This spring, 22 female students will become the booty of the Trojan War.
The College of Performing Arts presents the Greek tragedy “Trojan Women,” a play about the women survivors of the Trojan War, who await assignment to soldiers as spoils of the war. Originally written by Euripides and translated by David Kovacs, it is now directed by Professor Tamiko Washington as it fits the theatre department’s curriculum. The performance is scheduled for March 20-21, 25-28 at 8 p.m., March 22 and 28 at 2 p.m. in the Waltmar Theatre.
The Achaeans have destroyed the city of Troy. Outside the burning city walls, the wives of the Trojan men await their lot in a holding camp. Included are Hecuba, Queen of Troy, her daughter Cassandra, and her widowed daughter-in-law Andromache, all enslaved by the Greek soldiers. Even these royal women have no better chance than the poor.
“Just because you are royalty doesn’t mean anything,” said Washington. “[These women have] no power, no say, no freedoms.”
They suffer the loss of their husbands, their homes, the murders of their children, and being forced into submission.
“Poor Hecuba, if anyone wants to see her, is here, lying in front of the door, weeping many tears for many reasons,” said Poseidon, God of the Sea, in the play.
Although many versions of the play do not include the Achaean soldiers, Washington felt it significant to include 14 roles for men in order to portray the severity of the Trojan women’s condition.
Even though only a few of these are speaking roles, junior theatre major, Jacob Trillo felt compelled to audition, he said.
“[Trojan Women will] give me more experience in such a niche of Greek theatre that I really want to get acquainted with,” said Trillo.
Trillo supports the department’s choice because most often, modern plays have men’s roles as the main protagonist with women in supporting roles. He says it is a shame because some of the best actors he knows are women.
“[This is] their time to be a hero, a really bold hero,” said Trillo.
Auditions were held Friday Nov. 21 with callbacks on Nov. 22. The cast list was posted Monday, Nov. 24. According to Washington, 96 people were scheduled to audition. Each person prepared a one-minute dramatic Greek monologue that showed a cathartic experience. According to Wikipedia, catharsis is a word scripted by Aristotle that in the theatrical world means the point where a character reaches a sudden emotional climax of great sorrow, renewal, or any other dramatic change in emotion.
Students are looking forward to working with Washington on the production to gain experience with her as a director outside the classroom, they said.
“I have wanted to work with Washington in a main stage. She has been great in classes, and I would love to have the experience of having her as a director,” said junior theatre major Camille Collard.
Collard hopes that she will be able to apply all of the training she has received so far and give the gift of her work to the audience.
Washington is confident in the acting abilities of the students. However, she believes the most challenging aspects of this production will be the chanting and singing of the chorus and movement. She says most students have no clue what chants are.
“Singing in Greek land is not musical theatre land,” assured Washington.
She also hopes students will feel more comfortable with theatrical movement on stage.
“[Some students are] scared to explore the fact that they don’t have two left feet,” said Washington.
The time period for this production is in the “near future” with an artistically driven post-modern look for costumes and set, said Washington. This will help to convey the theme that suffering and enslavement from war and poor government is happening all over the world. According to Washington, this type of suffering is happening now, but no one knows about it.
“I am looking forward to the theme that Washington will bring to the production. She has the most intense ways of looking at things and her imagery is so powerful,” said Collard.
For the set, she is considering chains in the background to present the image of a prison camp. She is working with Production Manager and Assistant Professor Don Guy on using a fabric with different shapes and textures to convey the singed ground that is no longer fertile.
“It is not the traditional look with Greek costumes and a Greek set,” said Washington.
She assured there would be no togas. Instead for costumes think the “Mad Max” saga, films about the apocalypse or the end of civilization.
The play will run one hour and forty minutes, which Washington believes is about the perfect time for an audience to receive a Greek tragedy. She says the translation by David Kovacs is an easy translation for modern audiences to understand.
“It is not a cheesy language play,” confirmed Washington.
Washington anticipates about 1,600 people will come to see the show over the eight performances.
Come March, the women of Chapman’s theatre department will become the sufferers of war and the men, their captors.