Situated at the end of the “Walpurgisnacht” scene, Goethe’s original design for the “Walpurgisnacht Intermezzo” is a light-hearted play within a play that offers a polar contrast with the tragic conclusion of Faust, to which it segues. Goethe draws inspiration for this piece from the marriage of Oberon and Titania, the Faerie King and Queen, who toy with the human characters in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Building upon the surreal dreamscape found in Shakespeare’s play, Goethe assembles a cast of ‘amateur players’ from the perverse rabble present at the pagan orgy of Walpurgisnacht. The plot is, essentially, a string of faeries and human archetypes acquainting themselves to the wedding scene and to the audience with abstruse proclamations made in overwrought verse.
In preparing a contemporary substitution for Goethe’s “Intermezzo,” my goals were to transfer the elevated speech patterns and general self-importance to a more accessible plotline, and to uphold the author’s deft satire of this cast of amateur players performing their art. I selected the Odyssey for three reasons: 1) most everyone has heard of the Odyssey or Odysseus, and has vague idea that he fights a one-eyed giant somewhere along the way; 2) outside of the literary circles of Greek scholars, the characters of the Odyssey can be easily simplified to either ‘the epic hero’ or ‘not the epic hero,’ providing me the opportunity to develop perfectly arbitrary personalities that the amateur players deem as authentic; and 3) in his superhuman and chivalrous return to wife Penelope, Odysseus exemplifies not only an epic hero but a Romantic ideal as well.
Using cues from Goethe, both textual and biographical, the idealism of the Romanticists is as ripe for lampooning as the rationalism of the Enlightenment’s Humanists. The competitive co-existence of these two perspectives constitutes one of Faust’s central struggles. In the Walpurgisnacht scene, the presence of this duality takes a frenetic turn, as the abundance of hedonistic appeals simultaneously delights and disgusts. By way of satirizing the serious performance of a serious play, Goethe and I attempt to encapsulate the effortless hypocrisy of the self-possessed amateurs.
Hoping to make all this come together, I wrote and directed “A Re-imagining of Odysseus’ Odyssey in Four and One Half Acts” to visually play with the definitions of Romantic versus romantic (ro-man-tique), and to offer another outlet for Goethe’s allegorical blurring of sin by way of intellectual hubris and sin by way of hedonism.
In summary, this playlet is dedicated to the actors, playwrights, and directors (fictional or otherwise) who sometimes take themselves too seriously. And of course, I want to especially thank our own Oberkünstler Peter Ferran for asking me to work on this.