September 28, 2009
I'm just back from a visit to Salt Lake City to attend a performance of my translation (University of Massachusetts Press, 1978) of THE BAKKHAI by the University of Utah's Theatre Department. I was persuaded to fly out after listening to some of the production numbers (set by composer Joe Payne) posted on the internet and by news that a performance scheduled at Bingham Young University on September 21st (my birthday!) had been cancelled by the BYU Theatre Dept Chair as unsuitable for BYU undergrads. (Apparently it was some same-sex kissing, the maenads' décolletage, (more…)
December 18, 2008
The translation of Euripides' HIPPOLYTOS staged by the Barnard Theatre Department at 8 PM on October 23rd, 24th and 25th at the Minor Latham Playhouse was reviewed as follows in the Barnard Bulletin:
Minor Latham Madness: Hippolytos Opens The Theater Season
by Sophia Mossberg
For those lucky enough to catch October’s Hippolytos at Barnard and Columbia’s undergraduate performance space, Minor Latham Playhouse, the show offered a passionate and fitting introduction to this season of Barnard-Columbia theatre, as well as the theatre department in general. While a trend in college and regional productions is to interpret classic plays in a modern context or even produce modern text based on the original narrative, Director Sharon Fogarty, a visiting guest artist who is Co-Artistic Director of Mabou Mines Theatre Company, presented Euripides’ Greek tragedy in a classical interpretation as translated by Robert Bagg. In doing so and by allowing the power of the text to transport the viewer into ancient times with its lyrical chorus laments and poetic language, the play still does not feel dated or inaccessible. Opening with only movement backed by an original choral score recorded by members of the company, flowing and intricate costumes twirled and spun as the actors took to the stage. The cast of 14 demonstrated passionate commitment to a story fraught with the perils of lust and the injustice of the gods’ mandate. Hippolytos tells the story of the downfall of a whole community as the result of Aphrodite’s vengeance for Hippolytos, who is chaste and chooses to revere Artemis instead of her. Aphrodite causes Phaidra, his stepmother, to fall in love with her stepson, therefore compromising Phaidra’s honor and sending her into a lustful and agonizing frenzy. When one of Phaidra’s nurses tells Hippolytos of her secret love for him, Phaidra believes she is a ruined woman and hangs herself. However, upon finding her body and a note from Phaidra, it becomes clear to her husband Theseus that she unjustly blamed Hippolytos for her death. Theseus exiles his son, who is killed en route while leaving, yet not before Artemis frees him of the blame and Theseus acknowledges his vindication.
An engaged and appropriately enthusiastic or lamenting chorus was joined by the charming and evil goddesses Aphrodite and Artemis, each played by three women: Cecilia Watt, SEAS’12, Eloise Eonnet, BC’11, and Tatiana Hullender, CC’10, as Aphrodite, and Khadeejah Anne Gray, BC’12, Judy Butterfield, BC’12, and Amanda Rodhe BC’10 as Artemis. Emerald Mitchell, BC’12, and Natalie Glick, BC’09, were strong as Phaidra’s nurses, and often provided comic relief to scenes bursting with fervor and emotion. Much of this fervor and frenzied emotion lay in Lily Feinn’s, BC’10, portrayal of Phaidra. Feinn’s eloquent handle on language and expressive range was among the show’s best aspects, as she physically contorted her body and gave passages with fiery delivery. Jacob Lasser , CC’12, who played Hippolytos with conviction, and Thadeus Harvey, GS, as a comic and commanding Theseus rounded out the leads. Lighting by Lucrecia Briceno was complementary of a simple and beautiful set designed by Meganne George, and provided smooth transitions that supported the shows’ relatively quick pacing. Audience member Natasha Gordon, BC’12, appreciated the use of “chanting, dance, and classic narration to bring the play to life.”
The theatre department characterizes the work its students do as a creative process that “develops in a dialogue with critical inquiry into the literature, history, culture, and theory of western and nonwestern performance, typically combining coursework in Theatre with study in other fields, such as anthropology, architecture, art history, classics, dance, film, languages, literature, music, and philosophy,” therefore indicating its combinatory nature to be incredibly versatile for a major that is thought to be so specialized. The department’s multifaceted nature rejects the notion that it is an intensely specialized major, opening it to students of all disciplines. The Barnard-Columbia theatre department has a repertoire of historically important and profound plays, and this year is no exception. Past productions include Twelfth Night and Proof, in addition to works by Gertrude Stein and Tennessee Williams. After this production, the season will continue with the staging of the Advanced Directing Class Final Scenes. These scenes will showcase Barnard and Columbia undergraduate individual works. They open at Minor Latham Playhouse on December 8 at 8 p.m., free of charge, and present the opportunity to see student directed work. Also upcoming at Minor Latham Playhouse is Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca’s As Five Years Pass, a surrealist piece about love and loss. The show will play from November 20-22 at 8pm.
Most students know of the staged productions that are featured during the year, and yet there is much more happening behind the scenes as creative students engage with other aspects of the department. In addition to performance, students participate in a multitude of theatre-related activities such as playwriting, directing, the study of drama, and theatre history. For the visually inclined, the department offers courses focusing on costume and mask design; these topics are just a few of many that are relative to other disciplines. . Though there are only about 15 thesis majors this year, around 500 hundred students are involved with the theater department annually. Luckily, if you are interested, there is ample time this spring and next fall to participate in theatre productions. There are plenty of ways to get involved in theatre at Barnard, even if your knees shake just speaking in class or if your schedule cannot possibly include another course elective: join the technical crew, or simply become an usher and take in the night’s show. Classes for the spring are up on the catalogue, and auditions for next year’s season will begin in the fall.