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A Contemporary Epic

The Iliad. One of our most ancient stories, known for its epic elements and length.

In 45 minutes.

Seem impossible? Not quite.

This past weekend I had the privilege of seeing Of Blood and Dirt, A new adaption of The Iliad directed by Jeremy Ohringer and devised by the company here at BU. It was wild, fierce, unrelenting and extremely precise. More than once I found myself wanting to jump to my feet and join the chanting and the stomping and feel the epic story-telling physically move through me. Suffice it to say I was immensely entertained.

The production was not just entertaining however. It was fully and precisely aware.

Aware of the audience. Aware of its time. Aware of its place. Aware of the history.

There was such care and thoughtfulness that this ensemble put into making this epic accessible and unyielding. Specifically this production held an awareness of its current audiences culture and habits while maintaining the visceral level of energy and story-telling that Ancient Greek stories require. This was done through a playful nature, (making references to a drinking game or calling out cell phones at the very beginning) and with a more critical eye, especially in regard to its relevancy to today.

One of the most striking moments was when the ensemble member stepped out of the story to lament how tired he was of experiencing this same hurt and tragedy over and over again for the sake of telling the epic. He exclaimed his exhaustion and his frustration that these themes were still needed. Soon another ensemble member stepped out to respond. She replied with how there has to be hope that maybe this time, will be the last. Maybe this time, those listening will hear, understand and learn. But until that time they must continue.

It is in this way that Of Blood and Dirt was so specifically and acutely aware of the ancient proportions of the Iliad and what it means to still be telling it. In many ways we as a society are different from the ancient Greeks. And in many ways we are the same.

We as a human race find ourselves falling into the same triggers and heaps that we see in history. The stories of past human follies are all written out for us, extending back to before we even had a name for time; and yet, we still haven’t learned our lesson. Not completely.

So we keep telling the same stories in new ways. In an effort to find what will stick. The themes do not change, but we as artists adapt to our climates, our standings and our audiences.

And maybe this time they’ll understand.

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One comment on “A Contemporary Epic

  1. Thank you for sharing your response to this piece. Tonight was closing and I happened upon your post. There was a time in rehearsal when we realized the story we were telling could be a metaphor for being an artist. What stories are we telling? Why? What will change?

    Thank you for your thoughts! They fuel me (as the dramaturg) to continue the story.

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