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Jocasta Complex

Classic Greek tragedy given a new voice



Nearly everyone remembers something of the Oedipus story -- if nothing more than that Oedipus had sex with his mother -- ew. Well, here's the thing. Jocasta was the mother. In Sophocles' play, Oedipus Rex, she marries young, has a baby, loses him and meets him again years later. Not knowing he is her son, she marries him and they have four children before they figure out the whole sordid thing -- the realization, of course, leading to death, blinding and general mayhem. Sure, many things lead to the pinnacle of this tragedy, but Jocasta is the odd little eye of this hurricane.

And what does she have to say about it? Did she wax poetic about her woe? Did she expound the virtues and sins of motherhood? Did she just sit in the garden and ponder the ripening pears? It's likely that none of us remembers what she thought because in Sophocles' version of the story, she said precious little.

This economy of perspective on Jocasta's part disturbed playwright Paul L. Robins enough to write Jocasta! Jocasta! It's the same story, only now Jocasta gets to do most of the talking. And thanks to the producing company, Theater of Others, we get a chance to hear what she has to say.

Ryn Armstrong, co-producer and director of Jocasta! Jocasta!, worked with the author and fellow Theater of Others producer Zoe Miller-Lee to edit the original work down to its current length of just over an hour. These edits keep the poetic language and sophistication intact, but render it more accessible -- and more strongly feminist.

There will be a beautiful symmetry to this production of Jocasta! Jocasta!. First of all, the Seven-Minute Spring Amphitheater is an outdoor venue that will add some authenticity to the re-telling of a Greek tragedy. Second, this production will be a staged reading, rather than an elaborately staged and costumed play, in line with the playwright's vision for the work.

Though keeping with the tradition of a Greek chorus, Armstrong has done something interesting in editing and directing the play: Jocasta will be played by three actors, thereby telling her story as different people at different stages in her life. She, in effect, becomes her own chorus; when one Jocasta is on stage, the other two are in the audience, supplementing the lines of the Jocasta on stage. As Armstrong says, "The combination of their voices gives depth, melodic flow and texture to the whole play. With all the women contributing to these monologues, it gives a melodic, trance-like quality. Each one of them gets to hold a different part of who Jocasta is." Armstrong hopes to create a circle in which the audience is included and in which the different parts of Jocasta are allowed to witness her life trials with the audience. The three Jocasta characters will be played by Shiromi Arserio, Krysia Vila-Roger and Ellen Ottley.

This is the first production by Theater of Others, a Colorado Springs-- and Denver-based group committed to doing small-scale, quality work. They seek to share the profits of performance with the actors and any other artists involved in the production, as well as with local charities. For example, the Sept. 8 performance will benefit 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, an organization dedicated to fairness and respect on the job, which tackles such issues as sexual harassment, pay inequity and discrimination. The ticket price for that evening will be $15 and, on other evenings, tickets will sell for $5 to $10, as you are able.

Jocasta! Jocasta! promises to be a interesting evening of original theater in a creative venue, as well as a long overdue addendum of perspective to a piece of great Greek theater.

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