Prometheus, the Beginning
Performer I . . . . . . Female
Performer II . . . . . . . Female
Performer III . . . . . . . Female
Performer IV . . . . . . . Female
Performer V . . . . . . . Male
Performer VI . . . . . . . Male
Performer VII . . . . . . . Male
(Dramaturgy of space exercises—lines across the stage—vertical—spherical.)
Performer II: We were in the middle of rehearsal one afternoon for a work in progress based on the aesthetics of the dramaturgy of space.
Performer VI: A work in progress is a creation in progress; that is to say, it isn’t finished. In reality it never is, but there’s always the possibility that with just a bit more work you could outdo yourself, you know what I mean?
Performer II: Yes, but what we want to tell you is that something fundamental happened to us that afternoon, and we’ve decided to share it.
Performer VI: Sorry for interrupting, I just wanted to clarify things. Nothing more, go on.
Performer II: It all began when, in the middle of rehearsal, Rodrigo gave Andrea a belated birthday gift.
Performer V: It’s a bit late, I hope you like it. I didn’t wrap it.
Performer I: What a surprise, thanks, it’s beautiful and very old.
Performer V: Yes, it’s an edition from 1894. I bought a chest from an antique dealer and as I was leaving, he said: “Take this book with you.” I thought about it and chose it for you.
Performer VII: Andrea picked it up and began to read.
THE STONE AND THE BOOK
Performer I: Let the frogs’ song, the cicadas’ trill, and the foxes’ howl flow. The galaxy of Eumenides illuminates me while, in these transmitted legends, a beginning is revealed to us. Tonight, in this theatre, we’re going to tell it to you.
You ask me why I carry this stone that I found in a plowed field in my hands. I’ve written the name of this planet we inhabit on it. At some point in time already fixed our earth will disintegrate and disperse itself throughout the tormented universe. Other beings will find this stone engraved with the stamp of humanity, that’s how they’ll know that a forgotten planet existed. I’ll leave it here to wait for its predestined future.
Performer III: She seems magnetized by the book, what’s it about?
Performer V: It’s Prometheus the Beginning, inspired by Aeschylus.
Performer IV: We found her enthusiasm contagious and stopped the rehearsal.
THE DREAM OF THE SEA
Performer VII: From the railing, the sun’s reflection on the smooth sea dazzled us, outlining schooners on the horizon.
Performer I: This calm sea and this immobile sky upset me, seeing infants, women, and soldiers emerging from its waters and evaporating into the air.
Performer II: They are from yesterday, accompanying us, sending us signs, warnings. Talk to them.
Performer I: They move their lips, exhale a symphony of voices. I can’t quite understand them.
Performer II: They’re from the island of Delphi, it’s their oracles that hang in the air. Whoever can decipher them will know the destiny that awaits us.
Performer I: A city in flames on the horizon, a naked woman scratches at her face on the sands.
Performer IV: It is the echo of the silhouette of Hecuba, the Trojan queen who, raving, contemplates the annihilation of her land.
Performer I: The sea rises, its roar against the rocks is a wail, and sadness invades me. What’s happening to me? What an impenetrable emptiness.
Performer IV: Their waves beat against these crags so that we will remember the sadness of so many women whose loved ones were sacrificed. They will crash on our shores forever, in homage to eternal suffering.
Performer V: Contemplating its fury we say to ourselves, “Look at the laments we have caused.”
Performer IV: It is written that its wrath will calm when we stop destroying ourselves. Now that you’ve listened to it, look at the foam left by the keel and the mild waters.
Performer I: Heat rises, surrounds me; it is Pidamius, the fire at the earth’s center, our original sun that illuminates us from the earth’s womb.
Performer VI: We have arrived at the beginning of the continents. Pangea, this great island surrounded by a single ocean. At its center, Kazbek, the large pyramidal mountain venerated by the Mayas, Egyptians, Moches, Aztecs, and so many others.
Performer II: From its summit, banished Prometheus contemplates mortals transforming knowledge into power, constructing abject kingdoms that fall apart and are reborn, eternally subjecting this divine land to fields of blood, gold, and commerce, carrying its ship along to become shipwrecked between the stars.
Performer I: The ship stops, no longer rocks, a whirlpool surrounds us. I need to open the book.
Performer IV: Do it, its pages hold 2500 winters, the boat vanishes, we have arrived at the beginning.
Performer VII—Prometheus—Performer VI—Dominus
Performer III: In constant torment, the seas beat against the feet of a mound of stone. They roar, clamoring against the injustice of this man who suffers, afflicted on the summit. Desolate, he groans, condemned by a god for disobedience and for handing over to mortals the joy of life.
Prometheus: Here I am, a body cloistered in this space without time, condemned to the torture of the void, immobilized by these invisible walls, accompanied only by the flow of my blood and the fury of my mind. Invisible beings who observe me speed the movement of the stars, make the brilliance of my eyes reborn. If you have granted a beginning, allow me to attend its end. And you, heavenly tyrants, who strip me of all existence, don’t withdraw your fleeting power. Know that affliction isn’t mine alone and will swiftly fly to inhabit your souls. What’s this strange air that fills me?
Dominus: Friend Prometheus, what unlucky fate ambushes you and how many misfortunes provoke you?
Prometheus: Why have you come here, Dominus? You who inhabit the pleasure of eternal dreams, do you come to delight in my pain or console my misfortune?
Dominus: Your wrath has turned you foolish. My presence is a demonstration of my great friendship. The winds have brought me before you to hear from your soul the reason for your condemnation and to calm with my affection the whirlwinds of your mind. What have you revealed to the mortals?
Prometheus: I’ve ensured that mortals will not be tormented by death before its time.
Dominus: Incomprehensible favor. They roam about like steeds upon the plains. Placidly lying down, without recognizing eternal night.
Prometheus: Dominus, I made blind and fruitful hope live in them. Don’t you see, this way they have a future to which to aspire and a reason to exist.
Dominus: Prometheus, when you remove the designs of the times and break the equilibrium of the universe, you know better than anyone. You dared to violate the dominion of the gods.
Prometheus: There is no justice in power, Dominus. Besides, I gave them the eternal gift of knowledge.
Dominus: You changed the course of the galaxies and now mortals possess resplendent fire.
Prometheus: Yes, Dominus! And with it they will light the flame of their happiness.
Dominus: Prometheus, it wasn’t your place to confide in this race. I yearn for your liberation, so you can be present when your gift comes to fruition. I don’t want to advance either the good or the bad you have provoked.
Prometheus: Listen, Dominus and you will understand the beauty of my action. At the beginning they looked without seeing and listened without hearing. They didn’t know about houses made of bricks dried in the sun or how to work wood. They lived submerged like worms at the back of caves where light never reached. They had no sign whatsoever of winter, or of the flourishing spring. They moved without reason until I showed them the exits and the accident of the stars. I discovered for them the science of numbers, the unions of letters, and the memory alphabet for everything.
Dominus: Deprived of reason you ramble, in your delirium you gave this knowledge to an unfinished species. How I hope that your action isn’t the beginning of future destruction.
Prometheus: Dominus, if one of them fell ill, they had no defense. Neither potion nor balm. I showed them how to mix remedies that cause all sicknesses to flee. I revealed to them the minerals hidden in the earth’s entrails. I fear nothing now that I have shown them how to guide their emotions, transmit their pains and their happiness in majestic poetry and music, and, above all, how to invent their future through the magic philosophy of the stage. Dominus, I gave them all the arts that allow you to outlive death, and for that I am condemned unjustly.
Dominus: You helped mortals beyond what was written, generating your own disgrace. Who among the mortals will give you aid? Don’t you know that weakness takes hold of them like sleep, this blind human race? The will of mortals will never break the established order.
Prometheus: Wait, Dominus, and you will see how your words evaporate like the dew. Return to your beautiful kingdom that, one day, will cover the universe.
Performer IV: Dominus witnesses the cowardice of a merciless race incapable of defending its benefactor. Instead they delight in contemplating the fruit of the fields, not as a benediction, but as gold that erupts for their benefit and well-being. He doesn’t want to fix his sight on them, whose destiny will dazzle, and clouds his mind to avoid being a witness to their future. He knows that for millennia they will not recognize the miracle of the dawn, the power of the winds, nor the clarity of the water, and that their blindness will carry them to the precipice of their annihilation. He leaves, oppressed by his own thoughts.
Performer V: I love this star that carries us in this spiral. My aspiration is that Dominus’ prophecy will change the destiny where I cause us to sink.
THE EAGLES AND PROMETHEUS
Eagle 1—Performer III—Eagle 2—Performer II
Prometheus: Earth, universal mother and all-seeing universal orb. I invoke you, look at the outrages I am subjected to for an eternity, heaven and sea mixed in confusion. Oh my majestic mother, the firmament that makes the light turn, see the manner in which I suffer so unjustly.
Eagle 1: Son of Gaia and Uranus, what are you lamenting? Your action created the chaos that will bring about the destruction of the greatest ever created.
Prometheus: Beings given plumage by a tyrant, you want to divine a destiny. You are young, you exercise a young power, and you believe you possess an impregnable fortress against all sorrows.
Eagle 2: You are proud and arrogant, and in your eagerness to convert yourself into the hero of a cursed species you speak with excessive liberty.
Prometheus: What do you know of liberty, sad servants of power?
Eagle 1: Your rebellion caused us to exist and become the bearers of your sufferings. You have created your own punishment and there is no pain that can amend what you have put into effect.
Prometheus: Tell it to your prince of happiness. There are designs that will end with him losing his scepter while I will live eternally nevertheless.
Eagle 1: Without doubt new rebels will reign, giving birth to other rebels without end.
Eagle 2: Your agonies make you delirious. The roar of the thunder clouds your senses. You are the spoils of war in this calamity, don’t reproach your fortune. It’s no surprise or deception that you are sick and can’t look truthfully at yourself.
Prometheus: Yes, I’m sick for you who feed yourselves on complacency. My sickness is to deliver knowledge and abolish a tyrant.
Eagle 1: By allowing the human race to feed the sacred fire with its own disgraces you haven’t produced good Prometheus, but the greatest of all evils.
The fury of he who you call tyrant is tiny; don’t you see that your loved ones generate greater agonies for those who break his law?
Eagle 2: And you, you will suffer. Braised by the resplendence of the sun’s light your skin will tremble with happiness as it welcomes the night, but each dawn will begin your torment again and you will wait in vain for your liberator to come.
Eagle 1: Goodbye Prometheus, when the morning gives you back your vigor and your hopes we will be here to demonstrate the falsity of your feeling. You squandered your happiness since your own thoughts devour you now.
Dominus: There are new eagles, Prometheus, cutting through the skies, feeding off the corpses and the houses of mortals. Human gods command them, from their wombs fall destructive meteorites that erase any trace from the face of the earth.
Performer V: All of a sudden Andrea closed the book and stopped the performance.
Peformer VII: I asked her, “What’s going on? Have we deviated from the text?” And she told us . . .
Performer I: We can’t go on, something’s missing. Maybe Prometheus thought too much of us. We have to ask ourselves, what have we done with the knowledge he gave us? Then we can continue with the text as written.
Performer IV: Andrea, that means placing ourselves in the infinitely unfinished. That’s impossible to embrace.
Performer II: It isn’t impossible to reveal the unknown of life in times past and those to come.
Performer III: If we are mortals, we’ve got the fire. Let’s see how we’ve fed it.
Performer VI: I can’t speak for the entire species, but I’m part of it. If he gave us the magic philosophy of the stage, let’s try it.
Performer V: And we submerged ourselves in a labyrinth.
Performer III: We decided to try to respond to the unknown. We continued to rehearse and this is what happened.
THE OTHER PROMETHEUSES
Performer I: The other Prometheuses.
Performer III: On the plains of the Yucatán and in the jungles of Tikal, Prometheus, named Quetzacóatl, approached mortals, gave them knowledge, light, and humanity, made them look at the sky to discover a sun that would brighten their awakening.
Performer II: And in another place, before the sands covered the mountains of Ahaggar, Thot plumed with an Ibis, transformed sounds into words so that they could record in writing fundamental memory, revealing the arts and sciences in order to bring about humanity.
Performer IV: On the banks of the sacred Ganges Ganesh with his elephant’s tusk disseminated essential knowledge and is praised as the oriental Prometheus.
Performer VI: They made it possible for us to speak and perform now, so that we can ask ourselves again what they saw in these mortals always struggling between hate and love.
Translated by Adam Versényi
Ramón Griffero is a Chilean playwright/director with an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Essex, England and an M.A. in Theatre Studies from the University of Louvain, Belgium. He is the founder of Teatro Fin de Siglo and of “El Trolley,” a space for cultural resistance to the Chilean military dictatorship. Griffero’s plays and productions have been essential components in the resurgence of contemporary Chilean theatre. He is the author of sixteen plays and has directed numerous productions and “art actions.” Currently he is the Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Chile (www.griffero.cl).
Adam Versényi is Chair and Professor of Dramaturgy in the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina and Senior Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company. A theatre scholar, dramaturg, critic, translator, and director, he has written widely on Latin American theatre, U.S. Latino/a theatre, dramaturgy, theatre production, and theatrical translation. He is the founder and editor of The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review. He has translated plays by Argentines Agustín Cuzzani and Griselda Gambaro, Mexican Sabina Berman, and is currently working on a translation of La dramaturgia del espacio, Griffero’s book of aesthetic theory.
In our thirteenth issue, we feature two innovative, hard-to-define figures of Latin American letters: from the present, Mexican writer Mario Bellatin, and from the past, Chilean writer Juan Emar. Together with these authors, we highlight Latin American theatre for the first time with a script by Ramón Griffero, Nahuatl-language poetry by Martín Tonalmeyotl, plus interviews, book reviews, exclusive previews, and more from writers including Rosario Castellanos, César Aira, and Salgado Maranhão.