Sunday, June 16, 2024

A behind the scenes glimpse into the Resident Ensemble Players’ performance of “Medea”

Arts and CultureA behind the scenes glimpse into the Resident Ensemble Players’ performance of “Medea”

BY JORDANNA GARLAND
Managing Arts and Culture Editor




How far will one woman go for revenge?

The Resident Ensemble Players’ (REP) opening night of Euripides’ “Medea” was held in Thompson Theatre of the Center for the Arts and ran from April 15 to April 30. 

Dramaturg and playwright Ben Power’s adaptation of the Greek tragedy delves into themes of betrayal and vengeance. When Medea’s husband, Jason, leaves her for the King’s daughter, Medea seeks to hurt him like he did her, but there are consequences to be paid. 

Steve Tague, the artistic director of “Medea” and The REP, has been working with the company since its founding in 2008. According to Tague, the design conferences for “Medea” began in November 2022, while the rehearsal process began this February 2023. 

One obstacle that arose during the process was figuring out who to cast in the eight roles that make up the chorus. In the end, the eight chorus members were filled with seven student actors and one company member, Erin Partin.

“If we had done professional actors for that, it would have been very expensive,” Tague said. “We didn’t. We decided to go with student actors, and so the challenge was, can we get them up to the level of the professional theater actors in the company?” 

After auditioning for the role, the chorus members were enrolled in a course, taught by REP company member and wife of Steve Tague, Kathleen Pirkl Tague. The course was specifically designed for the REP’s production of “Medea,” in which the students would rehearse their lines and prepare for their roles. 

Psychology major Amanda Herpel was the only freshman cast as one of the eight chorus members. She shared her experience rehearsing in Hartshorn Hall to prepare for the role. 

“We just had big blocks of text that we had to structure and break down,” Herpel said. “What does each word mean? What emotions are we trying to convey? Are we saying this altogether or is this a singular person? Like really breaking it down.” 

Steve Tague states that audience reception of  “Medea” has been strong. One audience member, Morgan Wright, who attended the April 22 show, was very pleased with the performance. As a fan of the Euripides play, Wright was eager to witness the story onstage.

“I really thought the way that it was brought to life was really true to the original source, but also I like that they… modernized it,” Wright said. “They definitely leaned more into creating sympathy for [Medea] and making her a complex character.”

The interpretations of Medea and Jason have been widely discussed among literary classical experts. In “The Infanticide in Euripides’ Medea,” P.E. Easterling argues that Medea could be seen as a “barbarian sorceress” who simultaneously becomes a new example of humanity. However, she could likewise be seen as a highly destructive character, fueled by violence and revenge and putting others’ safety at risk. 

As for Jason, Easterling asserts that Jason could be seen as a status seeker who is embarrassed by his wife’s unwillingness to accept his love for the King’s daughter. This is contrasted with Jason’s extreme experiences of loss and sadness.

As Steve Tague first read the story of “Medea” in the spring of last year, the themes introduced in the play captured his attention.

“We have a patriarchal society still, [and] thousands and thousands of years later, we’re still living in a  male-dominated society, and there’s a little bit of immigrant in this play as well,” Steve Tague said.

While the themes shed light on societal topics, Herpel said that her experience as a chorus member has been rewarding as it was her first time working in a professional theater company. 

“Getting to work with these actors … it’s been incredible to learn from them and take all the advice that they give us,” Herpel said. “They’ve been so supportive and helpful towards the students, and it’s just been a very welcoming and really fun experience.”

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