Tom Jenkins, associate professor and chair of classical studies, took his students to a modern recreation of “The Gospel at Colonus” in Austin last Friday.
Jenkins teaches a common curriculum class called “Antiquity and Modernity” which looks at modern versions of classical myths and texts. He has been teaching Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus.” It is one of the three Theban plays, along with “Oedipus Rex” and “Antigone.” In terms of a timeline, “Oedipus at Colonus” takes place after “Oedipus Rex” and before “Antigone.”
“Nobody ever reads “˜Oedipus at Colonus’ because it is really mystical, slow and weird. Oedipus is at the end of his life and he is really angry. There are weird oracles that prophesize that his bones bring great wealth, and everyone is fighting over his bones and treats him as if he is already dead,” Jenkins said.
According to Jenkins, it is rare for theaters to host performances of “The Gospel at Colonus,” so he felt fortunate that this field trip was even a possibility.
“It is a very strange play. No one does modern versions except experimental theater artist Lee Breuer, who directed the play in the mid-80s. It went all the way to Broadway, but it didn’t stay there very long,” Jenkins said. “It was excellent luck that it happened to be playing near us.”
Jenkins thought the trip was a good experience for all. He is having the students in his class write a review of the play so that they can discuss how it compares to the text by Sophocles.
“The religion department, the theatre department and the classics department sponsored this trip. It was open to all of Trinity, but it was mostly students from my class. Faculty went with us as well,” Jenkins said. “Overall, I think it was really fun, and students have reviews of the performance due in class.”
First year Lillie Marquez is one of Jenkins’ students. She went on the trip, and she enjoyed the energy the performers put into the play.
“It was really great to get together with everyone to go see “˜The Gospel at Colonus.’ It was definitely an enjoyable play to watch because the show is very energetic. There is lots of dancing and music as well. The talented cast really engages the audience and invites them to clap along to the upbeat gospel tunes,” Marquez said. “A little advice for anyone who is thinking about going to see it: be sure to read a little on the Greek myth of Oedipus before you go, or you will likely be very confused.”
The performance has inspired some students to go back and read the other Theban plays they otherwise would not have read.
“I really liked “˜Oedipus Rex,’ but I didn’t know about “˜The Gospel at Colonus’ text,” said senior Erik Kang. “I am seriously considering going back to read the trilogy completely.”