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In recent years, Dallas Theater Center artistic director Kevin Moriarty has proven adept at drawing contemporary allusions in classic works, illuminating issues of race, class, and sex. You have ample opportunity to see for yourself, since this production of Molière’s The School for Wives is running concurrently with Euripides’ Medea, and Moriarty is directing both. Why are Euripides’ tragedy and Molière’s comedy paired together as part of DTC’s Classical Theater initiative? The connection is there. We’ll let you tease it out after seeing both shows.
Long before Shakespeare ruminated on the potential deadliness of a woman scorned, there was the Greek tragedian Euripides and Medea—the Peloponnesian War-era play stacks bodies like a Quentin Tarantino revenge fantasy. When Medea learns that her husband, Jason, plans to leave her for a younger princess, she reacts poorly. To say the very, very least. Medea quickly dispenses with any delusions about how happily ever after might play out for a man who didn’t really want to get hitched and a woman who dismembered her brother in order to sail off into the sunset with her beloved. This version is directed by Dallas Theater Center artistic director Kevin Moriarty and staged in the old theater’s basement.
Jonathan Norton’s new play—named for the deceptively jaunty, charged Nina Simone song written in response to the same tragic injustice from which he derives his story—is set in 1950s Mississippi and follows the life and work of civil rights activists Myrlie and Medgar Evers. In June 1963, Medgar was shot and killed in his own driveway; it took more than 30 years to convict white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith of the crime. In light of the past and present state of the justice system that just last year declined to indict the two white police officers who killed two unarmed black men in two separate parts of the country, Simone’s furious lyrics (“Oh, but this whole country is full of lies/You’re all gonna die and die like flies”) ring just as true.
The story of racial inequality is one often told through the lenses of politics and sports, but the role of race in art has been explored with much less depth. Painter Frank Bowling used his position as an editor at Arts Magazine to help raise awareness of black American artists in the late 1960s, a period in which the artist underwent a personal departure from figurative work to abstract art. The DMA will display one of Bowling’s “Map Paintings” (the first it has acquired), which will be exhibited alongside other works by the artist from the same era.
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