Coming up this weekend is a true classic of the stage - the Greek drama Medea!
We have some interviews with the cast to share this week, but let’s start with the director, the incredibly talented Leah Turley, who has taken an original approach to the play.
Q: For those not familiar with the show, tell us about Medea.
Leah: Medea is a play about revenge and hubris. The title character commits the ultimate sin to seek everlasting revenge against her husband whom leaves her and their children for a fair haired princess. It was first performed in 431 BCE, historically Euripides' MEDEA is considered the first feminist piece of theatre. For the first time Greek audiences were exposed to female pride without repercussion, in fact, the character who suffers the most is Medea's husband, Jason.
Jason's pride is punished while Medea's is celebrated and honored by the gods. Euripides and the playwright for our adaptation, A. E. Gill, are exploring perception. How does our perception of revenge, pride, murder etc.- how do these perceptions change based on the circumstances? Do we pity Medea and justify her actions? Do we agree with her sentiment but not her actions, and are sentiment and action really that different from one another?
The great thing about live performance is that we, the audience, are forced to sit silently for the duration of the performance and form our own opinions without consulting our friends or searching for the answer on our smart phones.
Q: How does the show relate to modern-day audiences?
Leah: I think any time we examine such universal emotions or actions as hubris or revenge, time period becomes almost nonexistent. There's something comforting (and depressing) about the fact that humans have struggled with the same moral issues since the beginning of time. Regardless of circumstance- we all seek revenge in one small way or another. We've all wished ill will upon a foe or felt the need to prove we're better or smarter or funnier or prettier.
I think MEDEA offers us the opportunity to experience and explore our own morality in a set of imaginary circumstances - these people aren't real - you can love them and hate them and judge them and pity them without any repercussion, and thus, question your OWN sense of morality.
Q: Tell us about your job as the director of Medea.
Leah: In truth, my job is rather simple: I create a broad experience. I provide the framework for that experience and I give the actors the freedom to create within that framework. I am funneling several points of view into a singular point of view that has clarity and weight. I, hopefully, make their collective effort mean something.
Q: Has it been fun, working with an (almost) all-female cast?
Leah: I'm tempted to say that it is no more or less fun than working with an almost all-male cast but that wouldn't be true. What's fun about this cast is that we're seeing more women on stage DOING more. These female characters have vastly differing points of view and the actresses are a diverse cross section of age and body types. And they're all moving. Constantly. No one is hidden in the back and the ladies are showing some skin. I hope that we can open up a conversation about where women stand in our theatre community, not just on stage, but behind the scenes players too.
Q: What's your background in theatre?
Leah: I received my BFA in theatre performance from Marshall University and my MFA in theatre performance from UNC-Greensboro. I am creative artistic director for the Appalachian Artists Collective, Theatre Educator for The Clay Center's Explore and Soar Program, Outreach Coordinator for Marshall Artists Series, Professor and Tour Manager for Marshall University's Theatre for Young Audiences Tour-Theatre ETC. and Advanced Acting Instructor for The Alban Arts and Conference Center and a member of Actors' Equity Association.
Q: Why did you want to be part of this show?
Leah: I really wanted the opportunity to work at ARTS on a Greek tragedy. ARTS has a company model that I was interested in learning about. I've worked with several company members and resident directors and I really respect their work.
Q: Why would you recommend this show?
Leah: I would recommend this show because there's nothing like it in this area. We're experimenting with a radically different design aesthetic and we've created a huge movement piece to help tell the story through physicality.
Also, it's a 90 minute show! I've heard your cries and I echo them: no more three hour shows! But seriously, we're competing with Netflix and IPads - for cheaper than the price of a theatre ticket, you can stay at home and watch the entire cannon of mid-’90s network sitcoms for a month (hello Seinfeld and Law & Order!).
Audiences are asking for more - they want cheaper products of greater quality and they want it yesterday. If we want audiences to be as interested in the classics as we are, we need to present it to them in a new and exciting way. The Greeks had six hours to watch a play because it was their only form of entertainment - audiences today don't have six hours and they certainly don't have three. They'll sit there alright, but they won't like it. We need our audiences to enjoy the experience so they keep coming back.
Medea is being presented by Arts Resources for the Tri-State (ARTS). The classic play will be staged on Aug. 21, 22, 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. on the ARTS Renaissance Main Stage at 900 8th Street in Huntington. Tickets are $15 for the show only, or $30 for dinner and the show. Reservations are required for the dinner - call 304-733-2787.