Spectrum Theater, Grand Rapids
July 12-14, 19-21; 8 p.m.
heritagetheatregr.org, (616) 951-4842
Plunge into a violent torrent of stunning, raw emotion this summer with The Heritage Theatre Group's world premiere of Euripides' Medea, with a new translation by Grand Valley State University professor Diane Rayor.
Described by director and GVSU Theater colleague professor Karen Libman as an "incredible psychological thriller" of "bloody and awful" acts, Medea depicts its titular character's despair, desperation and possible derangement after her betrayal by Jason, hero of the Golden Fleece myth. First produced in 431 BCE, Medea is still highly relevant today, delving into the complexities of the human psyche and exploring how heartbreak can destroy boundaries of restraint and catalyze drastic action.
Libman and Rayor's journey together began in 2006, when the pair teamed up as director and dramaturge, respectively, on a Heritage Theatre Group production of Metamorphoses. Uniting again for work on Sophocles' Antigone in 2009, the duo began a directing-translating collaboration that Libman says explored the question, "Can there be a faithful translation of Greek drama that is also theatrical?"
Benefiting from the opportunity to watch and hear actors interacting with the lines, Rayor continually tweaked the script, eventually creating an accessible translation that was not only accurate, but also believable and compelling onstage.
With Medea, Libman and Rayor are repeating the process again; production began with a 12-hour script-revising workshop with the actors. Libman describes Medea as a "huge luxury"— a "petri dish of a play" that allows for "decisions on a word-by-word basis."
"There are every day changes to the script—I mean every day," Libman said. "[Rayor's] on at least the twelfth draft."
The final translation, like that of Antigone, will be published by Cambridge University Press.
As if a fresh translation alone would not make this production unique, the play will also feature original music composed by Todd Lewis for the chorus, a group of singers essential to Greek tragedy who serve as commentators and go between for the audience.
"They are really amazing singers ... The music is stunning—it is just stunning," Libman said.
The entire play, including the score, will be made into a high quality recording.
An additional highlight of the production is the excellent cast, particularly Sherryl Despres, whose portrayal of Medea Libman called a "subtle and amazing performance."
"You really are sympathetic to her plight ... She's gonna grab [the audience's] heart strings and really tug on them ... It is really a special project with incredible people involved—everybody is terrific."