SHOW TITLE: Medea
PRODUCER: Amber Bastards
HAILING FROM: Minnesota
SHOW DESCRIPTION: How do you cope with betrayal? How do you avenge yourself when you lose the life you sacrificed everything for? This adaption of Euripides’ Medea breaths new life into the tragedy of the woman from Colchis.
WHAT CAUGHT MY INTEREST: They’re currently down here with me in Kansas City, and their director blurted out that they’d just come off the waiting list in Minneapolis. Hell, I’m enough of a mythology geek that they would probably have been on my list anyway.
Just who do you think you are, anyway?
We are an amalgamation of current students and recent grads of Carleton College, who call themselves the Amber Bastards. We got the name from the lighting gel color Bastard Amber, because the only thing better than a theater in-joke, is a theater in-joke with swear words. Myself and Rachel Linder, who plays Medea, did KC Fringe last summer, and after a (very good) year in the Twin Cities working on other people’s projects, we wanted to take on something of our own. That we where able to put together such a wonderful group of actors who were willing to go traipsing around the Midwest doing Greek tragedy with us is both a miracle and what transformed the idea of a Fringe tour from a crazy pipe dream to marginally doable. We just finished KC Fringe and will be going onto Indianapolis after this, so it’s been a very nomadic summer.
So what’s the big idea?
Our show is basically a stripped down version of Euripides’ Medea. There are a lot of words in that play and we had to get it down to an hour, so I started with the public domain translation by Gilbert Murray from 1912 and then did a lot of rewriting to stream-line the story and update the language. I wanted to preserve the essence of Euripides’ play so the form is pretty much straight-up Greek tragedy: we’ve got the Chorus, the long oratories, the disturbingly graphic descriptions of off-stage violence. We just translated it from a 5th century b.c. amphitheater to a 21st century blackbox.
How did you come up with a screwy idea like that?
I was a history major as well as a theater major, so I am fascinated by anything old. I am also nigh unto evangelical about anything old, so I’m fascinated by the challenge of resurrecting old scripts and making them have the same power and meaning for modern audiences that they would have had for their original audiences. I spent the spring semester as a stage management intern at the Playwright’s Center which basically involves sitting at a table with a bunch of playwrights, directors and actors who are incredibly good at what they do and watching them midwife new plays into being. So I started wondering if we take questions that we ask about new plays in development and start asking them about old plays, could we create a version of Medea that felt fresh and alive, but was still something that the ghost of Euripides’ would recognize as his own.
Why should I care?
There’s a lot of painfully esoteric reasons why you should see Medea. You should see it because this is our theatrical heritage. Without the Greeks we wouldn’t have actors, we wouldn’t have tragedy and comedy as we think of them, we wouldn’t even have summer theater festivals, with the Athenians invented as part of the worship of Dionysus. You should see it because it engages with some really interesting gender politics, which are both very exciting and a little uncomfortable for 21st century feminists; for all the plays we have about angry men, this is one of the few about a totally unapologetic angry women.
But really you should see it because it’s a great play. Going to a Greek tragedy may feel like eating the spinach of the Fringe Festival, but the characters and the story have stood the test of time incredibly well, the actors are excellent, and it raises some very interesting questions. Plus spinach is good for you.
Justify your show’s existence in haiku form.
I feel like I should buck the question for the sake of genre and write you Homeric epic poem, but I doubt you’d print it. So:
Greek tragedy in
which feminism is
all the rage: sorry, kid.