Contemporary adaptation of 'Medea' presented

Penn State Altoona will present Euripides' "Medea," a play about the wife who resorts to a desperate act of revenge in response to her husband's betrayal. The show opens Thursday, Nov. 9, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 12, at Penn State Altoona's Wolf Kuhn Theatre in the Misciagna Center for Performing Arts. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with matinee shows at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for regular admission.

"Medea" is a classical Greek play written in the fourth century B.C. yet its themes resonate today.

"We can simply look at Medea, who some have called 'the mother of all murderers,' as something sub-human, or we can look at her as a tragic hero with very human qualities that we can empathize with and pity," said director Robin Reese, assistant professor of theatre arts.

In the original classical play, Medea was seen as a sorceress. But as dramaturg Meg Powers Livingston, assistant professor of English, pointed out, "One of Euripides' greatest contributions to Greek theater was the complexity of the characters he created; characters like Medea and Jason are flawed human beings but they are human, with strengths, weaknesses, good qualities and bad. The tragedy of Medea is in watching the characters make choices that lead to terrible consequences. Audience members might not endorse the choices, but they are led to understand and possibly even empathize with the motivations behind the choices."

"In our contemporary production we look at all of the characters as having all human qualities," Reese noted. "In fact, the gods that save Medea in the classical play are not present in our contemporary rendering. Another departure from the classical version is that we get to know Gluake better (the princess for whom Jason leaves Medea). Also, we utilize contemporary music and dance, including tango."

"Medea," it should be warned, is not a light comedy. However, the production promises to be theatrical and entertaining, utilizing dance, contemporary music and cutting-edge theatre techniques.

Reese is again training the 12-member cast in the Asian contemporary acting form created by Tadashi Suzuki, which is a mixture of classical Japanese kabuki, martial arts and Western ballet. Those who saw Reese's production of "The Tempest" will be excited to see Suzuki is not an acting style. "The look of Medea will have certain qualities of 'The Tempest' which comes from the Suzuki training, but Suzuki does not look the same in every production," Reese added.

For this production, Reese also will train the company in the Viewpoints, a post-modern movement form created by director Anne Bogart. Reese said, "Many Penn State students have been working with the Viewpoints for going on two years. It's a lot of fun, creates beautiful stage movement, and allows actors to have complete fearlessness and movement abilities that they might not have known they had without the Viewpoints."

Once again Reese will team up with her designers from last year's "The Tempest." Marlene Liszka is responsible for creating the atmospheric lights to create the dark underbelly of the human condition that's at the forefront of "Medea." Carlos Ruiz will be designing the costumes and set.

The play has no adult language, but the plot includes the murder of infants; audiences will be surprised by how Medea and Jason's children are portrayed. The play is not recommended to family audiences.

Tickets are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts Box Office at Penn State Altoona, and before and during all performances. Telephone reservations may be made by calling the Box Office at (814) 949-5452. For further information, call the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts or visit the Penn State Altoona Web site at online.

Last Updated March 19, 2009