Chas LiBretto Discusses His Thesis Play

June 13, 2016

Chas LiBretto’s thesis play, The Laodamiad, follows a young woman named Laodamia, daughter to a king on the verge of committing troops and resources to the war plans of political allies. She falls in love with a young officer and quickly marries him before he heads off to battle. He’s the first casualty of that war and she becomes the first war widow. The gods allow her a final visit with him before his final rest, but the reunion is even more traumatizing than his untimely death and sends her spiraling downward into denial and depression, to carrying on her marriage with a statue and on a dangerous journey to the underworld. Will her father realize his great mistake before his daughter’s grief consumes her?

The Laodamiad ran at the Ford Studio at Pershing Square Signature Center in May.

Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play? Where did the idea come from? Did you work on it in class?

This play started from a prompt in Anne Bogart’s Collaboration class. The theme was “Love and Death” and Benita De Wit (Directing ’16) told me Brian Kulick had mentioned a fragmentary play by Euripides called Protesilaos, about the first Greek soldier to die at Troy and the lengths his widow goes through to preserve their marriage after he’s gone. About five lines exist in that fragment, so there wasn’t too much to go on, but a considerable amount of research unearthed a fairly rich story that became the skeleton of that piece. I did a few workshops of it (in that class, at Columbia in fall 2014 with Hunter Bird directing, and then at Theater Masters, both in Aspen and at the C.O.W. in 2015), before coming to the realization that I had a bigger story to tell than what a 10-minute play would allow. I developed the long version in Kelly Stuart’s Playwriting class.

Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?

Oskar Eustis is mentoring me on this project. I’d been thinking about looking for a playwright to help guide me on this process for a few reasons (mostly because that’s what I’d heard we were supposed to do), but David Henry Hwang suggested Oskar after reading a draft of this play last fall. My first reaction was “Oh, God, I’m not ready for that! I admire him so much and there’s no theater I respect more and enjoy attending than the Public.” David then said (and I’m paraphrasing), I “might as well have the help of one of the best dramaturgs in the country.” David’s smart.

Find out more about LiBretto and The Laodamiad here.