Saturday, October 24, 2020
Performance Onstage 'Oedipus' incarcerated: Esteban Carmona plays imprisoned tragic hero

‘Oedipus’ incarcerated: Esteban Carmona plays imprisoned tragic hero

The star of Magic Theatre's contemporized Greek tale—now set in South Central LA—talks about staging Sophocles for new audiences.

-

ONSTAGE When you watch the Greek tragedy of Oedipus, you know how it’s gong to end. Oedipus, suffering from hubris, will kill his father and marry his mother. But Esteban Carmona, who is playing the lead character in the Magic Theatre’s revival of Oedipus El Rey (through June 23), playwright Luis Alfaro’s twist on Sophocles’ play, says you just keep hoping everything might come out OK this time.

“Everyone goes in knowing that’s what happens,” he said. “But you hope maybe this time it will actually work out. We were talking about this the other day, it’s almost like watching Romeo and Juliet.”

Carmona has been in plays in New York’s celebrated Public Theater and appeared on the HBO show Deuce. He started acting in high school: Theater is what he really loves, he says, since it demands total commitment. 

In Alfaro’s play, Oedipus is about to be released from prison, and the questions about fate and destiny are about that. Carmona says he did some reading and listened to interviews to learn more about incarceration and its effects on prisoners. Working with Alfaro—who has reworked several Greek plays, won the MacArthur Foundation fellowship (popularly known as a  “genius grant”) and teaches at the University of Southern California—was an honor, Carmona says. 

 “His ability to fuse contemporary life and politically charged topics and Greek tragedy is incredible,” he said. “How he infuses the coro or chorus into this world works so well in combining the idea of mass incarceration with fate and destiny.”

Esteban Carmona

Having the chorus in the play really helps the audience, Carmona says.

“It gives them a teammate,” he said. “The chorus is there to be on the audience’s side and to say this is what you saw. Also Luis has the chorus to be the comedic break between these intense scenes, and you need that.”

He’s enjoying being at the Magic, Carmona says. 

“In some theaters, you don’t have the opportunity to rehearse on stage until tech time,” he said. “Here, as soon as we were done with a week of table work, we started rehearsing on stage. And that is a gift. You’re cutting out imaging being on stage and going to just being on stage. The cast is amazing and the crew and house team are consistently looking out for everyone.”

The role of Oedipus is challenging, Carmona says, particularly in this version where he has to balance the contemporary world and the story Sophocles put on stage.

“Greek tragedy is so heightened and everyone is in that heightened world, and contemporary world is more real life,” he said. “The biggest notes we’re getting is to make it simple when these wild things are happening to normal people.”

OEDIPUS EL REY
Magic Theatre, San Francisco
Through June 23
For tickets and more information

More by this author

Author of Naomi Klein-endorsed ‘Abolish Silicon Valley’ Wendy Liu says tech must change

"There’s this extreme power discrepancy that’s being magnified by Silicon Valley in ways that are not necessarily new, but they’ve improved upon the ways it already existed."

With ‘Everglow,’ an artist explores redwood’s phosphorescence

Artist Victoria Wagner, a former pastry chef and wedding cake-maker , says she’s always been a sculptural thinker. But she didn’t work...

‘It Can’t Happen Here’ returns, right before election

A collaborative radio drama from Berkeley Rep revives the Sinclair Lewis classic, which won raves four years ago

A delicious way to fight voter suppression

Dine for Democracy brings activists, food-lovers together to make voting easier and benefit BIPOC and youth orgs.

Photographer Dorothea Lange’s archive now available online at OMCA

The collection presents the iconic Lange as the personable creator she was—and a local picturmaker to boot.

Most read

Best of the Bay 2020: City Living winners

Best Street Fair, Best Salon, Best Politician, Best Tour, Best Hotel, Best Trainer, more in our 2020 Readers' Poll

Screen Grabs: Borat’s ‘totally sensationalized false account’ and other bombshell releases

Sure, it has Giuliani looking suspect—but is 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm' any good? Plus, a new documentary on the grifters leading the alt-right movement, and 'The Guardian of Memory.'

Róisín Murphy buffs her disco-house crown on gliding ‘Róisín Machine’

The Irish diva showed us who she was through momentously silly quar performances. Her latest album affirms her mastery of the nocturnal club beat.

Best of the Bay 2020: Arts & Nightlife winners

Best Art Gallery, Best DJ, Best Drag Queen, Best Arts Festival, Best Nightclub, and more in our 2020 Readers' Poll

Best of the Bay 2020: Shopping winners

Best Bookstore, Best Bike Store, Best Shoe Store, Best Cannabis Dispensary, more in our 2020 Reader's Poll

This weekend, The Breath Project streams 24 nationwide theater works in honor of George Floyd

"It’s another brick in the wall. Or rather, we’re taking the wall down, so it’s a brick out of the wall.”

Documentary ‘The Reunited States’ looks to bridge the United States’ political abyss

An interview with filmmaker Ben Rekhi about his seemingly impossible mission to bring us all together.

Best of the Bay 2020: Food and Drink winners

Best Burger, Best Sushi, Best Burrito, Best Dive Bar, Best BBQ, more in our 2020 Readers' Poll

The end of Shahid Buttar’s campaign — and the lessons

Shahid Buttar’s campaign against Rep. Nancy Pelosi was always a longshot. He was challenging the person most responsible for challenging Donald Trump, and while...

5 easy Sriracha-blessed bites for when you need that extra kick

It's a pleasure to premiere a peek inside my forthcoming self-published cookbook Sriracha Snacks at tonight's 48 Hills Online Variety Show Gala....

You might also likeRELATED