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The Burial at Thebes

mermaid players, theatre & dance

Photo by Pierce Bounds '71

Spring play probes age-old questions, recalls translator’s life

By MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Although best remembered as one of the world’s finest poets, Seamus Heaney also composed beautiful verse translations of classical Greek plays, including The Burial at Thebes. A classic tale of an idealistic daughter who prioritizes her family and her principles about her desire to be obedient to the state, the play raises questions about social stability, patriotism, religious rigidity and the age-old tensions between divine and civil law.

Heaney, a recipient of Dickinson’s Arts Award, traveled to Dickinson twice in 1993 and was planning to return this month to serve a residency through the Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program when he died suddenly last fall. This production is just one event presented throughout the academic year in celebration of his work.

Professor of English Carol Ann Johnston was a friend of Heaney and acquaintance of Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who delivered Heaney’s eulogy and served the 2014 Stellfox residency. She notes that the play takes on poignant overtones in light of the poet-translator’s passing.

“This production of The Burial at Thebes now is an important part of Dickinson’s elegy for Heaney,” Johnston writes. “Heaney’s rendering of these myths leaves us situated on the threshold where poetry can propose an alternative outcome, a 'retuning of the world itself.' ”

Showtimes are Friday, April 11, Saturday, April 12, Monday, April 14 and Tuesday, April 15, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7, or $5 for students, if paid in advance. Contact the Mather's Theatre Box Office at 717-245-1327 or purchase tickets online.

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Published April 10, 2014