Drama, ancient-Greek style

It’s not uncommon for college students to feel heartbroken after a breakup. What’s less common, though, is for them to relate their feelings to an ancient Greek tragedy.

That all changes with 14th Grade Players’ production of Euripides’ “Medea,” opening Thursday at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. Written in 431 B.C.E. and set in ancient Corinth, the show follows the scorned title character, played by senior Emily Murphy, who has been replaced with another woman by her husband Jason, played by Kieran Wilson.

Throughout the show, there are two characters functioning as the chorus: the “Evil,” played by Lizzy Marmon, and the “Good,” played by Rachel Schlaff. The two foil characters stay on stage throughout the 75-minute show and facilitate the play’s action, helping Medea face her inner conflicts and arguments with those around her.

Although the show is set in ancient Greece, senior theatre major and debut director Amanda Rhodes said she was inspired by the show’s clear translation to modern life.

“I like the play because it’s a classic play, and when you bring it here today, it still has the epic effect,” Rhodes said. “Imagine back then when you see this woman being clever and being smart and manipulating people to get what you want. That was like shaking waters back then. Even now, it’s still radical.”

Instead of changing the play’s setting to a more modern scene, 14th Grade decided to maintain the look of ancient Greece. The set includes crisp white columns, walls painted to create the look of marble, and draped robes for costumes.

“We set it in the traditional period in the sense that we’re in Greece and there are marble columns,” Rhodes said. “But the translation of the play is so dense, it lets students relate to it more. Yes, we’re trying to keep the environment, but the translation is clear.”

Matching the grandness of a Greek tragedy, the production was offered the space in Marvin Center’s Betts Theatre, rather than the limited spaces in the Lisner Downstage and Mitchell Theater that student theater groups are typically provided.

“Student groups rarely, if ever, get Betts. It’s such a shame because with theater, the big part of it is getting in the space and doing it,” Rhodes said. “Half of theater is just getting in there and messing around until you get it right. When you don’t allow student groups that freedom, it harms the educational process.”

For the show’s cast and crew, the opportunities available in Betts made the magnitude of producing “Medea” different than most student theater experiences.

“It’s more full-production working in Betts,” Rhodes said. “The amount of production quality changes and shifts. You have to work with a lot more people, and that’s a lot better, because in life you have to work with a lot more people.”

For Rhodes, one of the most important directing decisions she made in bringing this ancient tragedy to a contemporary audience was the exclusion of an intermission.

“It’s a roller coaster,” she said. “Back in ancient Greece there was no intermission. Medea doesn’t take a break, so neither should you.”

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