Sharon Eberhardt Links Anthropologist Alice Kober & Mythical Ariadne
by Patricia L. Morin
Through the lives of two trailblazing women, the “Mark of the Minotaur” manifests the ageless, unwarranted suppression of women’s achievements.
Sharon Eberhardt welcomes us on a stage with only a box, sharing straight out: “I am not a historian.” She confesses that she’s attracted to mysteries. Dressed casually, Eberhardt transmits her excitement about discovery.
She found out about Alice Kober who was born in 1906 in New York City. We quickly become curious about Kober, an anthropologist. Having studied the classics at Hunter College, she wanted to decipher “Linear B,” clay tablets written in an unknown ancient language, first discovered on the island of Crete in 1900.
Channeling Kober, Eberhardt explains in a soft Hungarian-accent that she is building phonetic connections between symbols. I found the stages of Kober’s work the most captivating part of Eberhart’s monologue.
As Kober delves into the Linear B tablets, she realizes that the etched clay figures may hold the secret of Ariadne and the Minotaur!
Eberhardt constructs a loose association between the two women. But she centers on their unique feats, both of which were stolen by men: “The ancients were just as messed up as us, focusing on the wrong things, distracted by money, a shiny star, a handsome face.”
At 15 years old, Ariadne, King Minos’ starry-eyed daughter, saves a handsome “hero-type” boy who was going to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. She instructs the hero, Theseus, how to kill the half-man. half-bull Beast in the labyrinth. However, instead of bringing her with him to Athens, as promised, Theseus abandons her on an island. And he is honored for her achievement.
Dividing Eberhardt’s tale into three, Director David Ford cleverly uses a third of the stage for each scene. The three scenes illustrate: Kober’s life; Ariadne & Theseus’ quest; and Kober’s slow unfolding of the Linear B puzzle.
Eberhardt uses humorous postures and voices: Hair-twirling for stereotypical teenager Ariadne; a hunky, deep-voice for Theseus; and a flirty god Dionysus. These typical physical gestures draw us in, but the movements sometimes seem exaggerated, as she switches roles abruptly.
Handsome Michael Ventris, a young architect, arrives to share the work on Linear B with Kober. Ventris finds the final key to Kober’s work, but grabs the whole credit for himself. In fact, Eberhardt concludes, “His name comes up when you search: “Who deciphered Linear B?” It is unfair to Alice that there’s only one name on top,” usually Ventris’ name.
Nameless women and wives live in the shadows of a male-centered universe. Thanks to the new women’s movement, now we get to hear voices like Eberhardt’s. The Alice Kobers of this world are emerging into the spotlight.
Eberhardt makes the show fun with her imagined scenarios shrouded in history. She reveals the importance of honoring women’s hidden accomplishments.
“Mark of the Minotaur” by Sharon Eberhardt, directed by David Ford, at The Marsh, Berkeley. Info: TheMarsh.org – to December 3, 2022.
Cast: Sharon Eberhardt
Banner photo: Sharon Eberhardt & Alice Kober. Photo: The Marsh