Long before the Oscars, the artistic community in Classical Athens recognized the best tragedy performed each year at a festival called the Dionysia. In 429 B.C., Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex placed second to a play, now lost, by Philocles. A papyrus was recently discovered containing Sophocles’ intended acceptance speech for Oedipus. The speech was never delivered.
Okay, wow, I can’t believe this. Is this really happening? I’m hyperventilating a bit. Someone pinch me! Thank you all so much, this means the world! Oedipus was the product of the tireless efforts of an unbelievable cast, chorus, and crew. I really owe it to all of you here tonight.
And not just those of you who worked on Oedipus, I mean all of those in our industry working to build a more inclusive Athens. We have so much to celebrate this year, including a record number of women played by men! That’s right! If I may be so honored as to have all the men playing women in every category tuck ‘em and stand with me in this room tonight. Look around, gentlemen! We all have stories to tell!
[Hold for applause.]
It was an honor to be nominated alongside the talented Philocles. The guy is Aeschylus’ nephew for the gods’ sakes! And yet, this award proves it’s not about who you know, or who you let have intercrural sex with you, but who you are on the papyrus.
Thank you to the Festival Organizers. Thank you for not pandering to hoi polloi by creating a “popular” drama category, and thank you for not ignoring the important contributions of our below-the-line guild members. This ceremony has already been going on for several days, what’re a few more hours? People don’t understand how much behind the scenes work goes into a convincing deus ex machina.
Speaking of the gods, I must thank them. Without their presence or conspicuous absence in mortal affairs, tragedy would not be possible. In particular, I want to thank Dionysus, in whose name we celebrate tonight and whose wine not only opened my mind to the Muses but made the writing process bearable. Hades, fear of whom inspired me to write. The Fates, who basically determined that I’d win this award at birth. Zeus, of course. Hera, Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Hermes, Demeter, Ares, Hephaestus, not to mention the Demigods… consider this their obligatory mention.
I can’t go any further without mentioning my parents. Father always said if I had been born in Sparta I would have been left to the wolves. But not you, mother. Dear, dear mother. Oedipus would never have been possible if not for your nurturing womb, your tender caress, your generous breasts, those curvaceous hips…
And thank you, of course, to my amazing team, including their slaves. Those guys work super hard and never get any credit. When my agent first approached me with the idea of doing a prequel to Antigone, I thought, “No fucking way. Of all the mythical property available you want to option this?” But they said, “We believe in the material, we believe in you, and we believe, based on agora research, that audiences love detective stories with crackpot philosophizing.” And as I delved into the relationships, particularly between Oedipus and Jocasta, the idea started to turn me on.
People have asked me what this play is really about. At its core, I think it’s about a straight white man who gets what’s coming to him because of his own grievous faults. Even though the categories “straight” and “white” mean nothing to any of us, I need you to trust me on this one.
I know I’m over time, but I need to say this: we are at war with Sparta. Oligarchy is on the rise throughout the Hellenic world. Persian operatives are using subterfuge to spread misinformation throughout Athens. Like that story about our entire city-state being a front for a massive child sex ring, which misses crucial cultural context! My point is, we can’t lose sight of our democratic values: freedom, equality before the law, pederasty, sure, but above all else, the theater and the right to be entertained!
Thank you, and have a good night!