Skip to Main Site Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Back To Top

Ancient tragedy ‘Oedipus the King’ reimagined with modern twist

Published on October 24, 2022

Ancient tragedy ‘Oedipus the King’ reimagined with modern twist

Eastern's Oedipus takes the stage.The Theatre and Performance Media program performed a current events-inspired version of Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King” from Oct. 11–16. Over seven performances, hundreds of students, families and local theatre enthusiasts attended the production in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Proscenium Theater.

Director and theatre lecturer Bob McGrath worked with Brian Doerries' original translation of the Greek text to reimagine Sophocles’ work into a modern day social commentary imbued with underlying tones of satire. Eastern's rendition more than retold the nearly 3,000-year old story of a prophetically corrupt ruler who is mentally deteriorating during a plague. The show emphasized many of today’s social, cultural and political tribulations, including the COVID pandemic.

“I thought, because Sophocles’ story was based around the plague, and we had just lived through a plague of our own, as well as a leader that was very arrogant and problematic, it should be easy to interweave these stories,” said Director Bob McGrath. “There were just too many connections to ignore. I just needed to add some Americana elements.”

McGrath continued to say that his vision for the play was deeply influenced by Robert Johnson, the man credited with discovering blues music. McGrath worked with Musical Director Travis Houldcroft to heighten the symbolic connection of the crossroads to the protagonist’s complex familial, political and personal ideologies.

“The whole play is basically based on the crossroads, so I wanted to find a clever way to tie all those latent meanings together,” said McGrath. “Great American music, like blues and gospel is a very important element in this show.”

actress in Oedipus the King The play incorporated ominous gospel organs to dramatize the delivery of Jasmin Clark’s lines as the morally just priest, who was determined to convince Trump that he is not an all-omnipotent and authoritative god. Likewise, the incorporation of blues music amplified the depressing tone of the narrative. The use of this genre throughout the play represented Trump’s innermost thoughts and emotions during the play’s climactic revelations.

During the program’s four major rehearsals, the lighting and projection teams, led by designers student Sam Oravitz and Professor Kristen Morgan, worked diligently to cue and incorporate atmospheric background settings and elaborate video montages of Trump’s presidency into the play.

Although the pre-show work was daunting for the show’s creative team, student Zachary Beaumont, the play’s lightboard operator, said the play’s outcome made his hard work worthwhile. "There was a lot of preparation that went into these shows,” said Beaumont. “I’m so glad it turned out really well! With the time we all spent together, I knew we’d be able to nail it, and we totally did!"

Lead actress Megan Gatheral, who played Oedipus agreed: “The work that went into this play was a grueling process. Any theatre kid will tell you that this passion takes over your life, but the payoff is unimaginable. To be able to touch and move people with our acting and our message... there’s really nothing like it.”

Written by Jack Jones