Today in the rehearsal room we started touching on Echo and Narcissus. I’m going to butcher what Meg actually said to us, because she speaks much more eloquently than me, but it was something along the lines of, ‘a trap in this myth is that it appears passive, the characters are literally pining or fading away and that is not playable.’ I was immediately reminded that if for a single moment I allow myself to wallow in Echo’s pining the audience will no longer get to experience any journey for themselves. I will have shut them out. I know this already, but sometimes just being reminded before jumping in is a good starting place.
When I got home tonight and was looking through a handful of the myths I started noting for myself what other traps are built into each story, and what I need to remind myself of before I dive in so as to avoid them and bring interesting choices to the rehearsal room. I came to Tereus and Philomela. Without saying too much Philomela is trapped, raped and silenced by Tereus in this myth. The obvious trap is that she is a victim. There is nothing interesting about watching a victim on stage because there is nothing there to play and so it becomes something very personal to the actor, but again, like with the danger of wallowing in Echo’s laments, immediately robs the audience of their own experience.
The theatre 101 actor in me kicked in and I started breaking down Philomela, asking myself, “okay, so what does she want? What are my playable verbs?” “Revenge!” my gut cried out. But that word revenge bothered me the minute I said it to myself. It felt personal, and therefore unplayable and like a door shutting. I jumped on thesaurus.com and plugged in “revenge”. I was hoping to find another word that sat right with me, or another word that led to another which eventually led to the word I knew I was looking for and must be out there. I found this in the notes section:
revenge is personal and justice is societal
I feel like this little gem was waiting for me to stumble upon it. It instantly connected every myth for me. There is a constant string of cause and effect and the need to set things right, whether it is a god exacting fair punishment, or reestablishing the correct order of things, or an individual seeking moral amends. There is always an idea of setting things right again, not for the individual, but for the balance of the whole. Justice seems like something we can all get behind. We can feel free to agree or disagree on its extremities, but we all get to share in the experience of it. And that, to me, is what interesting theatre is.