By Allison McCausland
This article can also be viewed in Issue 10, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (March 3, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.
From Feb. 24 to March 6, DeSales’ Act 1 Productions will be transporting audiences to ancient Greece as its cast and crew stage the Sophokles tragedy, Elektra.
Junior Emma Santschi plays the title role in this tale of sorrow and revenge. Years following the death of her father, Agamemnon, Elektra has been in a state of mourning over the treachery that caused her father’s demise. Desiring revenge, she remains unaware that her equally sorrowed and revenge-seeking brother, Orestes, played by sophomore James “Bo” Sayre, has returned after his years of hiding in Phocia to punish those responsible and reclaim his place as heir of Argos.
Throughout the play, the audience gains further understanding of Elektra’s plight through insight into the heroine’s home life from other characters. All the while, a traditional Greek chorus, made up of the female servants, help narrate the tale as well as provide ambience for each section of action. Through the power of prayer to the gods, the play’s main villain Clytemnestra, played by sophomore Ilia Paulino, hopes the years have been long enough to move on from the murder, completely unaware of the insurrection about to take place.
Elektra marks the first Greek play DeSales has done in nearly a decade since Act 1’s 2007 production of Antigone, directed by Anne Lewis. Professor Wayne S. Turney helms this particular production after his success in the past with staging and adapting three other classical plays. Turney’s interest in Sophokles and his works transfer beautifully into this adaption, allowing theatergoers to feel just what audiences from the ancient world felt when this was first performed.
“We wanted to do a play that had a lot of opportunities for women, and as this has three juicy women’s roles and a Khoregos and a Khoros, all of whom are women, this one seemed a good fit,” said Turney. “There are actually three extant ancient Greek plays dealing with Elektra; I chose this one because of my ongoing fascination with Sophokles and his approach to playwriting.”
The actors do just as marvelous in their interpretations and portrayals of the characters in the production, which runs for 90 minutes without intermission. The performances of Santschi and junior Dane McMichael are of distinguished note.
They were cast last semester and then left for the study-abroad program in Rome, where they were able to visit and perform in the Ostia Antica, a classical Roman theatre which would have resembled ancient Greek theatres of the time period Elektra was written.
Just as fascinating is the original music written for the show by Dr. Sebastian Anthony Birch, marking his and Turney’s third collaboration. Based on Greek modes and sung exceptionally by the nine women in the chorus, the music makes this adaption unique when compared to traditional versions that use spoken dialogue. The chorus opens and closes the show with equal solemnity, sending chills down the spines of the very people they are there to entertain.
Overall, Elektra’s originality, as well as its blending of old-style costumes and sets with a modern stage, is an experience that comes along rarely in a lifetime.