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Saturday, June 17, 2006

WOUNDED BY EROS

"Love distills desire upon the eyes,
love brings bewitching grace into the heart
of those he would destroy.
I pray that love may never come to me
with murderous intent,
in rhythms, measureless and wild.
Not fire nor stars have stronger bolts
than those of Aphrodite sent
by the hand of Eros, Zeus's child."
Euripides 485-406 BC Hippolytus (428 BC) l. 525

Last night I attended an amazing performance titled "When Eros Wounded Me" a compilation of five monolgues from three plays written by Euripides Alcestes, Hippolytus, Medea and one of Sophocles' plays The Trachiniae Women.

Four talented local actresses performed the monologues beginning with the prologue by Aphrodite from Hippolytus. The performance included Alcestes' monologue from Alcestes in which she reminds her husband that she is dying in his place so that he will live and care for their children; Phaedra's monologue from Hippolytus when she reveals her desire to be near the forbidden subject of her love, her stepson Hippolytus; Deianera's monologue from The Trachiniae Women when she reveals her discovery that the potion given to her as a gift from the Centaur for her to rub on her husband Hercules' cloak in order to make him faithful to her, was actually a poison to kill him. And Medea's monologue from the play Medea when she exposes her murderous plan to kill her husband Jason's second wife-to-be, and the girl's father, and the murder of her children by Jason to avenge her husband's betrayal.

Following this brilliant performance which was accompanied by appropriately exotic music and lovely period costumes, the renown Greek actress Iliana Panagiotouni appeared to perform all five monologues in modern Greek, beginning with Aphrodite which was recited in Classical Greek and finally the monologue segement by Medea ,which was also performed in Classical Greek. It was one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen (and I have attended many plays in the ancient theatres of Greece.)

The most awesome part of the night was when Panagiotouni appeared on stage. For years I've been looking for a living face to put on my character of Olympias, especially now when I am about to write a crucial part of my novel which 'stars' Alexander's mother, a woman of 60 who has been living in exile from Macedonia and is about to return to care for her grandson and oversee his claim to the throne that had been inherited by him from her husband and son. When Panagiotouni stepped onto the stage I couldn't believe it. There she was, Olympias! The exact person I had imagined, even to the red hair! I sat there all the rest of the show, mouth agape, rivetted by her performance. (Thinking about it, how coincidental that I should relate this actress to Olympias, a woman who was truly 'wounded by Eros' in so many ways. Imagine the monologue she might have delivered, so like those spoken by the dramatists' tragic women.

I came away feeling totally inspired and awe-struck. It was an evening I won't soon forget.
Today I made some calls to friends urging them to attend. (I'd go again myself if I could!) And by some other strange coincidence right afterwards I got a phone call from a Greek man I'd never met, phoning from the Hellenic Society to remind me of the play and other events being held this week during Hellenic Cultural Week. I spoke at length with him. He seemed to already know about me and my work-in-progress about Alexander's dynasty, and I told him that most of the travel stories I've had published were about Greek travel. We had an excellent chat and I'm only sorry I will be away during next week so I won't be able to attend more of the events they have planned.

I've been so homesick for Greece lately, and seeing the performance, talking to this man about Greece, has only heightened this longing to be there, immersed in the culture and language again. It was truly a gift last night, sitting in the audience listening to this fine, talented actress recite in that beautiful language. It makes me want to study again, to improve my vocabulary, to speak it more often and more fluently. And most of all, to return to Alexander's world.
Soon...very soon, I hope!

"They are not wise, then, who stand forth to buffet against Love:
for Love rules the gods as he will, and me."
Sophocles 495-406 BC "Trachiniae" l 441

"Would that I were under the cliffs, in the secret hiding-places of the rocks,
that Zeus might change me to a winged bird."
Euripides 485-406 BC "Hippolytus" l 732



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