December 12, 2013
As An Iliad closes down, it’s a good time to start looking forward to Court Theatre’s next production: Seven Guitars. It’s the 5th of 10 plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, though it was written 7th, and which you can learn more about here. As a sneak peek, here are some photos from a pre-production photo shoot, starring Felicia Fields as Louise, Ebony Wimbs as Vera and Kelvin Roston, Jr. as Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton. (photography by joe mazza/brave lux inc.)
The day of:
Two of the finished products:
December 2, 2013
By Evan Garrett
An Iliad is currently playing at Court Theatre. This production is not quite a remount, not quite a revival, but a re-immersion of the discoveries made from our 2011 production. It’s hard to think what has changed in the past two years, so as to give you some perspective, here are some pieces of trivia of the way the world has evolved, altered, and stagnated from November 2011 to November 2013.
2011: “Occupy Wall Street” popularizes, spreading the concept that the bottom 99% can fight the top 1%
2013: Edward Snowden and the PRISM scandal inspire the idea that inside jobs can unhinge agencies and governments
2011: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II is the year’s highest-grossing film
2013: Iron Man 3 is the year’s highest-grossing film (so far), with Catching Fire looking to replace it by mid-December
2011: Casey Anthony found “not guilty” of the murder of her daughter Caylee
2013: George Zimmerman found “not guilty” of second-degree murder towards black teenager Trayvon Martin
2011: Apple CEO Steve Jobs dies of complications related to previously-treated pancreatic cancer
2013: Ashton Kutcher portrays the computer entrepreneur in film, Jobs.
2011: Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton!
2013: Birth of the royal baby, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. (The other royal baby born this year is North West, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s child.)
2011: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is officially repealed
2013: The Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) is found unconstitutional by the US’s Supreme Court
2011: Charlie Sheen, TV’s highest-paid actor, resigns from his hit-show Two and a Half Men due to drug abuse
2013: Pope Benedict XVI resigns due to declining health, being the first pope to resign since 1415
2011: Afghan War enters its 10th year; the US implements Iraq pullout
2013: Syrian War becomes top news story, with Obama inciting controversy over USA’s involvement
So, how has the world changed in these past 24 months? Do you think it changes how today’s audience will view An Iliad? Do you think it’s changed how our production has been influenced? Are there any differences that you think has shaped our perceptions since 2011? Let us know by including a comment on Facebook!
To end, we have two more (more personal) trivia tidbits:
2011 Court Theater’s Homerathon: 24 hour non-stop reading of Homer’s Iliad
2013 Court Theater’s Homerathon: 12 hour non-stop reading of Homer’s Odyssey
2011: Chicago Tribune gives Court’s production of An Iliad 3.5 stars
2013: Chicago Tribune gives Court’s production of An Iliad 4 stars
November 25, 2013
By Evan Garrett
If you are reading this blog, you are no doubt familiar with the fact that Court Theatre’s An Iliad is a retelling of Homer’s classic original. What you may or may not know is that there have been many strong, inspired, and celebrated retellings of The Iliad. While the list is expansive, below is a diverse collection of some of my personal reworked favorites.
Captain Michalis (Freedom or Death), by Nikos Kazantzakis
This is a modern retelling of The Iliad set in the 1889 Cretan rebellions. The main joy of reading this book comes from Kazantzakis’s lucid prose. Commonly regarded as Greece’s best modern author, Kazantzakis is also known for his books Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ. If you have not yet read some of his works, this is quite a tome to start with—the graphic battle scenes are filled with bloody imagery and the plot edges rapidly on, all the while staying immensely faithful to Homer’s energy and poetry.
Troy, written by David Benioff and directed by Wolfgang Petersen
If you have seen this movie, you probably either love it for its action sequences or hate it because of its poor historical accuracy and lack of emotional depth. Get this: the writer, David Benioff, is now showrunner for HBO’s Game of Thrones—which, if you think about, makes a lot of sense. It’s an easy Cliffs Note version of The Iliad (be careful, though, just like Cliff Notes this movie accidentally and purposefully takes some liberties). Finally, it seems important to mention:
Brad Pitt’s Butt.
Ilium, by Dan Simons
This retelling takes place on Earth, as well as a few million miles away. That’s right, a sci-fi fiction version of The Iliad! Not only is it a great type of heady beach reading, but it also manages to use Homer’s Iliad as a text to have a conversation with, as opposed to a jumping off point to write his own version. The scholar-narrator, Thomas Hockenberry, is resurrected from the 20th century to observe inaccuracies between events that actually happened in the Trojan War (now being restaged on Mars) and their later literary versions. As such, it does a good job addressing something like the “Homeric Question” while also tackling sentient beings on Jupiter.
Memorial, by Alice Oswald
This long poem is a must-read for someone moved by O’Hare and Peterson’s An Iliad. The poem was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2009, and I believe it would have won if Alice Oswald did not refuse her name to be on the list in protest. Much like “The List” in O’Hare’s play (you’ll know “The List” when you see the play), Alice Oswald includes an eight-page recounting of all the deceased soldiers mentioned in Homer’s classic. It’s heart-wrenching and vivid. A must read.
Honorable Mentions of Great Retellings:
The Golden Apple, book by John Treville Latouche: a musical version made in 1954. Everything is relocated to Washington State immediately following the Spanish-American War and focuses on an apple-pie baking contest. Not quite The Iliad, but it works its way in.
Iliad, by Stanley Lambardo: Technically, this is a translation; yet it’s fully modern in its imagery while still being relatively faithful to the original poetic structure. Highly readable and gripping.
The Iliad, by Roy Thomas: A graphic novel version of The Iliad? Yes, please!
November 22, 2013
By Evan Garrett
So, you’ve bought tickets to see Court Theatre’s An Iliad… Great!
It’s likely, however, that a very scary thought floated through your head immediately after you clicked that “Purchase” button on our website…
“I have absolutely no idea what Homer’s Iliad is about…”
Now, truly, that’s not a problem. Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson’s script was made to guide new patrons as well as complete scholars into becoming more intimate with Homer’s heart-wrenching tale of war and honor.
In the case that you do want to know the plot of The Iliad before you come through our doors, though, have no fear. Court Theater is here to help you out. Below, we’ve provided a general plot summary of The Entire Epic Poem.
Now, we realize that that could be perceived as a little dry. So, to keep you engaged, we’ve paired the plot’s play-be-play with helpful visuals…
…from Disney Gifs.
AN ENTIRE SUMMARY OF HOMER’S ILIAD AS DESCRIBED THOUGH DISNEY GIFs:
The poem starts with two Greek commanders, Achilles and Agamemnon, fighting over two women they won when sacking a Trojan-allied town, Chryse.
One of the women, Chryseis, prays to Apollo. Apollo, taking pity on her, answers the prayer by bringing a decimating plague on the Greek camp. This causes Agamemnon, the owner of Chryseis, to give her up in order to end the plague. For recompense, he decides to take Achilles’ prize, the lady Briseis.
Achilles (Greece’s best warrior, BY FAR) gets quite angry, and he promises to not fight. Basically, saying, “Byyyyyyeee!”
He then goes to - get this - his mom (naturally, she’s a sea-nymph, because why not, Homer?) and complains to her about how unfair it is that Agamemnon stole his prize.
Achilles’ mom talks to Zeus (the Ruler of all gods) about her son’s unhappiness (some would say “his rage”). Zeus then decides to fight WITH the Trojans, which as you can imagine is very bad news for the Greeks.
Eventually, the fighting gets so bad that the Greeks are pushed back to the ramparts where they keep their ships. It does not look good for the Greeks.
Looking for a last resort, some of the commanders decide to go to Achilles’ tent and beg him to rejoin the battle. None of their pleading moves Achilles to battle, and he’s basically like this:
That night, the Greek soldiers, Odysseus and Diomedes, fearful of near-imminent defeat, perform a late night reconnaissance where they survey the Trojan camp.
Unfortunately, the reconnaissance is all for naught. The next day, the Trojans break through the ramparts and set fire to one of the Greek ships. The Greeks look like they will absolutely lose this war without Achilles. It’s at this point where juts about every reader wants to shake Achilles and say:
Nestor, one of the oldest Greek commanders, realizes that while he can’t get Achilles to join the battle, he might be able to persuade Patroclus (Achilles’ best-friend/cousin/lover) to put on Achilles’ armor and join the Greek forces, as a sort of Achilles impersonator.
And while Patroclus is able to help the Greeks out for a while, he is eventually killed by Hector (Troy’s prince and best soldier,) in the battlefield.
When news of Patroclus’ death reaches Achilles (keep in mind that they were best-friends/cousins/lovers), Achilles becomes really sad at first, then really angry (some might say “rageful”), and decides to rejoin the Greek army.
Achilles needs new armor, though, since Patroclus was wearing his when he was slain. It ends up that Achilles sea-nymph mom asks Hephaestus, the god of fire and craftsmanship, to forge new-and-improved armor for the now raging soldier.
Achilles enters the battlefield the next day, completely surprising the Trojans who thought he was killed the day before.
Achilles takes no prisoners on the battlefield, sometimes fighting dozens of people at a time. He even fights a god of a river, which seems like one of the most insane things someone could do. He keeps working on getting to one person, however: Hector.
Hector and Achilles end up battling one-on-one. In one of the most amazing scenes in the book, Achilles kills Hector, and then ties him up to his chariot and brings him back to the Greek camps.
There’s lots of partying at the Greek camp, as well as a celebration of Patroclus’ life. The nine-day event includes Achilles rigging Hector’s corpse to his chariot and dragging it around the entire camp… Each Night! That’s not a very pleasant image, so this GIF from Tangled will have to do:
After nine days, Priam, Hector’s father and king of Troy, decides he needs to bury his son in a proper Trojan way. He enlists the gods’ help for a safe journey to the Greek camps. He then works to find Achilles.
Pitifully, Priam goes to Achilles, weeping for his son’s body. Keep in mind this is extraordinarily dangerous, given that Priam is the King of Troy and the father of Achilles’ past enemy. Achilles is touched by the old king’s request and releases the body to him for a proper burial.
And that’s it! That’s basically where The Iliad ends! You are now completely, 100%, without-a-doubt refreshed on what happens in the story. Go, now! Impress that date! Follow along! Re-edit that paper!
November 19, 2013
Below you will find reviews of The Mountaintop, written by graduate students in the New Arts Journalism Program, a master’s program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Students in Mara Tapp’s course “Arts Beat: Journalism for the Arts” attended the performance and were assigned to write reviews of the show.
Here are links to the reviews: