I could lie, you know, the way we've all learned how acceptable that is when talking about America and its wars. Instead, here's the truth: it was by chance that I'd bought tickets to see "An Iliad" on Amistice Day. Reading about it, my old childish self was distracted by memories of seventh grade Latin class. Wars, men.
Something shifted. By Monday November 8, knew it was an experience I needed, would regret missing. Only later realize the day I'd chosen was November 11. Was it the anti-war revision of "Hamlet in Love" seen last week in Silverton?
Maybe Sunday's presentation at the Holcaust Resource Center of the OJM (Oregon Jewish Musuem) by Miriam Kominkowska Greenstein, Holocaust survivor, about what led to her "coming out" to paint what she remembered, then recently write her book, In the Shadow of Death. Ron and I wondered at our good fortune to have been born in the U.S.--if not for different family decisions we could have been young Jews in Poland like Miriam.
Rage...Was the first word from the Homeric storyteller's mouth as he staggered into our presence. In his tattered, dirty clothes, Joseph Graves, the actor, became a mesmerizing presence who demanded our attention over one hour and 45 minutes--with no intermission. By turns he delivered a drunk's litany--the endless names of Greek ships in Troy's harbor--why did my 1940s class avoid telling of the carnage?
Rage...Nine years the Trojan war lasted. How contemporary for you and me. Graves points to the ramparts of Troy where the beseiged citizens watched as if it were theatre. Something like this happened in the hills around Washington, D.C. at the start of the Civil War. He never let up-- wove into his telling names/places of world's conflicts, over the centuries. Could I put pictures of cities to all of them? Oh, those were the words of the muted graphics on the walls around us. What happened to the picture book I had of beautiful Sarajevo in the 1920s?
Who is this man before me: he has stopped and looked me in the eye. So close I want to ask him questions. But he's gone as he races around the stage, throws benches, himself onto the ground. He is not a young actor but has enormous strength and conviction. The text of "An Iliad" might be his but is not. Another actor, Denis O'Hare, collaborated with Lisa Peterson, Resident Director of Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Their brilliant re-imagining weaves in the present to the war-marked history of centuries past.
Rage...Wandering industrial streets after meeting Miriam Greenstein at OJM, we found a door marked "Open." Several male voices invited us in. It was the studio of Ryan Birkland, former Marine turned art-maker. Talking about how oblivious politicians seemed to the wars Iraq/Afghanistan, we discovered he too had met that other former Marine and artist, Ehren Tool, when his exhibition was in town.
Rage...People in England and Germany are in the streets as I write. Am I living in Troy, waiting for...you. Take four minutes to watch this YouTube video of Joseph Graves talking about the play plus a moment or two from his performance.
Photo at top of post: the stage at the end. Our storyteller has thrown the Eisenhower jacket to the floor covered by a pretty Oriental, somewhat worn, rug. He has left us with an encyclopediac review of all the wars, begun for all the wrong reasons when reason might have taken another path--if the god of reason was not ruled by restless male warriors.