Where: U of A Studio Theatre at the Timms Centre
Starring: Jessy Arden, David Feehan, Celeste Tikal
Directed by: David Kennedy
Written by: Euripedes and translated by Don Taylor
Price: $12 for students, Evening $25 adult, $22 senior, matinee $20 adult, $18 senior
November 26 to December 5th 7:30 p.m., matinee on December 3rd at 12:30 p.m.
Don’t be fooled by the unpronounceable title, Iphigenia et Aulis is not to be judged by the heavy genre of Greek Tragedy that it falls under. The play written in antiquity tells the story of the difficult decision that a high standing military family must make as their daughter’s life hangs in the balance during a time of warfare.
Jessy Ardern plays Clytemnestra, the wife of a military commander and mother to Iphigenia whose fate rests in her character’s mysterious hands. Ardern speaks passionately about how the story and the characters may be interesting but this production is much more than just a recounting of an ancient tale. The theme of war is at the forefront this play, as the cast and crew have completely modernized this old classic. While the Greek nature of the play could be offputting to some, Arden says that the modernization will make it accessible to all.
“Don’t be frightened by the term Greek Tragedy. Because its not your grandmother’s Greek Tragedy,” says Arden.
People are afraid of classical theatre because of its connection to the past with heavy and complicated story lines. University students probably see the Greek title and can instantly be reminded of a long-winded classics class, but Arden notes that the play felt fresh to the Studio players creating the piece.
“It never felt like a dusty piece of writing that we were kind of dredging up,” Ardern says.
The director and the cast never intended to show this production in a classical perspective and have radically modernized the Greek context of the play. Adapting the time period allowed them to utilize the theme of war and relate it to today’s society.
“This was always going to be a play about war and society now and what it means to be a human being involved in this sort of conflict,” Arden says.
Ardern gave some insight on an example of how something classic has been modernized by explaining their transformation of the Chorus. Medieval plays contained a Chorus to act as a type of narrator that would give the citizens point of view throughout the play. Rather than having a group of townspeople, the Chorus delivers the voice of the masses through YouTube commentators, talk show hosts, and video game reviewers. The media and the internet is given a character in this play to add to the contemporary theme by outlining the weight that these major actors have in politics and military.
The actress talked about the interesting use of invasive set design as the stage is extended out into the audience to emphasize the immediacy of the story. This stage gives the actors the chance to literally be in the faces of their audience to more directly convey their message that war is happening around the world and it is irresponsible to allow that to be ignored.
“I think maybe there is no such thing as being totally removed from the society in the world that you live in,” Arden notes.
Studio Theater’s Iphigenia et Aulis has set out to remind their audience that despite being in a comfortable westernized setting it is impossible and rather foolish to try and remove oneself from the wars and devastation that occur around the world everyday. Ardern compares people to some characters in the play who pretend they are above all the conflict and attempt to bury themselves away. This is futile because, as this production points out, war is always present. It is evident in antiquity and today. The universality of war is what connects this play from antiquity to the present.
Their message is a must see to act as a reminder that there is no hiding away from global issues, no matter how hard one may try. Ardern hopes that the audience will lose this sense of distance from the world that people have grown accustomed to.
“I’ve never been in a play before where I felt so passionately that this has to be seen and be seen live in order to really be able to think about it and talk about it and experience it.”