Playwright Sean Graney Talks Ethics With Prindle Interns
by Prindle Intern, Amanda Feller (senior creative writing and theatre major)
Last Tuesday marked the beginning of a collaborative project between noted playwright, Sean Graney, and DePauw theatre professor, Tim Good. Graney was selected to visit DePauw for two weeks as a Nancy Schaenen Visiting Scholar in Ethics, through the Prindle Institute for Ethics. The Prindle interns had the opportunity to discuss the ethics of Sean Graney’s writing with the playwright last week.
Graney is the founder of Hypocrites Theater in Chicago, a director, and playwright, best known for his adaptation and compilation of the seven remaining Sophocles tragedies, entitled These Seven Sicknesses. (For more information read the NYT article here.)
Graney’s current project trumps his previous adaptations; while These Seven Sicknesses is a four hour long production including several breaks and a meal, All Our Tragic tells the story of approximately thirty Greek tragedies over the time of three days—the first day tells of Oedipus and the Seven Against Thebes, the second day tells of Herakles and the Trojan War, and the third day tells of the aftermath of the Trojan War.
Three colleges have been selected to workshop a day of the material; DePauw University has been selected to produce material from day one of Graney’s “3 Days of Greek Tragedy” in a production directed by Professor Tim Good. This semester, Professor Good teaches a course where students read and workshop Graney’s writing and prepare for the upcoming production, All in Troy, scheduled to open at DePauw in January 2014.
Graney discussed his motivation and process for writing such a piece on Tuesday with the Prindle Institute of Ethics student interns. As a playwright, and someone always fascinated by both Greek mythology and tragedy, as well as neoclassic and modern adaptations, my first question was, “Why Greek tragedy?” The original stories are still enjoyed today, but what is the purpose behind the adaptation? Graney responded, “I don’t think I’m saying anything new—I’m trying to capture the questions the Greek tragedians addressed in their pieces.”
He continued on to say Greek tragic theatre was an opportunity for the Greeks to ask questions and express their concerns with society, with love, with war. “None of those questions have been answered.” The purpose of Graney’s adaptations is not to answer the questions presented in the classic pieces or his own writing, but to understand people living hundreds of years before us were asking the same questions we ask today.
My next question was, How? How do you condense or seven Sophocles plays, all probably two to four hours in length into a fluid four hour performance? Graney responded, “I cut the chorus and all references to the gods, so that knocks out a significant chunk.” Senior Daniel questioned the moral integrity of the characters in a godless universe, “Does the elimination of the gods cause a change in the moral compass and ethics of the characters?” to which Graney replied no. The elimination of volatile gods puts a greater importance on the actions of the characters because their decisions directly affect them (without a jealous or angry god throwing in a cruel punishment.) Graney said, “I wanted to focus on the human experience.”
Graney returns to DePauw in April to continue his editing process. Professor Good’s production All in Troy, (estimated time 2 hours, 15 minutes including an extended intermission) is scheduled to open January 20 and continue January 26-29 of next year. The rehearsal process will take place during the month of January 2014 as a Winter Term project. The performance will include music by current senior, Alex Diaz; designed by students, Chengyuan Huang (Set), Amanda Troyer (Costume), and Andre Williams (Lighting).
Additional information on Sean Graney’s All Our Tragic can be found here.