Night Journey is a 1947 Martha Graham ballet performed to a harsh, dramatic score by William Schuman, with costumes by Graham and sets by her longtime collaborator, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi. She noted that “the action takes place in Jocasta’s heart at the instant when she recognizes the ultimate terms of her destiny.” Commissioned by the philanthropist Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, Night Journey had its premiere (oddly) at Cambridge High School outside Boston.
The making of Night Journey meshed with Graham’s personal life. Dancing the role of Jocasta became a way for her to channel her difficult domestic relationship with Erik Hawkins, who created the role of Oedipus and who was 15 years younger than Graham. Dance critic Marcia B. Siegel wrote, “What Graham constructed for herself over the ruins of the Hawkins idyll, re-imagined through dreams, myth and an assiduously cultivated unconscious, was a series of central roles in a series of remarkable dances. The vengeful Jocasta wasn’t the first but it was probably the most striking.” In this video excerpt, the role of Oedipus is performed by Bertram Ross.
Edipore is a intriguing version of the Oedipus story from 1967, by the controversial, often brilliant Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. Alternating between highly charged scenes that reference the modern world and beautiful, if austere, evocations of a primitive and ritualistic society (these scenes were shot – strikingly – in Morocco), Pasolini has created a bold piece that goes beyond the borders of the Sophocles play to tell the story of the doomed Oedipus. It stars Franco Citti as Oedipus, Silvana Mangano as a sensuous Jocasta , Alida Valli (of The Third Man) as Oedipus’ adopted mother, and the Living Theater’s Julian Beck as Tiresias.