Hero Now Theatre began its second season with a one-play adaptation of Aeschylus’s trilogy The Oresteia. Rob Hardy, Minnesota poet and classicist (and Northfield’s first poet laureate) adapted and translated this ancient Greek drama for modern audiences. This was the first professional production of Hardy’s script.
The Oresteia tells of Orestes’s return from exile to revenge the murder of his father, Agamemnon the king, by his mother’s hand. It is a tale of murder and revenge, but also about how ancient Athenians began to find their way toward a society based on law and justice.
Performed outside in the sculpture gallery of Zoran Mojsilov, this production forged a bond between audiences and the Athenians who struggled with the questions raised by the play: Is murder ever justified? Who decides whether murder is punished? How is moral order restored?
We had the audience vote on the very issue at the center of the second act: Is Orestes to be convicted because he killed his mother? Or is he to be acquitted because the mother he killed murdered her own husband, the king of Argos, the head of state? At the beginning of the second act each audience member received two stones, one to use if they voted to acquit, the other to use if they voted to convict. We collected the votes and announced the results after each show.
The voting provided an interesting subject to discuss during talk-backs, which followed each performance.
Following one of the performances Professor Eric Janus, Dean Emeritus of William Mitchell College of Law, led a panel discussion on the subject of the ancient Greeks’ contributions to Western legal institutions. Sitting on the panel were the Honorable Kevin Ross, Professor Duchess Harris of Macalester College, and Professor Clara Shaw Hardy of Carleton College. Lawyers from around Minnesota were invited to attend, and their attendance earned them a credit for Continuing Legal Education.
On Friday, September 16, and Sunday, September 18, Professor Clara Shaw Hardy and her husband, Rob Hardy, who prepared the script, led a discussion on the history of the play and on adapting and translating Aeschylus. Students from Macalester, Carleton, Hamline, and the University of St. Thomas attended on these nights.
Zoran Mojsilov’s sculpture gallery, located on the parking lot just west of the former Grain Belt warehouse, at 77 13th Avenue NE in Minneapolis, was the perfect venue for this play and was another example of how Hero Now Theatre uses non-traditional venues to great theatrical effect. See pictures on Facebook.
Ashley Hovell—Chorus B
Lindy Jackson—Chorus C
Emily Gustafson—Chorus (read her comments)