9/19/2021     AN ILIAD                                                        Theatrical Outfit

Τραγουδήστε, Θεά, Το τραγούδι του γιου της Μούσας, Ποιητή  ( * )


( * )  Tragoudíste, Theá, To tragoúdi tou giou tis Moúsas, Poiití  ( ** )

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( ** )  Sing, Goddess, The Song of the Muse's son, Poet

How he comes forth from the darkness

With his song and his story,

Jaded from too many millennia of life,

Millennia filled with anger and violence

And audiences all too eager to hear another story

Of Heroes and Valor and Battles and Victories.


And yet, here we are, another audience in another hall,

An audience obsessively willing him to tell us the story

Of a war from three thousand years past,

A War oft told, oft played, oft filmed,

And oft repeated by countries and peoples

Who can’t seem to forget the characters

Larger than life and bolder than brave.

Who can’t seem to remember the heinous cost

Of Blood and Pain and Death and Loss,


Of course we know The Iliad, blind Homer’s saga,

Created to be memorized and sung,

Created before Mankind would write down

Their tales of blood and heroism and villainy.

We know of Achilles and Hector and Paris and Helen.

We know of Menelaus and Agamemnon, and Odysseus

We may even know of Briseis and Patroclus and Nestor.


Now we know of the Heroism of Lee Osorio,

Who bravely bares his face and his soul

Alone on a mid-pandemic stage as we sit

Comfortable in the dark, our faces safely covered,

Our minds safely unattuned to his sage repetition,

Our ears lulled by the thrumming cello of Deisher Oliver,

Composer, Musician, Muse.

For we are here not for The Iliad, but for An Iliad,

An adaptation by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare,

Directed with awe-inspiring skill by Matt Torney.


It is Homer’s tale, but from a modern perspective,

It is Homer’s tale, but viewed through the prism

Of three millennia of conflict and war and devastation.

Although several years old, it is painfully relevant

In the wake of America’s Longest War.  Ever.

A war that every day’s newscast reminds us

Has not really ended.  May Never end.


Yes the characters we know are all accounted for,

All recreated with impressive skill by Mr. Osorio,

All vibrantly alive and vital (until they’re not),

All making our mental memories of them

Fade into the oblivion of History forgotten and repeated.


More than anything else, though, this play,

These writers, this actor, this musician, this director, this theatre

Wants us to reject Homer’s lessons:

Scholars of whom have claimed not without cause

That Homer’s lessons (indeed the lessons of all epics) are

“To die in battle is better than to have lived and not fought.”

“Duty to war overcomes any other duty.”

“The greatest fear of any man  is be seen as a coward.”

“Duty to the state trumps duty to the family”

And, of course, “A Man’s duty is to fight.”


Peterson and O’Hare and Osorio would rather the lessons be

“War is Grief. Honor is little comfort for grief.”

“War stems from selfish self-regard” (If that’s not redundant)

“War is unhumanitarian, makes slaves, is futile, separates senselessly.”  (***)


The real lesson sadly is “War has no regard for Time,”

A conclusion dramatically illuminated by

Peterson and O’Hare and Osorio’s climactic litany

Of every war, every conflict, every battle fought by humanity

Since that 3,000-year-old 10-year battle on the fields before Ilium.


Saddest perhaps is the realization that this litany.

May NOT, is PROBABLY NOT, every war,

Every battle, every conflict, every heroic undertaking for glory,

For Honor, for Righteousness, for Patriotism, for Hearth and Home.


As the Poet finishes his song, as we stumble back into the world,

We realize we have been numbed, we too have been jaded,

We too know the Poet’s job, his life, will be endless repetition.

Endless Repetition.  Endless Repetition.  Endless Repetition.


As we scatter to the four corners and 29 counties of Metro Atlanta,

We will all too soon forget the saga and death of Hector Breaker of Horses,

The wrath of Achilles, the guile of Odysseus, the cowardice of Paris,

The stalwart faith and resilience of Andromache,

The death of Astyanax, the Sisyphean constancy of the poet.


Thus is the conclusion of my thoughts on An Iliad,

Thus is the conclusion of the play of Peterson and O’Hare.

Thus is the conclusion of the song of Lee Osorio,

Teller of Tales, Nemesis of Heroism, Hope of Humanity.


     -- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com    @bk_rudy    #TheatricalOutfit   #AnIliad)


(***)  As much as I’d like to cite the authors of these interpretations and epigrams, I cannot.  I found them, just now, on a mimeographed sheet from my Epic Literature professor, hiding and forgotten in my college edition of Richmond Lattimore’s’ translation of Homer and completely uncredited, as mimeographed pages from professors of the early 1970’s usually were, meant more to stimulate thought than to be published or cited.  My professor would be very disappointed in me.