The Children of Herakles

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After their father’s death, the children of Herakles are exiled from their home by a hostile regime. They flee from country to country in search of sanctuary, finding every border closed to them. Euripides’ twenty-four-hundred-year-old investigation of the plight of refugees could have been written this morning.


When Herakles dies, his children and mother flee their home and the persecution of the tyrant Eurystheus, and seek sanctuary near Athens. The Athenians are at first reluctant to grant them asylum, since the family of the great demigod may bring political and military strife on the city, but Demophon, King of Athens, agrees to admit them.

Eurystheus’s forces surround the city, and an oracle announces that the safety of Athens depends on the sacrifice of a virgin. Herakles’s daughter Macaria offers herself as a sacrificial victim. Eurystheus is captured, and Herakles’s aged mother Alkmene insists that he be put to death. Demophon explains that this would be a breach of Athenian honor, but Alkmene insists on retribution for the wrongs the tyrant has done her family.

PROGRAM – The Children of Herakles is a two-part event:

Discussion and Testimony (approximately 45 minutes)
Broadcaster and journalist Christopher Lydon engages an eminent policy maker, refugee expert, or scholar. Refugees from the Boston area then give testimony on their experiences in coming to the United States, moderated by Lydon. See schedule of speakers and films (pdf format).

– short coffee break –

Performance of Euripides’

The Children of Herakles (110 minutes)


Half-hour break for food and conversation
with cast members and panelists

Film (approx. one hour, after evening performances only)

To provide an artistic response to the current crisis, one of a series of films made in countries that are generating large numbers of refugees is shown each evening, and ticket holders are welcome to attend any screening. Series curated by the Harvard Film Archive, with additional films at the H.F.A.’s cinema on Quincy Street in Harvard Square. See descriptions of films and schedule of speakers and films (pdf format).

Playback post-show discussions after every Saturday matinee, moderated by Peter Sellars with Robert Woodruff and/or Gideon Lester.

The premiere of this production was produced by the Ruhr-Triennale on September 19, 2002—Gerard Mortier, Artistic Director.

From the English Translation, The Complete Greek Tragedies, Grene & Lattimore, eds., published by The University of Chicago Press. Produced by permission of the publisher.

Production Sponsor
Horace H. & Cassandra Irvine

Significant Additional Production Support from
The Carr Foundation
CrossCurrents, a program of Philip Morris Companies, Inc.
The Ford Foundation
The Open Society Institute

Production Director Sponsors
Ted & Mary Wendell

Opening Night Co-Sponsors
Carol V. & Harvey Berman
Beth Pollock


Iolaus, an old man and friend of Herakles Jan Triska
Copreus, special envoy of Eurystheus Elaine Tse
Demophon, daughter of Theseus and President of Athens Brenda Wehle
Macaria, daughter of Herakles Julyana Soelistyo
attendant Albert S.
Alcmene, mother of Herakles Julyana Soelistyo
Eurystheus, President of Argos and Mycenae Cornel Gabara
music performed and sung by Ulzhan Baibussynova
moderator/chorus Christopher Lydon
chorus Heather Benton
the children of Herakles (rotating cast of refugee and immigrant youth) Sajeda Abdulla, Luam Adhanom, Bzumina Becho, Mamai Carter, Crist Cius, Marina Costa, Carla de Oliveira, Simaben Dugla, Yasmin Dugla, Juliane Farias, Mike Gauyo, Anayit Hailu, Beniyam Hailu, Ketna Julmeus, Saint Luc Julmeus, Nijazi Jusufi, Arif Khalifa, Colleen Laurent, CeClaire Lenius, Richardson Maurissaint, Begum Nabar, Kamelia Ortega, Femida Sheikh, Sadip Tamang, Sofila Tamang, Zelalem Tesfahun, Teshome Tsegay
costume design Brooke Stanton
lighting design James F. Ingalls
sound design Shahrokh Yadegari
English translation by Ralph Gladstone
casting by Bernard Telsey Casting (Will Cantler)
stage manager Nancy Harrington
in association with the Ruhr-Triennale