I am writing on the last day of July in Los Angeles. The cool, dry climate here is a relief after the onslaught of heat and humidity on the east coast this summer. We are here beginning a new adventure. We are building a temple entitled Trojan Women . How presumptuous to consider a play a temple and yet I believe that we are constructing a temple because the work of theater, although ephemeral, is an act of hope, audacity and faith in a world not formally asking for it. I believe that the theater is a sanctuary for exactly these qualities. Jocelyn Clarke wrote this Trojan Women , “after Euripides.” In the writing Jocelyn was inspired by Homer, Euripides, Jean Paul Sartre, Edith Hamilton, Roberto Calasso, Nikos Efthimopoulos, Caroline Alexander, Aristotle, David Lachapelle, Paul Roche, Robert Fagles, E.V. Rieu, Charles Rowan Beye, Simone Weill, Max Richter, Virgil, Barry S. Strauss, Eleni Karaindrou, and Alberto Manguel.
And now, in the sanctuary of the Getty Villa in the Malibu hills, we are beginning. But is beginning ever truly a beginning? Or is beginning only a fiction wrought inside the continual general search for meaning? We continue to construct an edifice, a visible surface upon which others may climb.
Yesterday, after days of slow reading and study while Jocelyn tweaked, cut and re-ordered his text, we read the play through once again from beginning to end without stopping. I was astonished at the raw, direct engine of the play and was moved by how the actors plumbed the depths without embellishments or excuses for the surges of passion and woe that the play evokes. There is little irony and nothing smart-ass about Jocelyn’s play. It is a sincere play and asks the actors to channel deep feeling and speak from the state of imbalance that the play’s circumstances demand.
We will premiere our Trojan Women in early September at the outdoor theater at the Getty Villa. We are presently rehearsing next to the Getty Villa Museum, a building that by design re-imagines an ancient villa in Pompeii. We are surrounded not only by the ancient art and relics of the museum but also by the scholars and curators who attend to them. The curators are a group of strong and distinguished individuals who share a passion for the mission of bringing consciousness and meaning to ancient artifacts and stories. It matters to them that we are embodying a play that has its roots in ancient Greece. Every choice that we make matters to them. Their scrutiny and opinions are challenging but helpful in our process. I am reminded of filmmaker Jean Luc Godard who claimed that he only listened to criticism from people who put money into his films because he felt that these were the only people who had a real stake in his films. At the Getty Villa the deeply personal stakes and passion of the curators who have spent their lives in service of antiquity is refreshing to be around and vital to our process. Especially now, as we begin.