30 Days Hath September 2016 | Day 11 | “PYLADE” by Scott Hightower

September 11, 2016

BEI 30 Days Proposed Graphic



(Great Jones Repertory Company, La Mama, Dec. 3, 2015)



“Excited” is one of those words best

sparingly ventured. No translation

of the play has ever availed itself

to any of us fidgeting

in the “ticket holders” line.

Clearly, our quadrumvirate is titillated….


We know quite a number of his movies

(“Medea,” with Maria Callas––hands down––

our favorite!), some poems. Ivica Buljan,

the Croatian director, is a friend-of-a-friend.

Marko Mandić… Slovenian, is celebrated,

in his prime (lean and handsome); his

indicting gaze and solicitous bare chest

adorn the theater’s poster. Attenzione,

pronto a gettare il suo corpo nella lotta.


The opening round is full of villagers

dancing and sharing platters

of watermelon. “Beware!.”

Jovially coaxing; they bring their wary,

urbane audience into the rustic dance.

The performers artfully decked in gossamer,

fatigues, fringed jackets, and boots

(a wide variety of cuts). We admire

their garments’ silver plucks.

The cast—which includes

a band—is democratic, energetic,

intergenerational, and ethnically diverse.


Aeschylus’s childhood Attica and

his Argolian trilogy and Pasolini’s Catholic

Marxism meets Twenty-First Century

Manhattan’s East Village theater-goers

and downtown literati. The stage is set…


for Athenian cosmopolitan rationality

and Dionysian rural frenzy. In the background,

America is grappling with faith, immigration,

and guns… domestic and international

melodramas and tragedies.


Tonight, the primary subject of the play

is a man so driven––so obsessed

with engendering everything in the world––

that he cuts a hole in a watermelon.

(Uncanny valley.)  I question: Why so small

a melon? At the Prado, there is a statue

of Pyláde and Oréstes together igniting

Oréstes’s purification sacrifice; offering.

There are other representations.


Our own affection runs to our

individual philosophical differences

and brinks. You mix drinks; I cook.

We eat, and you wash dishes.

Aeschylus and Pasolini are

together in the wings. Beware.




Christ, they’re everywhere! Another

official elected on the high promise

of CHANGE; an adjustment for new

perspectives, “a shift in the paradigm”

to address corruption, immigration;

correct old injustices. The pendulum

swings from An eye for an eye

to Turn the other cheek.


In the writhing passions of Pyláde

we are reminded that revolutionary fires

are difficult to contain. New radicalisms

do not lend themselves to quick

neat composures. Ask anyone

on the barricade of the Paris Commune,

Toussaint Louverture, Simón Bolívar,

Susan B. Anthony, Jean Genet,

Mohandas Gandhi, Che

Guevara, Martin Luther King,

Harvey Milk, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett,

Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning,

Asmaa Mahfouz … Oréstes.


Ask anyone who has attempted to light a fuse

or fire; faced––or anyone who has lent

their face––to put forward the protection

of a tiny personal, human dignity…


“with liberty and justice for all,”

the possibility of the great

majestic utopian dream.





SCOTT HIGHTOWER, adjunct-professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, is the author of four books of poetry in the US and a bilingual collection (Spanish-English) published by Devenir, Madrid. Tartessos, his second bilingual collection, is forthcoming from Devenir this spring. His translations from the Spanish have garnered him a Barnstone Translation Prize.


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