(The Picket) – When presented with Classic Greek Tragedies we often think of images of men in togas who go to slay monster or are left to discover a horrible secret. A strong independent woman is not what comes to mind, but that is exactly what we are given in the two classical Greek plays presented to us by The Rude Mechanicals.
The Rude Mechanicals is a theater troupe devoted to productions of medieval and Renaissance drama based out of Shepherd University. This spring they are treating the community to both SOPHOCLES’ ANTIGONE and EURIPIDES’ MEDEA. These two tragedies feature the stories of female protagonists, who stand strong and keep pushing their goals to tragic ends.
The productions feature simple costumes that echo the plays’ Greek origins and draw the audience in to the way the plays must have looked back at the Great Dionysia celebration in ancient Athens when they were first performed. A chorus is present on stage as in the original Greek format, the chorus interacts with the characters and audience as well as performs ballet interludes between scene changes.
ANTIGONE features the tale of the daughter of one of the most tragic Greek heroes of all Oedipus King of Thebes, a man who murdered his father and married his mother birthing children by her. Antigone is one of these children. She seeks simple satisfaction of burying both of her brothers, which Creon the now king of the City has decreed she may not do.
MEDEA features the tale of a woman who takes revenge against her husband too far with dangerous consequences. Medea, a former princess in a foreign land, is married to Greek hero Jason, former captain of The Argo and rescuer of a magic golden fleece. For all his heroics Jason is not the best husband and he pays dearly for it.
Both of these productions feature actors giving us vivid and emotional performances, including sword fighting, dance and poetic verse of classical Greece. They also have themes that stay contemporary today.
Actress Shelby Taylor playing Jason says, “It’s interesting, it’s old yet so progressive. Strong women and ancient Greece isn’t something we really think to put together.”
Jeannie Moore says of her character Medea, “She’s still relevant today. We see it in the news Mom’s going off the deep end.”
These are productions to see with riveting stories and great cast of community, Shepherd students and alumni. In the words of Betty Ellzey, director of production and Shepherd University professor, “The plots and the lines, what the characters say to each other, could be, with minor adjustments, be part of a play written yesterday. For me, directing these plays is a way to help audiences and actors learn about a different culture, but also a way to make them think about their own.”
Theater is a mirror for our history and culture, I look forward to seeing my reflections in this view of Ancient Greece.
Jessica Sharpless can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org