Dust Bowl becomes setting for Greek tragedy 'Medea'

Dust Bowl becomes setting for Greek tragedy 'Medea'

August 24th, 2012 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

IF YOU GO

What: Theater for the New South's "Medea."

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

Where: Tanner Hill Art Gallery, 3069 S. Broad St.

Admission: $10.

Phone: 503-0589.

Website: Theaterforthenewsouth.com.

If you remove what's Greek about Greek tragedy, it becomes more palatable to a modern audience.

That's the strategy, anyway, in the Theater for the New South's setting of the ancient tragedy "Medea" in 1930s Dust Bowl America.

"I think Greek tragedy is wonderful," said artistic director and producer Mike Rudez, "but it's foreign to a modern-day audience. What is going on at the core of it, though, [is] rage and revenge and passion. If you take away the things that are foreign to us," it becomes more understandable.

The production will be offered today, Saturday and Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at Tanner Hill Art Gallery.

Theater for the New South is employing a translation of the Euripides play that was used in a 2002 Broadway revival.

The Dust Bowl setting works, Rudez said, because its era offered "very few options, literally and physically," for a woman like the title character, who is initially committed for hysteria on an Army base by her adulterous husband.

Such a character at the time, he said, could feel stifled, claustrophobic and frightened.

In "Medea," the title character's revenge eventually takes a deadly turn.

Rudez said the production does not change the text of the Greek tragedy, but he said audience members without a familiarity of the original story won't have any trouble following it.

"What's going on at the core is the really important part," he said. "The story is less so. We're de-emphasizing that to get at the heart of it."

Rudez said the nontraditional setting of the art gallery -- a bright, white space in the middle of an old, industrial warehouse -- also works for the play.

"It's a really, really cool space," he said. "With something all white in [a play set] in dirt and dust, you know something is about to happen."

Parental discretion is advised.