Audiences will be whisked back in time to ancient Greece and a land filled with gods, goddesses, heroes and villains when Troy University’s Department of Theatre and Dance brings the tragedy Medea to life premiering Oct. 21.
Not to be confused with Tyler Perry’s “Madea,” Medea is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides that tells the story of Jason, a Greek hero and leader of the Argonauts, and Medea, daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis, granddaughter of the sun god Helios and a powerful sorceress. Through a series of twists, turns and shocking choices, Medea affords no one a happy ending.
“It’s a thrilling story, but it is a tragedy. It does not end well,” said Victoria Averett, Assistant Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts.
Medea is the College’s first production of the 2021-2022 season following a live, but limited 2020-2021 year. Averett said there were many factors at play in adding the piece to the setlist.
“Because we use productions as our highest-touch application for our students—building the sets, performing, sometimes writing—we look at what we’ve done in a four-year span and if our students have had enough variety. Medea is a classic Greek piece, and we haven’t done a classic Greek piece in a long time, so it’s just time,” she said. “We try to work in more modern and contemporary playwright voices, Shakespeare and others that you would think of as classical theatre, and we chose this translation because it’s accessible. It’ll be good for the modern ear. We also wanted something that would yield an opportunity to integrate across the department.”
Thomas Newman, a lecturer in the Theatre and Dance department, writer and composer, created an original, never before heard score, and James L. Boyd, also a lecturer in the department and choreographer, complimented the music with movement. The set pieces were also manufactured by way of 3D printers, a new area of study at TROY.
“The music is integrating with the text, which is also integrating with dance and movement and choreography. What we’re trying to do is something that’s interpretive and more than just hearing words spoken on stage,” Averett said. “We were looking for something that would be a vehicle for the type of collaboration that we like to do. We’re always pushing those boundaries and how we can integrate art forms, and Medea offered that opportunity.”
Director Quinton Cockrell, Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of Theatre and Dance, said even for those who have seen other Greek tragedies, Medea will be a unique experience that he hopes the audience will take away a myriad of lessons from.
“We are using an innovative mix of original music, dance and the text to tell this ancient story. I also think we have some of the most talented student performers in the state,” he said. “Medea is a tragedy and a certain amount of sadness is inevitable, but I would like the audience to see the senselessness of revenge. I would like them to see the dangers of blind rage. I would also like to caution people to consider the feelings of others when they are making important decisions.”
The cast has been rehearsing since mid-August, giving lead actors Ingrid Lieb (playing the role of Medea) and Tyler Lawrence (playing the role of Jason) ample time to get into the mindset of the complex characters.
“Preparing for this role has proven to be as big a challenge as I hoped. Memorizing all the monologues and learning all the movements were hard tasks in and of themselves, but I think the hardest thing I have had to do is finding a way to emotionally reach the depths of Medea’s pain all throughout the play,” Lieb said. “I hope to leave the audience with understanding for Medea’s actions—the pain of her loss and rage is something we see in today’s world. I hope the audience leaves the theatre knowing that what they witnessed was dreadful, but with understanding of why it happened, instead of the idea that people are just born evil.”
Lawrence said he wants the audience to see through Jason’s demeanor and charisma to the root cause of his actions: selfishness.
“I want the audience to feel conflicted! Jason continuously uses clever words to excuse his horrible deeds. He believes that everything he does is for his family when, in truth, he often lets his own desire guide his decisions,” Lawrence said. “This ignorance leads him to tragedy. I want the audience to consider his actions along with his intentions. They both tell very different stories.”
Medea opens Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Trojan Center Theatre and runs through Wednesday, Oct. 27. Theatre capacity is limited to 40%, and the Oct. 23 and 24 showings have already sold out.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or in-person at the box office, and student tickets can be purchased for $5 at the box office with their student ID.