by C H A R L E S L . M E E
In the darkness,
we hear a male voice singing an ancient Macedonian folk song,
Or Salpinx Call by Nederlanders Blazers Ensemble with Bie Deti Dallget by Arap Celolesakaj, Fatbardha Brahimi, Nazif Celaj & Nikolin Likaj.
Or the male solo from Music of the Turkmen from Primitive Music of the World.
Or it could be Dionisis Savopoulos and Sotiria Bellou sing Zeibekiko.
Or Nikos Xylouris sings the mournful San Erthoun Mana I Fili Mou.
Or the very sad song Ipne Pou Pernis Ta Pedia sung by Savina Yannatou.
An Old Greek Man sits in the shadows, whitewashing the walls.
Throughout the play he will continue to alter the space and prepare for the wedding.
Agamemnon enters by himself
considering what he will say.
He walks slowly downstage
and stops directly in front of the audience.
When the music ends,
he takes his time speaking.]
I see that there are acts
that will set an empire on a course
that will one day
bring it to an end.
Because, we see from the histories of empires
none will last forever
and all are brought down finally
not by others
but by themselves,
from the actions that they take
that they believe are right or good
or necessary at the time to do.
Sometimes they are brought to ruin
by no more than the belief
that something must be done
when in truth
doing nothing would have been the better course.
[quietly, the First Soldier enters to one side,
stands in silence,
listening to Agamemnon]
To be sure,
cannot refuse to defend itself from absolute devastation
and so it will arrange to have the capacity
for self defense.
It will preserve itself first from extinction
and, as well, from lethal damage or great harm
and then, too, from hurt and ill-treatment
that could, if left unattended, lead to devastating injury,
and, so by degrees,
an empire will reason itself to a need to be immune even
to the anxieties and nightmares
that arise from within,
and so: striking out
at the phantasms of its own dreams.
Of course, it will know that a nation must protect its borders
and, in order to do that,
must secure its periphery
and so it will come to attend to conditions just beyond its
and thus, by increments,
its interests will grow,
until they will have been extended beyond an ability to defend them.
They will have created new enemies along the way.
They will have created the causes of wars
where there were none before.
Even if an empire begins with no ambition
with no desire for conquest
no wish to grow
even so, it will feel it must grow or die
and so it grows
and thus it dies.
Ruin, it would seem,
is inherent in the nature of empire.
[and, as Agamemnon continues to speak,
and then another
and then another
appear at the edges of the stage
Might this fate be avoided
or at least
Might something else be done?
Are there no precepts to follow in this murky,
Often, it seems,
men of affairs think that moral laws
offer no useful guide to behavior
that they are not meant for the practical business of the world
that moral laws are nothing more nor less
than the accumulated folk wisdom
of millenia of human experience.
And so it will happen
that some moral law of an unforgiving nature is violated--
a law against boundless desire,
a law against coercion
or indifference to the humanity of others
a law against initiating violence
or being required,
in the pursuit of some goal,
to commit an act that anyone might see
something finally is done that is so deeply wrong
that the world must rise and crush it
in order for the world itself to go on.
We may have felt some qualm about our behavior along the way
but we will have dismissed it
thinking it is a secondary thing
insignificant in the context of the great demands
we have placed upon ourselves
and yet this qualm we feel
will have been sent to us by our deepest wisdom.
It is a warning to us.
We ignore it at our peril.
And so, I tell you
to call back the messenger.
This misgiving that I have
can only, finally,
save us all from devastation.
it's too late.
The messenger has gone.
He can be recalled.
And if he were recalled
The soldiers have already said
they will not sail to Troy
they will not put their lives at risk
unless you make a sacrifice that means as much to you
as their lives mean to them.
This should be the requirement placed on any leader
who would engage in any enterprise
that puts at risk the lives of others.
If you speak of moral law:
your own ministers say
you can't ask them to send their sons to war
knowing, without fail, some of them will die,
unless you prove your equal commitment to your goal
and sacrifice one of your own children first.
Before these soldiers even consent to step into battle?
This is their demand.
How can this be right
to substitute the certainty of a death
for the possibility of one?
The prospect of death in war is certain for some
and so they ask for you to be the first to accept this certainty.
A child of my own.
This is their demand.
How could I do this?
You've already done it.
You've sent for your daughter.
I was wrong.
I made a mistake.
I have changed my mind.
She's on her way.
I'm told she will arrive any moment now.
I can send her back.
And the soldiers, too, will go back home.
And so there will be no army
to defend the lives of all those others
you have said you will protect.
And are all those lives in such danger?
Your own brother's wife
Helen, we know, has been taken captive to Troy.
Taken captive or been seduced?
Will not be returned.
I am to trade the life of my own daughter
for that of Helen?
To let the world understand
no one of our citizens
may be held unlawfully.
That we will defend each other.
No one of us stands alone
to face the threats of the world by ourselves.
We have made a compact with one another.
And within our own home
we are safe to live our lives.
The soldiers say,
if you won't accept the duties of leadership
it could be
we should find another leader.
It could be you should have one.
I will not
What's this I hear, Agamemnon,
that there has been some change of plan?
This is just what we were discussing.
Hasn't a decision already been made?
Yes. But then, you see....
I see nothing but indecision.
What are you saying?
The army won't be sent to Troy?
After you gave your word
you would bring Helen back to me?
What the soldiers have demanded of me,
is that I sacrifice my own daughter
no, let's speak plainly,
that I murder my own daughter
before they would go into battle....
What father could do this?
And yet you thought you could.
When it was first proposed to you
you thought you must,
to put your duties ahead of your private feelings.
I was wrong.
I made a mistake.
I can't do this.
I understand the difficulty this puts you in.
But what sort of leader do you pretend to be?
One who can make a decision
as it were, from the mountaintop,
but not when you imagine seeing
face to face
what your decision means in fact?
Is this the first you've heard what dangers men face in battle?
The time a car came towards us,
when, just five minutes before, another car had come
and there were four Palestinians in it with RPGs
and they killed three of my friends.
So this new Peugeot comes towards us,
and we shoot.
And there was a family there--
And I cried,
but I couldn't take the chance.
Children, father, mother.
All the family was killed,
but we couldn't take the chance.
When we cleaned out a terrorist prison camp
we took a woman prisoner.
I'd already told my men we took no prisoners,
but I'd never killed a woman.
"She has to die fast," my sergeant said.
I was sweating.
The woman said to me,
what's the matter? you're sweating.
"Not for you," I said, "It's a malaria recurrence."
I gave my pistol to my
but he couldn't do it.
None of them would do it,
and I knew if I didn't do it,
I'd never be able to control that unit again
"You're sweating," she said again.
"Not for you," I said.
And I blew her fucking head off.
We came one time, my squad,
into the house of a prominent community leader,
and shot him
and shot his wife
shot his married son
a male and female servant and their baby.
The family dog was clubbed to death,
the family cat was strangled,
the goldfish was scooped out of his fishbowl and tossed on the floor.
When our squad left,
no life remained in the house--
a "family unit" had been eliminated.
Is it all a matter of distance, then?
If you were an old man sitting at home by the fire
you would tsk tsk the war
even as you went out to dinner and the theatre
you might even be appalled by it
but not for more than a moment or two
before you got on with deciding which wine to have with your fish.
You have no problem
contemplating what the soldiers have to do at a distance
but as soon as you imagine such an atrocity close to home
at your own hands
then you shrink from it.
Would you have the soldiers do the same?
Would you have us all go home?
Shall we call a halt to it all?
What do soldiers want?
They ask for almost nothing.
the new york times
mail order bride catalogues
letter writing gear
a blowup doll
corned beef hash
baby name books
needles and thread
the names and addresses of women incarcerated
at federal correctional facilities
FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD SOLDIERS
Some sense of commitment from their leaders.
We came into a church
there were two naked men torturing a young woman
a nun as it turned out
stripped naked and stretched out in the aisle of the church
holding her down
burning her with cigarettes
another woman to one side
already raped I guessed
and dead, bleeding
I yelled at the guys holding down the woman
I told them to stand up
hands above their heads
the one who had been holding down the woman
was shaking from fear
his eyes flying uncontrollably around the room
the woman had rolled onto her stomach, rocking from side to side,
I saw him see the rifle lying in the church aisle
I told him not to be a fool
but suddenly he screamed and dove for the rifle
grabbing it, turning to look at me.
My first burst caught him in the face,
the second full in the chest.
He was dead before he fell over,
a body missing most of its head.
The second guy began to wave his arms up and down,
and he was looking at me
and looking as his own rifle leaned up against the pew
I said don't do it, don't do it,
but he went for his rifle
and he started to swing the muzzle in my direction
KILL HIM, GODDAMMIT
one of my guys yelled at me
KILL HIM NOW!
This guy was facing me now
trying to swing the long barrel rifle across his body
to align it with my chest
his eyes locked on mine.
His eyes never left mine,
not even when the rounds from my Sterling
tore into his stomach
walked up his chest,
and cut the carotid artery on the left side of his neck.
When his body hit the floor,
his eyes were still fixed on mine,
and then his body relaxed,
and his eyes dilated and went blind.
[He suddenly breaks away, like an animal, paces all over the space. Music begins.]
As for war,
make no mistake,
this call of nature
longs to be tested--
[He cues the soldiers to begin a drill, which they do during the following - ]
seeks to be challenged beyond itself.
The warrior within us beseeches Mars,
the god of War,
to deliver us to that crucial battlefield
that will redeem us into the terrifying immediacy of the moment.
We pray to the war gods to guide us to the walls of Jericho
so we may dare the steadfastness and strength of our trumpet call.
We aspire to be defeated in battles
by powers so much greater than our self
that the defeat itself will have made us larger
than when we arrived.
We long for the encounter that will ultimately empower us
with dignity and honor.
Charging into the trenches
shouting and yelling
I saw Corporal Bolte run his lance
right through a dismounted German
who had his hands up, surrendering
and we poured into the trenches
they all had their hands up
yelling "Camerad, Camerad,"
which means "I give up" in their language
but they had to have it that's all
they had to have it
no one can change his feelings during that last rush
the veil of blood before his eyes.
He doesn't want to take prisoners,
he wants to kill.
[The drill is over.]
If you would decide to send these men to war
then you must go to war yourself--
and set the example for your men
how they are to behave.
He is 18 years old,
or perhaps only 16 years old,
I understand a wedding party is on its way.
And I am to be the groom.
I'm told you have lured your daughter Iphigenia here
with the story that she is to be married to me.
But you have no intention of having a wedding.
Instead you plan to bring her here to kill her as a sacrifice.
I've come here
prepared to go to war
honored to serve.
It seems to me a privilege
to be able to be a soldier.
But I did not volunteer
to be used as a lure
for another's innocent death.
To be made,
without my knowledge
against my will
the party to a lie I would never tell.
How can it be
you would found a policy
Put the lives of men and women and children at stake
on a ground of lies?
Where, then, is the possibility of good judgment?
Where is the chance
for others to join with you
in discussion about what is best?
And so arrive at some decision
that is indeed best for you
and for the country
and for its citizens.
What chance can an empire have
if its actions are to be based
on lies and imaginings?
I will not be drafted into a plot against your daughter.
I will not be conscripted into any cause
without my consent
without respect for my autonomy.
I will not.
Even though you may think it trivial
your life, too, depends upon the autonomy of others
on the best judgment,
not coerced, not constrained,
but freely given, of your friends.
This is the beginning of civil society.
On this we build a world
where all can flourish and prosper.
But, if you show contempt for others,
they will show scorn for you
and, finally, homicidal intent.
[Achilles leaves in a huff.
Screams from outside.
in the coolest, latest American teenage fashion,
accompanied by her two bridesmaids
also wearing the latest American teenage fashion.]
Loud, happy, contemporary/traditional Greek folk dancing music.
Or a song like The Great Bouzouki (Vocal Radio Edit) by Krid P.]
[Iphigenia goes straight to Agamemnon,
and dances with him.
and then the other
draws a soldier into the dance,
the soldiers giving in uncertainly
one by one to the bridesmaids,
so that finally
all the bridesmaids and all the soldiers are dancing, too.
When the music comes to an end:]
Oh, daddy, I love you!
I love you, sweetheart.
I'm so excited.
To be married!
I love him.
And he loves me, too.
I know that.
We talked about how we would one day get married.
But we didn't think it could happen so soon.
And it seemed,
he had to go with you
to this stupid war.
I understand everyone needs to do it.
But to be married before he goes,
thank you, daddy.
I'm so happy.
So am I, my love.
[Clytemnestra who has entered to the side,
smiling and happy,
now steps forward.]
Thank you, Agamemnon.
You knew this!
You knew this was what she wanted.
And what I wanted for her.
And yet you never gave a hint.
You kept it to yourself.
[she puts her arms around him and kisses him]
Thank you, Agamemnon.
I'm happy if you're comfortable with the plan--
the mother of the bride--
not having been consulted.
It was all I hoped for.
Then I'm happy.
We came as soon as we got your message.
Your trip was not too difficult?
We celebrated all the way.
We've been celebrating three days and three nights.
And now we're really ready
to begin to celebrate!
My friend Dana
had this bachelorette party at the Beverly Hills Hotel?
They reserved a suite
and there were nine girls there.
And when they arrived
a good looking guy
dressed in a tuxedo with tails
was playing a nocturne by Chopin on the baby grand piano
at far end of the suite.
There were candles on all the tables
and the couches and chairs were draped in rose pink velvet
and all the girls wore satin and lace pj's and nightgowns
and there were roses and appetizers
served by this gorgeous guy in a white tux
and get this:
they played this game called
"Who is he?"
There were twenty pictures of actors and models and sports figures posted on
Each girl was given a list of clues
to help them figure out the name that went with the face.
And the girl who was the first to match the correct name
with the correct face
would win a prize associated with him--
like, a copy of his album
or a magazine subscription to the publication he was featured in.
My friend Jennifer had a bachelorette party
at the end of the party--almost the end of the party--
she pulled on the end of a tasseled cord
and the curtain fell away
and there was a large hot tub.
The water was bubbling and steaming.
All the girls took off their tops and began getting into the the tub.
And then the waiter took off his jacket
and began disrobing down to a skinny little bikini.
And he had a great body
and he slid into the jacuzzi with the the girls.
And then the pianist got up and began to strip.
He opened a bottle of Champagne,
put a disc into the CD player,
and he got into the jacuzzi, too!
And everyone took turns telling jokes
and playing all kinds of "touchy-feely" games.
I don't know if you've made any plans for your honeymoon?
You remember we went through that place
the Grace Bay Club
there was that Balinese masseuse
with the oils with lavender and geranium
I remember lying face down on that massage table
at the Shambhala Spa at the Parrot Cay resort
I was just trying not to drool on the red hibiscus blossom
You can do couples massage
you on one table
your husband on another table
Then you have their homemade ginger tea
dinner on the porch of your own cottage
with your own wicker lounge chairs
and the plink-plink music
If you want
you can rent Keith Richards's house
he has a place there
and you can rent it in the winter
$4,050 a night
Or Bruce Willis's house
Swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, fishing, windsurfing
White sand beaches
water so clear you think you can see the fish swimming in it
Green sea grape trees,
pound cake bushes with white floral bursts,
wild allamanda with bright yellow blooms,
bay cedar and wild cotton.
four-poster bed with white mosquito netting
Or you could go to Little Dix Bay
The Virgin Islands
dinner on the beach
just the two of you, surrounded by tiki torches
Or you can ask one of the members of the staff
to take you in a boat
and leave you marooned together
on an empty white-sand beach with beach umbrellas
a picnic lunch and plenty of cold beer
Or Emerald Bay in the Bahamas
followed by champagne and fruit at sunset
a round of golf on the course designed
by the legendary Greg Norman
18 holes, par 72
Indigenous herbs and seaweeds in the spa
"Have we died and gone to heaven?"
When will the wedding be?
What will it be, daddy?
As soon as you're ready.
Daddy, I'm ready now.
Then why not today?
The wedding will be today.
We have to get ready!
Where can we all get
Use my quarters.
I'll show you.
But, if the wedding is to be today,
then the mother of the bride has some things to do, too.
Thank you, daddy!
[he starts to lead them off]
[The young women all run out
after Clytemnestra and Agamemnon.
The soldiers sing a verse of a pop song, like Home Again by New Edition, a'capella.]
In a case like this,
you have to think:
what are the qualities of good leadership?
The six most important words: "I admit I made a mistake."
The five most important words: "Tell me what you think."
The four most important words: "I'm open to suggestion."
The three most important words: "I hear you."
The two most important words: "Thank you,"
The one most important word:
The least most important word:
Good leaders are made not born.
If you have the desire and willpower,
you can become an effective leader.
Good leaders develop through a never ending process of
self-study, education, training, and experience.
To inspire your men to higher levels of teamwork,
there are certain things you must
SECOND and THIRD SOLDIER
be, know, and, do.
These do not come naturally,
but are acquired through continual work and study.
Good leaders are continually working and studying
to improve their leadership skills;
they are NOT resting on their laurels.
You must have a honest understanding of who you are,
what you know, and what you can do.
Also, note that it is the followers,
not the leader
who determines if a leader is successful.
If they do not trust or lack confidence in their leader,
then they will be uninspired.
To be successful you have to convince your followers,
not yourself or your superiors,
that you are worthy of being followed.
Some personality traits may lead people naturally
into leadership roles.
This is the Trait Theory.
People can choose to become leaders.
People can learn leadership skills.
This is the Transformational Leadership Theory.
A crisis or important event
may cause a person to rise to the occasion,
SECOND and THIRD SOLDIER
which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities
in an ordinary person.
This is the Great Events Theory.
This is the case we are talking about today.
And what are the essential qualities of leadership
required in response to a Great Event?
Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
Be technically proficient.
Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
Above all: Make sound and timely decisions.
SECOND, THIRD, and FOURTH SOLDIERS
SECOND, THIRD, and FOURTH SOLDIERS
SECOND, THIRD, and FOURTH SOLDIERS
[Music. A rap song like Brand Nubian's Soldier's Story.
During the following the soldiers all strip to their underwear]
Gentlemen, we are waiting for you.
Gentlemen, we are waiting for you.
HUT HUT HUT.
HUT HUT HUT.
[The soldiers do a big macho dance to a hip-hop song like Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J, or Seven Banana Army by DJ Greg J.
When the soldiers finish,
they gather up their clothes without ceremony
and just walk off.
partially dressed for the wedding.]
[Agamemnon comes out.]
What is this, Agamemnon?
there've been no wedding plans.
Of course there have.
It's only that
things have happened so suddenly.
We weren't ready for you to arrive.
you had no intention of having a wedding
that Achilles was used as a lure
to bring Iphigenia here.
There was some confusion about all this, Clytemnestra.
And I am sorry for it.
But I think, finally,
in the long run,
it doesn't matter,
Iphigenia will be married today
and what's done is past.
I don't understand.
There was to be no wedding?
When we first arrived
the soldiers and I
here at Aulis
preparing to embark to Troy
they were ready to go,
or so I thought.
And then, for whatever reason,
because they were suddenly filled with fear or
they came to feel, on thinking more about it,
that the war was not a necessary war
as, finally, in fact, they said to me
that the leader of an army
needed to show he was prepared to make sacrifices
commensurate with their own--
that this was only right and just
in a real and absolute sense,
and as a prudent precaution
as a check on a leader's possibly rash judgment
to make certain he had really thought about what he was doing--
they demanded that
before they would sail for Troy
I should make such a sacrifice
to prove my worth
and the worth of the enterprise.
That I should bring myself face to face
with what I was asking of them--
of the dreadful things I was asking them to do
and to have done to them.
And so I ought to sacrifice my own child
before they would set sail.
Your own child?
Do you mean to kill your own child?
Who would do such a thing?
Do you mean, for instance,
that you should kill Iphigenia?
And that is why you asked me to bring her here?
Was it, Agamemnon?
I don't know what possessed me....
I was wrong.
I made a horrifying mistake.
[she goes suddenly to the ground,
her hand over her mouth
as though she might vomit
[after a moment]
You would kill your own daughter.
I don't know what I could have been thinking....
as the leader of the expedition
to put my own personal thoughts
ahead of the common will
and the common good....
I need to think of what is best for greatest number
and so I was thinking abstractly
I was not thinking clearly at all
then I thought
but how can it be the common good
if what I do is so vile in itself?
How can such a single act
in a general context
still hold good?
And so I thought
I can't do this
I can't possibly do this
I can't think clearly
I'm trying to follow my instinct
and to trust that that knows more than my reason by itself
that my feelings and my thoughts together
are a more reliable guide than my thoughts alone
I don't know what's become of me.
It's taken me apart
and I'm not to be trusted any more
We'll leave now.
I'll get Iphigenia.
I'm not certain that you can leave.
Oh, yes, I can.
I can leave
and never ever see you again.
What I mean to say is,
I'm told that some of the soldiers
have said that they won't let you leave.
They can't stop us.
I'm told they say
neither Iphigenia, nor you,
nor the other young women you've brought with you
will leave alive
if we don't finish what we've begun.
No. That can't be.
All that will happen now
is that your soldiers won't go with you to war.
They'll go home, too.
There is a group
determined to continue.
What's been set in motion
can't be stopped.
If that's the case
then you should know:
if you kill your daughter,
I will murder you.
I will tear your hands from your arms
and your arms from your shoulders.
I will burn the flesh from your body
I will beat your bones to dust.
What you have begun will not be finished
until you are pounded back into the dirt.
he starts to follow her, stops, turns,
and leaves in the other direction.
The Greek Man hurries to the edge of the stage
and speaks to the audience in Greek,
hoping someone will understand him.
Joyful music. A song like "The Best Pupil by Adriatica"
Or It's What's Inside that Counts by Brook Alison.
The bridesmaids enter in their bridesmaids' dresses.
They lie down on their backs, the feet upstage.
They raise their feet into the air,
showing their long white wedding stockings,
and they perform the foot and leg dance in the air.
Iphigenia enters up center,
naked, or in a slip,
holding powder and powder puff.
The bridesmaids rush to her,
and then, running off and back onstage
bring in her underclothes and her wedding dress
and dress her for her wedding.
The soldiers, who have been watching the bridesmaids dance, hoot and holler.
Iphigenia and the bridesmaids
all run out together.]
Girls, this is an emergency.
We need you to come outside right away.
It's what's inside that counts.
I respect you.
The soldiers exit.
Speaking in Greek, she confers quietly with the Greek Man,
who points to Achilles.
The Greek Man leaves them alone.]
I'm not interrupting?
Oh. No. Not at all.
I'm Clytemnestra, Iphigenia's mother.
Yes. Of course. I remember.
I thought it would be only right
for the mother of the bride to say hello to the groom
before the wedding.
Everyone tells me what an extraordinary young man you are.
A person of very fine character, they say.
And strong, of course,
in mind and body.
And I see they tell the truth.
Probably you think
that I don't know
there never was to be a wedding.
I didn't know myself a wedding had been planned.
You weren't a part of the deceit.
Both of us were tricked.
because of us
Iphigenia is to be killed.
I hope not.
But what can we do about it?
There is something we can do.
Something you can do.
Something that requires courage
and great honor
and, it may be, self-sacrifice,
and these are just your qualities
so I'm told.
You can marry Iphigenia
and then, as her husband,
defend her against her father
and against all the others.
They will recognize your right.
That's what you could do.
I don't know.
I don't know that it was ever meant for me to marry.
You were meant to be a man
known for defending the lives of others.
Now, here, is a life that needs you.
All the other lives you may defend:
all those are imagined,
but this one now is real.
I might defend Iphigenia without marrying her.
You have no standing to defend her
against her father
unless you are her husband.
I can stand against her father
and all the others
for what is right.
Do you think so?
Or, would you agree only to consider marriage?
As a special favor
if you will marry her
what would I owe to you?
Anything you might ask.
For the rest of my life.
Will you consider it?
I thought you would.
I like young men
They seem to me
more brave than anyone.
Filled with hope
Young people are exciting to me.
The things they know
I'm always interested in what's next.
Do you dance?
Probably you know all the new dances.
I wonder how you'll do
at your own wedding.
You may not know the traditional wedding dances.
It hadn't occurred to me.
You'll be expected, you know,
to dance with the mother of the bride.
Perhaps I ought to show you
- This is so silly -
so you won't feel ill-at-ease?
Would you like that?
she takes him in her arms
and they dance.
to a song like Never on a Sunday by Pink Martini
or a piece of music that is not just instrumental
but has some ecstatic singing--
again something from northern Greece, Macedonia,
or even gypsy music from just over the border to the north
As they come to the end of their dance,
Achilles is weak and breathless
from the intimacy with Clytemnestra.]
Ask me for anything.
[She releases him,
and he stands back, speechless,
as the bridesmaids run in,
fully dressed for the wedding.]
Where should we be?
Where should we get together for the wedding?
Just here is good.
You're not dressed!
You know you don't have much time.
Men are so helpless!
Do you even know what you are supposed to wear?
Yes. Of course.
I'm just going.
No one will need to wait on me!
Your friend is getting married.
You're thrilled for her.
And she's asked you to be a bridesmaid.
It's a happy occasion.
Keep reminding yourself of that.
When she's freaking out about the cake, say it:
It's a happy occasion.
So, don't let her down.
There are a few things you can do.
Don't say, "when I get married, I'm going to..."
No bride cares about your imaginary wedding.
This is her real wedding.
Get with the program.
You can tell your other friends what you're going to do.
Or, better yet, keep a journal
(since no one really cares about your imaginary wedding).
Plus, you might not ever get married.
Especially if you keep talking about boring subjects
such as your imaginary wedding.
Never say, "this is just like what so-and-so did."
Each bride is unique
and her wedding is proof of her individuality.
All weddings are not the same.
She may not be the only one
who ever thought to dance with her father to Daddy's Little Girl,
but it's a fine choice.
Their decision not to shove cake up each other's noses
is an innovation to be proud of.
Always praise that idea.
Help your friend go to the bathroom.
You're on duty at the wedding.
And your friend is wearing five tons of dress.
So, keep this in mind when you tip your champagne flute.
If you get drunk then who will hold the cream puff skirt up
while she backs into the stall?
Do the chicken dance.
Remember, they picked the music.
So, don't say, "I hate this song."
Also, stay until the reception hall manager kicks you out.
Then go to the after-wedding party
until the bride and groom go to their suite... finally.
OK. Yes. Good. Sure.
[The soldiers enter.]
You guys, is this what you're wearing?
[they look at one another]
I guess so.
Because you could use a little help.
We've read the book.
Being Set at meat
neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose
except there's a Necessity for it.
What book is this?
Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals,
Feed not with Greediness;
cut your Bread with a Knife,
lean not on the Table
neither find fault with what you Eat.
Where did you get this book?
This is George Washington wrote this.
Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.
If you Soak bread in the Sauce
let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time
and blow not your broth at Table
but Stay till Cools of it Self.
you have some catching up to do.
Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily.
Before and after Drinking wipe your Lips
breath not then or Ever with too Great a Noise, for its uncivil.
Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife
but if Others do it let it be done with a Pick Tooth.
It is out of use to call upon the Company often to Eat
nor need you Drink to others every Time you Drink.
If others talk at Table be attentive
but talk not with Meat in your Mouth.
When in Company,
put not your Hands to any Part of the Body not usually Discovered.
Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor
Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
Speak not in your Yawning,
but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.
Sleep not when others Speak,
Sit not when others stand,
Speak not when you Should hold your Peace,
walk not on when others Stop.
It's not that we don't have some advice for you, too.
You know what Clausewitz said.
No. No. I don't know what Clausewitz said.
The best strategies
once they are brought to the battlefield
descend into chaos and confusion
until no one can be certain of the outcome.
I've seen how it is.
Every time a convoy left the gate it broke my heart.
I saw them return with wounded.
I saw their vehicles dragged back in tow` in pieces.
That was where I belonged, out there.
I became a soldier to be out there.
I became Infantry to be out there.
Out there is home.
I came here to sacrifice,
to pay for freedom...
to bring justice to those who wish to take that away
from my nation and my nationÂ¹s friends.
And to those on the streets who wish to harm me and my friends, my country
and my countrymen,
I say this:
you better be prepared,
because I have been preparing for this for twenty-one years.
I will match your ruthlessness,
I will surpass your destruction,
I have exceeded your skill in tactics and weapons,
your courage crumbles at the thought of mine,
and long ago my faith and commitment
crushed your petty god and your weak faith.
I am coming for you.
With a peaceful heart I will destroy you.
The whites of my eyes are the last thing you will see
before you kiss the feet of my God.
[Iphigenia enters in her bridal gown.]
you look beautiful.
BOTH BRIDESMAIDS AND SOLDIERS
You know, dear,
so often this is the moment
a bride will suddenly fear
oh, will the groom show up?
Has he changed his mind?
Will he go through with it?
No, mother, I'm not afraid.
And yet, I do know this:
he cares for you.
I know that, mother.
I'm only saying,
I've talked to him
and, if ever you should have any doubts....
What are you saying?
That I should have doubts?
You've talked to him?
What did he say?
It's not what's important, what he said.
I'm just saying,
whether he goes through with the wedding or not
I think we can count on him as a friend.
As a friend?
What did he say?
Are you saying
no one should count on him?
he's not like my father
someone I can rely on absolutely
all the time and always
that's what you're saying....
I'm not even saying anything in particular
about either Achilles or your father
just men in general....
You can't count on them.
You can't count on men.
Not all the time.
Because a man will lie.
Not all the time.
That's how men are.
We live with that knowledge.
your father has made a terrible mistake.
These men, the soldiers,
have told him they won't go to war
unless your father makes a sacrifice first
of the kind he asks them to make
to sacrifice a life he treasures above all others
when he wasn't thinking clearly
he agreed to entice us to come to Aulis
so that he can make his sacrifice.
To sacrifice your life, you mean?
My father to murder me?
You're telling me
my father would murder me?
I don't know what you mean
telling me such a lie.
[she turns and runs out
Clytemnestra runs after her,
followed by the bridesmaids]
CLYTEMNESTRA AND THE BRIDESMAIDS
[everyone is gone except the soldiers,
who sit for a few moments in silence]
We're fighting the forgotten war.
It's like we're in a holding pattern now.
There's only so much you can do to pass the time,
resight your weapons,
review your safety procedures
get any last-minute items you'll be needing from the PX.
Sometimes you think they've brought the war to you.
You'll hear some big ka-boom
and you won't know what it is.
Last night there was a big bazaar just outside the perimeter gate.
You could buy jewelry,
carved stones and bootlegged movies.
You could haggle over the price.
It was fun, like gambling.
Band camp ain't going like I thought it would.
Band camp ain't going like I thought it would.
If something happens to me, I was doing what I wanted to do.
If something happens to me.
It's not so much about the mission.
It's about the guys serving next to us.
Soldiers say they are here
so that their loved ones can be safe back home.
I feel like I'm wrapped up in a World War II love story.
Because I met Sara Cooper
at Topsail Beach, near Camp LeJeune,
four days before shipping out.
I was like, 'Great, man. Don't get teary-eyed.'
I fell in love with her.
It's nice to have something to come back to,
someone who will write to you, other than your Mom."
I spent some time with my wife
at Wilmington Beach before shipping out.
She put me to work,
made me draw a heart in the sand with our names in it.
I have a new bride back home.
She works in civilian life for Lynchburg Fire and EMS.
And I met her while I was running emergency calls.
She was training at Lynchburg General Hospital.
She is the best friend I ever had.
Friday, I mailed her a nine-page letter.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering,
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie:
Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
[Big wedding music.
It might be the incredibly sprightly brass band from Yugoslavia
Boban Markovic Orkestar
Or the Macedonian brass band Maleshevski Melos
performing Nesatova Sa-Sa.
After a few moments, a bridesmaid enters,
then turns around and leaves.
After another moment, both bridesmaids enter,
stand looking back where they came form,
talking among themselves,
not knowing what to do.
and walks to the other side of the stage,
turns and waits.
Menelaus enters and stands to the side.
Iphigenia and Clytemnestra and the soldiers all enter,
not knowing where to stand.
One of the bridesmaids fixes Iphigenia's veil.
Everyone is looking around.
Achilles enters at last.
Everyone looks around.]
Will you stop the music?
Will you just stop the music?
[the music stops]
We're all here then.
Mother tells me
that you have it in mind
not that I should be married
but that you should
No. No, it's not true.
That's what I've been told.
And that's what others say now, too,
that that's why you brought me here.
No, sweetheart, no.
That's not true.
It should be.
It should be.
Do you think
after I've been your daughter all these years
that I don't know the duty of any person
let alone your daughter
to give her life
as you've given yours
for the common good.
No. No, Iphigenia....
There's been a misunderstanding....
To save one life
you would put a thousand others in jeopardy?
You and I both know
this would be wrong.
Yes. You know.
You've taught me this.
I'm sure this isn't what I meant at all.
You don't mean to say
it is only men who should risk their lives for others?
Only men should give themselves?
Only men should be patriots?
Only men can be heroes?
Not women, too?
No, this is not....
Iphigenia, I know what's happened here:
because your father has broken your heart
betraying you as he has
this man who should have loved you
more than any other man
who should have been your sustenance forever
now you think
you might as well just throw your life away.
No, mother, that's not true.
It's because I love my fath der
and all that he has taught me
the example he has set for me
that I know he knows best
and to give my life, as he has,
this is what I want to do.
No, no, no.
And you, Achilles,
where are you now?
Do you turn out to be nothing but a coward, then?
All talk, no action.
Let it happen, whatever it might be.
leave him alone.
He is silent because he knows
this is the right thing to do.
I know it's hard for you, mother.
I'm sorry to make it so difficult for you.
But I want you to celebrate my decision,
not to mourn for me,
I want everyone to celebrate
because we all know
this is the right thing for anyone to do.
And if I could set an example,
this is the example I would set.
Is this how girls are, then, these days?
This is how they have been socialized?
What teen age magazines have you been reading?
What fall makeover tips?
What one minute workouts?
What stories about Amanda Bynes's secret Hollywood crushes?
Well, girls aren't the only ones who've been socialized.
I think I've been socialized, too.
So have I.
And this is a good thing.
Everyone used to know
this was a good thing
and these days it's gotten a really bad rap.
But this is what I'm going to do
because I want my life to be meaningful, too.
What would you have me do, mother?
Stay at home and make a decision
about the draperies in the bedroom?
Or get a job in some law firm?
Or do social work?
Or try to preserve the environment?
This is what I was meant to do.
This is the moment that has been handed to me
to have a life that means something.
And what do you want
for me to just pass it by
and look for something else?
Spend fifty sixty years
looking for something else that will mean as much
and never will
this was my destiny
and I embrace it
I grab hold of it with both hands
and I will never let it go
because I don't want to be a useless
pointless human being
when I have a chance to have had a life
that will be remembered forever
as an example
to everyone who lives after me
more than famous
never to be forgotten.
I beg you, daddy,
I beg you
to let me do
what you would have me do.
[Iphigenia lets her bridal dress fall to the floor,
so that she is in her slip.
She turns and leaves.
Agamemnon hesitates a moment,
then he, too, turns,
and follows her out.
And, once again, we hear
Djeli Mara by Saban Bajramovic's A Gypsy Legend
And no one knows quite what to make of it.
Do they dance?
What do they do?
Is there meant to be a wedding dance?
Clytemnestra collapses to the ground weeping.
A bridesmaid throws herself into the arms of a soldier.
He holds her,
looking around awkwardly at his companions.
Another soldier takes the hand of theother bridesmaid.
Achilles starts to follow out after Agamemnon,
looks after him,
then turns, walks to the other side of the stage,
looks in the direction Agamemnon has gone.
The music takes a turn from mournful to sprightly,
A bridesmaid puts her arms around the shoulders
of the third soldier,
and he begins to dance with her
Achilles throws a bottle of pink champagne against the wall.
He looks at what he's done
and then he throws another.
One of the bridesmaids breaks away from her soldier partner
and she throws a bottle of champagne against the wall.
And then she and Achilles throw bottles
of pink champagne and red and white wine against the walls.
This is followed by hurled wedding cake
and champagne glasses
The bridesmaids rip off their dresses
and fling them to the ground.
They throw their shoes.
Achilles throws his jacket to the ground.
One of the other soldiers
curls up on the ground.
And, bit by bit,
the world descends into a big party riot murder war
the home and war fronts combined
dancing and embracing and weeping
and throwing and breaking things.
At the height of the chaos, Agamemnon slowly enters,
carrying the dead Iphigenia in his arms.
They are covered in blood.
Agamemnon wails in agony.
Menelaus follows behind.
As the others see them, they gradually fall silent and still.
A NOTE ON THE TEXT:
Iphigenia 2.0 was inspired by Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis, and incorporates some texts from Alan Stuart-Smyth, Jim Graves, Jim Morris, Gaby Bashan, Richard Holmes, Richard Heckler, Dave Grossman, Wilfred Owen, and Anthony Swofford.
New York World Premiere of this version of Iphigenia 2.0 originally produced by Signature Theatre Company, New York City
James Houghton, Founding Artistic Director
Erika Mallin, Executive Director
August 26, 2007
Charles Mee's work has been made possible by the support of Richard B. Fisher and Jeanne Donovan Fisher.