The Muhlenberg department of theatre and dance held performances for a staged reading of Seneca’s “Oedipus,” which took place in the Dorothy Hess Baker Center for the Arts Recital Hall from Nov. 11-13. Seneca’s text was adapted in the late 20th century by English poet, dramatist, translator and children’s writer Ted Hughes, from a translation by David Anthony Turner.
The creative team, consisting of the director, associate professor of theatre Matt Moore, Ph.D., choreographer Ava Pirie ‘23, associate director Maddi Whiting ‘22 and stage manager/costumer Gabi McCabe ‘24, accomplished an exceptional amount of work in a short time, taking on a nine-hour rehearsal week, and premiered a polished, introspective and engaging final product.
“It was really interesting seeing at which point we transitioned to the role of the storyteller and how that was meant to influence the audience.”-Gaby Canedo ’25
“We offer this staged reading as a parable of self-discovery, a painful journey toward greater knowledge, and as a rehearsal for our ongoing encounters with the world we have made but failed to see,” states Moore, in the program notes.
“I really loved working alongside the rest of the creative team,” said Pirie. “The four of us [Pirie, Moore, McCabe and Whiting] shared a dedication to the project that made even our production meetings exciting and enjoyable. I admire each of their work ethic and intellect, and working next to them to create something that each of us cared about deeply was extremely fulfilling!”
When asked about the process of digesting and synthesizing a nearly two-thousand-year-old piece of material, Andrew Gordon ‘23, who played Creon, spoke in great detail about the cast’s textual process.
“Ted Hughes’ adaptation of Seneca’s Oedipus was an absolute joy to work on,” said Gordon. “I loved all of the fantastical and grotesque imagery that carries the characters through their speeches, and I had a lot of fun with shaping the language in new ways throughout the rehearsal process. With the production being a staged reading, I could focus a lot more on playing with the text, as I didn’t need to spend too much mental capacity on memorizing the sense monologues. By having my script on stage, I was able to refer back to the many notes littering my book that helped to ground my performance in the textual work we focused on during the rehearsal process.”
Bridget Wiggan ‘23, who played Oedipus, said, “One of the things that I had said when I auditioned to Matt [Moore] was that, to me, Oedipus is an actual tragedy, as opposed to a lot of the Shakespearean tragedies like ‘Romeo and Juliet’… Oedipus tries his best to do everything right, even if he fails. He tries his best to make the right decisions and follow the correct path.”
The production team structured the quintessential Greek chorus in a way that told the story beyond establishing setting and dramatic narration. Periodically, the chorus would enter the scene and integrate Pirie’s choreography into pivotal moments in the plot, accompanied by vocal and instrumental music.
“What stood out to me was the intention for the chorus to direct the audience’s emotional journey throughout the show,” said Gaby Canedo ‘25, a chorus member. “We started out as citizens of Thebes along with the audience and as the story progressed we became storytellers and left the audience on their own, with Matt [Moore] even comparing us to the fates by the very end of the performance. It was really interesting seeing at which point we transitioned to the role of the storyteller and how that was meant to influence the audience.”
“The production team definitely achieved their goal of making it more than a staged reading. I enjoyed how immersive the production was in the intimate space of the recital hall and how dedicated all the actors were to bringing the audience in,” said Anna Bobok ‘23, an audience member.
Allison Mintz ‘23, another audience member, said, “I never thought I would say this, but I was most affected by the space the piece took place in. My close proximity to the cast, especially the chorus, made the play feel like a very raw, personal event. The moments of chaos were especially jarring, in the best way. I was absolutely doubtful that the recital hall could function as a performance space, but as an audience member, I’m truly in awe of the production and creative teams’ ability to transform an atypical theatre space.”