Change the World (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 13-14.
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Author:Campbell, Peter A.
Publication:Comparative Drama
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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