Iphigenia & Other Daughters
- Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
- September 2009
- By Ellen McGlaughin
- Directed by Andrus Nichols and Ava Roy
This production marked the first live performance on Alcatraz. The story is a modern retelling of the Greek Oresteia, which is perhaps the oldest literary expression on the theme of Justice. We begin to investigate cycles of suffering, and the conflict of personal choice in the face of a pre-determined fate. The ancient gods, The Furies, insist on justice through vengeance, while siblings Iphigenia and Orestes strive for a new kind of balance…”the part of justice which is merely personal.”
“Where will it end? Where will it sink to sleep and rest, this murderous hate, this Fury?”
This crystalline script by Ellen McLaughlin is a retelling of the Greek Oresteia. It is a rich and unusually accessible rendering of this story, and explores themes of exile, vengeance, and sacrifice, in its search to find and define Justice. Unlike other versions of this myth, McLaughlin’s play arrives at a poignant and thoughtful moment of hope, and considers the ways in which human society may disengage from cycles of crime, blame, and persecution. It comes down to an intimate, personal choice in the end. Through seeing and articulating the cycle of suffering––and the futility of it––we realize our choice to stay or to step outside of it, and participate differently.
This play was the first piece for our work on Alcatraz; this ancient story may be the oldest literary expression of the themes We Players intends to explore during our island residency. The original Orestes myth, in its full articulation, marks the beginning of the modern democratic concept of Justice, and includes a portrayal of the first trial by jury. Orestes has long been considered the dramatic archetype for anyone whose crime is mitigated by extenuating circumstances. He is the first character in western literature to find redemption through transforming the very system that incriminates him. In this story, the implacable blood-feud of primitive society gives way to something else, in the original myth, to a fair trial, and in McLaughlin’s play, to something more personal, and perhaps even more powerful, than that.