Though the Oedipus Cycle plays were created hundreds of years ago, professor of theatre and humanities David Richman thinks that current students at UNH will have a lot to learn from these classic productions.
“This is an old blind irascible man; but he experiences rage, and every student I know experiences rage,” Richman, who has been legally blind since the age of 13, said. “He makes terrible mistakes, and every student I know makes terrible mistakes. And he finds a kind of redemption, and every student who’s come into my office and said ‘Please give me an excuse because I didn’t get the assignment in’ is looking for redemption. You’re coming to the play for the same reason you came to college, because you want to know about yourself, and you want to know about the world. That’s why you’re coming.”
Over the course of five days starting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, through Sunday, Feb. 26, the UNH theatre department will be collaborating with Plymouth State University and Keene State College to perform the trilogy in it’s entirety at the Johnson Theatre in the Paul Creative Arts Center (PCAC). Tickets are $14 each for UNH students and $16 each for members of the general public.
“So the way this works is that there’s a designer, a scenic designer who designs one set,” program manager for Power-play Interactive Development and director of “Oedipus at Colonus,” C.J. Lewis, said. “And he sends those plans out to each of the three schools, so each of the three schools build the same set. And they rehearse their respective shows independently. So nobody knows how the other schools are interpreting it, which is always interesting and exciting.”
At 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and then at 2 p.m. on Sunday, the UNH theatre department will perform “Oedipus at Colonus.” At 7 p.m. on Friday, the Plymouth State University theatre department will perform “Oedipus the King”; and at 7 p.m. on Saturday, the Keene State College theatre department will perform “Antigone.” Each play will run for 87 minutes in the Johnson Theater without an intermission. The chronoical order of the players, however, goes in the order of “Oedipus the King,” “Oedipus at Colonus,” and then “Oedipus the King.”
Richman will also be starring as the title role of Oedipus in UNH’s production of “Oedipus at Colonus.”
“I direct shows with student casts as most of us do in theatre departments,” Richman said. “I’ve directed 20-some odd shows over the years. It’s unusual for faculty members to act, the reason I am acting here is that Oedipus is a play about an old blind man and I am an old blind man.”
“He [Oedipus] blinds himself at the end of ‘Oedipus the King,’ and the action of this play is set years later,” Richman said. “One of the things that I am playing with in this play is that many people who lose their sight later in life are obsessed with the loss, and they become passive aggressive. Oedipus, especially at the beginning of this play, is a passive aggressive blind man. He’s become a kind of child. And in fact during the course of the play he is going to grow up.”
For Richman, the election of Donald J. Trump and the recent executive order regarding immigration has given the themes of the play an unfortunate prominence, given that Oedipus begins the play as a refugee in “Colonus.”
“When we planned these productions we were in the middle of an election year, but we did not know how the election would turn out, and we did not know that the word ‘refugee’ would become as charged a word as it has become,” Richman said. “So suddenly, this play, which I think has always been both a great and important play, it has taken on a political significance because how we deal with refugees has become an issue of importance to all of us.”