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Audio Play Description
In this provocative & immensely irritating comic play, the Sphinx from ancient Greece is interviewed in modern times as though she were a celebrity pop star. The problem is she never answers any questions — never directly anyway. Instead she prefers just dishing the dirt on everybody. ON HOMER: “I never was exactly sure which one Homer was. I’m positive he wasn’t the blind one, though; that was just a silly story they started telling a few centuries later”. ON OEDIPUS: “Eddie was terribly conceited, you know … of course he was smart and handsome and, oh, just had a way of carrying himself that impressed everybody. In spite of his foot.” Bit by bit the Interview learns that what happens in Greek legend didn’t happen exactly the way Sophocles described it. Fortunately, the Sphinx offers the Interviewer another riddle … if only he could figure out what exactly it is! This witty 67 minute audio play stars Jill Brumer as the Sphinx and Neal Gage as the Interviewer. Part Tom Stoppard, part Monty Python, part Oscar Wilde, this play by Jack Matthews combines philosophical paradoxes with fast-paced verbal pyrotechnics. It offers the perfect antidote to people who remembered ancient literature as nothing but stuffy and melodramatic characters with hard-to-pronounce names. Other Places to Buy the Audio Play: cdbaby $3.99 | itunes $3.99 | Amazon USA $8.99 | emusic $5.99
|Jill Brumer (the “Sphinx”) is a Houston actress originally from South Carolina with an MFA in Media & Performing Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design. She is an avid reader, college professor, actor, all-around artsy/crafty person and fan of Sherlock Holmes. She has actually taught the play Oedipus Rex to her college students.|
|Neal Gage (the “Interviewer”) is a Houston actor/writer/director/teacher whose comic sketch videos have appeared on Funny or Die and Youtube. He finds comic inspiration from middle school students and loves to edit himself into major motion pictures.|
|Playwright Jack Matthews is the author of 10+ plays and 20+ books (including short stories, novels and essays). Winner of the Guggenheim, a play competition and several arts grants, Matthews has been anthologized widely, translated into several languages and nominated for a National Book Award.|
Music for the play comes from the album “Listen” by Tryad (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0).
About the Ebook
This ebook contains the complete script used for the 2013 audio production plus another expanded two act version of the same play. This expanded two act version is titled “Dr. Freud and the Sphinx,” and includes Florence Nightingale and Sigmund Freud characters (who serve as the Greek chorus).
Preface to the Ebook
This edition provides two versions of the same play: a two act version with four characters, and a one act version with two characters. The recent audio production uses the one act version in this ebook.
To explain why this edition has two versions of the same play, it is necessary to explain this play’s history.
In 1992 Michigan Quarterly Review published an excerpt of the play Interview with the Sphinx, and in 1993 the full version of the script was published by the Dramatic Publishing company. At about the same time, Logan Elm Press and Papermill at Ohio State University published a special limited version of the play with original illustrations by Eric May. Aside from minor typographical discrepancies, the Logan Elm Press edition contains the exact same text as the Dramatic Publishing edition.
Since that time, Matthews made a large number of minor revisions to the original play and expanded it to a two act play by adding two more characters (Sigmund Freud and Florence Nightingale) who serve as a kind of Greek chorus for the action. The two act version alternates between Freud-Nightingale scenes and Sphinx-Interviewer scenes; even though the two act version begins and ends with Freud and Nightingale, the play’s primary focus is still with the Interviewer and the Sphinx. Freud and Nightingale – like a typical Greek chorus – are there mainly for commentary and interpretation.
Within this ebook, the two act version is called Dr. Freud and the Sphinx while the one act version keeps the original Interview with the Sphinx title. The one act version lasts about 65 minutes, while the two act version runs about 105-100 minutes. The one act version is identical to the two act version except that all scenes with Freud and Nightingale have been removed. To make things easier, the entire ebook is called Interview with the Sphinx; this should not be construed as implying that the one act version is more canonical or preferred.
So which version is better (or best)? I faced that question when producing an audio play. I had read the 1993 edition first and the two act version later, so that might have predisposed me slightly to the one act version. I think the ending of the two act version is easier to digest; on the other hand, I like how the shorter version focuses unrelentingly on the riddle question. The two act version reads more like a novella, which might be good or bad. A resourceful director could probably stage either version, but producing it as an audio play has the advantage of calling attention to the wordplay and rhetorical paradoxes.
In addition to serving as a kind of “Greek chorus,” Freud and Nightingale add dramatic variety and give the play a more concrete grounding in human history. Although Freud and Nightingale exist in an unspecified time and place, they represent actual people who are shaped by the era they came from. Unlike the Sphinx and the Interviewer (who are basically literary abstractions), Freud and Nightingale speak with the knowledge of life’s mundane aspects – going to school, eating, falling in love. Both are healers and problem solvers; at the same time, they approach society’s problems in an objective, dispassionate way. The ending of the one act play is abrupt and possibly disturbing, while the ending of the two act play (Freud’s final soliloquy) is more conversational, even-tempered and even light-hearted. So each play has a different tone.
Some miscellaneous notes. First, the Interviewer refers to an article about the Sphinx riddle. In fact, Mr. Matthews had himself published such an article more than 20 years before he wrote the play (“The Riddle and the Staff,” THE CEA CRITIC, Vol. XXX #9, 6-1968, pp. 3-5). The Thomas DeQuincy essay is real – it’s called “The Sphinx’s Riddle” and is found in Memorials and Other Papers Volume 2 at Project Gutenberg.
Starting in the 1990s, Matthews started using a number of European figures as literary subjects – most notably Arthur Schopenhauer (Matthews has already written a play, a poetry collection and a novel about him). By this time, Matthews had already written a number of plays. Although Sphinx is one of the few formally published plays by Matthews, quite a number have been published in the last decade especially. About half use Mr. Matthews’ real name, while the remaining plays use his pseudonym, “Matt Hughes.”