A biblical story written in the 19th century gets a 21st century interpretation from Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.
Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé” tells the story of a young princess, her lustful stepfather, proud mother and an imprisoned prophet. It is based on the Bible tale of the woman who demanded John the Baptist’s head on a platter.
We caught up with the company’s founder, Bryan Falcón, who is directing “Salomé,” to ask him what an audience can expect from this production.
Modernizing the story: “We needed to take his play and attach it to the imagery and challenges of our times. Wilde was exploring the nature of desire, sex, death, God, and also the gender dynamics of the time.
In Wilde’s play, we have a young woman and her father, who also happens to be a king, and he’s looking at her — there’s that gaze, he’s watching all the time. The play takes that gaze and turns it back on Herod and the powers that be, and in doing so, ascends to become an incredible threat to the societal structure of Herod’s court and society itself, and in the end that comes crashing down for everyone.”
The music: “It’s going to be beautiful. Paul Amiel is our music director … he plays a lot of Mediterranean music — Turkish and Greek. So when we selected the play, we did so with him in mind because the language really requires music to lift it up. So he is bringing this wonderful tapestry of ancient Greek, Roman and Turkish music to the play.”
Why “Salomé:” “This play is as much poetry as it is theater. There are times when characters will be in the middle of a scene and then all of sudden they’ll start talking about the nature of John the Baptist’s hair, for example, and describing all the different types of black that his hair evokes. … So we have this flowery language, but we also have this grit underneath and that’s the balance we’re trying to set. So we’re really intrigued to figure out how to reinvent this play that’s going to be as fresh for our audience as it was for Oscar Wilde’s audience in the late 1890s.”
It’s relevancy: “We’re also very interested in the power dynamics of the play. That’s really close to our hearts right now. We feel that there is a lot of activity on social media, talking about power dynamics in the workplace and outside, but that’s a one-way conversation. We believe the theater is a place where discussions can happen. As actors and as artists, we present something to the audience … hoping to go ahead and open up the conversation, and that’s scary in a lot of ways. These are topics that are deeply personal … but it’s rare that we have an opportunity to have these conversations outside of the one-way conversation on the megaphone that is social media. So that’s where we feel the theater plays a particular role, to go ahead and facilitate those conversations.”
The cast: “I’m just thrilled with the artists we’re working with. Herod’s court is a bubbling pot of geo-political intrigue. … So we needed actors that could be able to embody the sense of tensions in the courts, and also embody the language that Oscar Wilde has given us. Our Salomé is Gabriella De Brequet. … She has a wonderful sense of movement and grace. … We needed to find an actor to embody this transformation from girl to woman to god. Christopher Younggren is our Herod. ... Herod is a fascinating character too because here we have someone who is a lecherous man, lusting after his own daughter, but on the other hand he is someone who has been thrust into impossible situations, trying to keep control over this court of danger. We needed someone who ... has enough of an empathetic appeal that people would want to watch him.”
The takeaway: “I think that if we’re doing worthwhile work, difficult work, we as artists should be going home and having plenty of food for thought and doing a lot of soul-searching, too. This play has done that for me, and has done that for the cast as well. I expect that it will do that for our audience, too.”