The Production of King Oedipus is a masterful behind-the-scenes account of preparations for the production of Aeschylus’ Oedipus Rex at the Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario, in 1954.
Written by the theatre’s Artistic Director, Tyrone Guthrie, and the theatre’s designer, Tanya Moiseiwitsch, this longform essay offers remarkable insights into their collaborative process, exploring the symbolism of the play, the ritualistic tone of the performance and the technical challenges of acting in masks.
Sir Tyrone Guthrie (1900—71) was a towering figure of international theatre who was highly influential in his lifetime. Describing himself as ‘a very Irish sort of Anglo-Scot’, Guthrie built his reputation in the 1930s as a versatile director, scoring critical and commercial successes with his productions of Shakespeare, opera and plays by new or unknown playwrights.
Guthrie was a pioneer of the thrust stage, a re-imagining of Ancient Greek and Shakespearean theatre, with the actors playing on an open stage in the middle of the audience who surrounded them on three sides.
After successfully experimenting with the thrust stage at the second Edinburgh Festival in 1948, Guthrie collaborated with designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch in creating a thrust stage for the inaugural festival in Stratford, Ontario in 1953.
Encouraged by this success, in 1963 Guthrie founded the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, which also had a thrust stage designed by Tanya. He served as the theatre’s Artistic Director until 1966. Guthrie was also the inspiration for other thrust stage theatres, including the Festival Theatre Chichester, the Octagon (Perth, Australia) and the Crucible (Sheffield).
Guthrie died in April 1971, only a few months before the Crucible opened.
The Production of King Oedipus by Tyrone Guthrie and Tanya Moiseiwitsch was published by Wordville in 2022, with permission of The Tyrone Guthrie Centre.