IPHIGENIA (directed by Heather Benton; adapted from the translation of Iphigenia in Aulis by Don Taylor, with other texts). Read the director’s excellent essay on the play, her adaptation, and her response to the themes embodied by it here.
A nation on the brink of war; a family torn apart; an unspeakable act of violence: this ancient Greek tragedy resonates with the immediacy of a Google newsfeed. Trapped with the Greek troops on the shores of Aulis, Agamemnon faces an impossible choice: sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the gods, or remain beached. In desperation he summons wife and daughter for a wedding. When the truth is revealed, mother and lover fight to save Iphigenia from her father, the insatiable Greek army, and herself. Heather Benton’s version of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, performed by Theater Department students in Kasser Theater on November 3, 4, 5, and 6, addressed a range of hot button topics: military culture, the gender expectations and responses to that culture ancient and modern, the limits of personal choice within a framework of political machination and manipulation of the populace during wartime, the loss suffered by those in and around the battles, and more. A full house enthusiastically responded each night to the performances.
The opening night featured a well attended “Sneak Peek” talk, sponsored by Kasser Theater, about the play, its history, and its themes, by the director, Heather Benton, as well as members of the Classics Department at MSU, and moderated by Carrie Urbanic.
Montclair State University’s Theater and Dance Department continues to produce many exciting adaptations of and riffs on ancient Greek plays–these performances are all FREE to students of MSU, and not very expensive for community members, either. Here are a few productions from the past years (to keep up with what’s new, check out the Theatre & Dance Dept website, on their Series page ):
Aeschylus’ The Persians (translated by Robert Auletta, directed by Mercedes Murphy), in March 2015: “The Persians, the earliest Greek play to survive as a complete work, recounts how the news of an unexpected and crushing defeat of the Greek army reached the Persian imperial court. According to The Guardian, ‘The play’s tour de force [is a] vivid, fast-moving account of one of history’s great battles…Dense and muscular in its imagery, with an exotic queen, a portentous dream, a distant location and a sinister supernatural event …A troubling, masterful play [that] can also become a drama for our time.'”
Chuck Mee’s Wintertime
(directed by Heather Benton), in December 2014: “In the hours before New Year’s Eve the members of an upper class family and their lovers arrive at the summer lake house to find they are not alone. The New York Times called Wintertime ‘a raucous riff on love in its many permutations.’ It combines the pathos of Greek drama, the philosophical musings of Chekhov, the romantic quadrangles of Molière, and the ridiculousness of a French farce. Mee’s eclectic theatrical style is as rich in heart and truth as it is in chaos and irreverence.”
Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice (directed by Deborah Saivetz), in October 2008: “Award-winning playwright and MacArthur ‘genius’ Sarah Ruhl’s re-imagining of the Orpheus myth, told from heroine Eurydice’s point of view. Eurydice re-learns language and memory until she has to make her ultimate decision – whether or not to follow Orpheus back to the land of the living.”
Also, in March 2016, the hilarious and poignant 99 Ways to F**k a Swan, by Kim Rosenstock (directed by Jesse Jou): “Dave is a lonely guy with a broken heart. Fiona is a creative writing instructor in a complicated relationship. When Dave writes a fantastical story about strange romantic obsessions, they begin a relationship that might help them both. Inspired by the myth of Leda and the Swan, 99 Ways… is a hilarious, provocative, and moving comedy. Mature content.”