The Black C Art Gallery’s reinvention of the classic “Oedipus Rex,” combines electric guitar and written text to tell the story from a new perspective: Jocasta, Oedipus’ mother who unknowingly becomes his wife.
The upcoming performance of “Oedipus Redux or ‘Which Man is That in My Bed?’” will show on Oct. 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. “Oedipus Redux” will run each night for about 45 minutes, and a talkback will be held after the show with the actors and director. Tickets cost $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors.
Lauren Warhol Caldwell, Artistic Consultant at Black C Art, is the brain behind this performance. She worked with UF chemistry professor and musician Charles Martin to use the power of guitar and music to enhance a well-known story and its characters.
Caldwell wrote the Oedipus Rex interpretation after deciding she wanted to create a performance that combined written text with music.
“I thought, ‘You know what I’d like to do?’” Caldwell said. “'A mashup of text and guitar, and find out how that guitar can be another character in a play, and how the marriage of that would come about.'”
Caldwell said she discussed this with Martin over coffee and, after brainstorming potential stories to work with, they fell in love with the idea of Oedipus Rex, a play that isn’t often used in today’s theaters.
Martin himself has a love for Greek tragedies and said he was particularly excited about diving into Oedipus Rex.
“I remember reading [Oedipus Rex] in high school and just being blown away at the writing and the depth of human emotion and at Sophocles’ understanding of the human condition,” Martin said. “And so I’ve always been in love with such plays.”
The theatrical interpretation is 60 percent her own writing, Caldwell said, with the rest made up of the original work. The music performed will be snippets of Martin’s own songs that relate to specific moments of the piece, with one short original song written by both Martin and Caldwell.
Martin plans to use his vocals as well as each strum of his guitar to reinforce the plot and emotional content of Caldwell’s interpretation.
“There’s a lot of tension in this play, and I accent that tension a lot,” Martin said. “I think in some ways, the song part of it is adding context to the story.”
“Oedipus Redux” differs greatly from the original because it is told from the eyes of Jocasta, Oedipus’ mother and eventual wife.
“You can’t really compare her to a modern woman, but you also don’t have to keep her in the trunk. I’ve sort of let her live and breathe and speak to us,” Caldwell said. “She is in full control of the story and how it’s told.”
“Oedipus Redux” emphasizes many of the original story’s theme, such as the relationship between mortals and fate, and asks the audience whether someone truly can escape their destiny.
“One of the biggest questions is ‘Can we control our fate?’ And I think in the year 2019 you might get a multitude of answers about that,” Caldwell said. “But in the Greek times, if you were cursed by the gods, that was a whole different sort of pickle that you got yourself into.”
This piece will be Black C Art’s fourth live performance since Caldwell joined staff, and the gallery expects to introduce more performances in the next year, she said.