"This was Oedipus, He who solved the famous riddle. Great and powerful was his name..."
A line like this from Sophocles' ancient Greek tragedy, "Oedipus Tyrranus," provokes questions. Who was Oedipus? What was the famous riddle? Why was his name great and powerful?
The Theatre Arts Department of Fullerton College will provide the answers when they present "Oedipus the King," a Fullerton College rendition of Sophocles' play.
The play will climax this semester's Theatre Arts Dept. events. Under the direction of Jim Henderson, it is scheduled for performances Nov. 4-6 and Nov. 11-13 at 8 p.m. in the Campus Theater.
"Based upon the Greek legend of a youth who, ignorant of his identity, commits patricide and incest by marriage, the play is essentially soul-shaking," says Henderson. "The script is about a man in search of identity and origin. His desire to know his "true self" overpowers the fear of what he might find. It's a desire that finally destroys him." With the combination of Sophocles' philosophical investigations and Henderson's theatrical
innovations, the play should be a classic of a classic.
Traditionally performed with heavy robes, stiff movements and stoic scenery, the play will be given a new interpretation this fall. "I suppose the only term we could give it is 'primitive' ", says Henderson. He disclosed that the actors will don animal-like masks and reptilian costumes in an attempt to capture feelings that must have been present in early Grecian audiences.
"I'm interested in seeing the whole play as a metaphor. Though we as a twentieth century audience may not get so keyed up over patricide and incest, the play can still be effective in touching deep emotional centers in each one of us."
"I don't mean that we're not moved by a man killing his father and having sex with his mother, but the Greeks lived so close to social chaos that they felt great consequence in breaking these eternal verities and displeasing their gods. Yet the success of the play is dependent upon whether or not we, as a twentieth century audience, still retain a tragic view of the world. I believe we do, for death is inevitable no matter how we live our lives."
He added that the play was chosen mainly because it would provide the students with an opportunity to experience working with the ancient, classical theater. "It will give them movement and vocal opportunities that they would not get in a modern production," Henderson confirmed.
A single prehistoric-looking set resembling a mountain of broken granite will constitute the scenery, while leading actors, Oedipus (Ken Mikell) and Jocasta (Nedda Shrum) will perform their heroic lines through lion-like masks.
Other animal-faced characters in "Oedipus" are Creon (Harvey Hand), Tiresias (Earl Mills), two messengers (Dean Northrup, Lori Grifo) and a shepherd (Robert Lauder), as well as the chorus.
Set design will be by Chuck Kading, a Fullerton artist who has designed sets for an opera association in Washington for the last three years. Masks and costumes will be done by Nixon Borah and the Fullerton College Art Dept.< >Dr. Dan Fredriekon and the Fullerton College Music Dept. will provide the sound effects. Ron Aha is in charge of lighting design. Cal State Fullerton dance instructor, Mariam Tate, is the choreographer, with students Susan McQuistin (associate director), Phyllis Palatink (stage manager), and Gina Martino (costume mistress).