After nearly three years of planning, Plymouth State University theatre students are collaborating with their peers at Keene State College and the University of New Hampshire to produce three Greek tragedies in February and March. Each play will be performed at least one time at each campus, culminating at PSU March 11.
“Greek plays are something that advanced acting students should encounter in order to experience the heightened language these plays use, and a stylized type of acting,” said Elizabeth Cox, associate professor of theatre at PSU, an originator of the collaboration with peers from UNH and KSC. “Song and dance can be incorporated into the plays, giving them a range of skills for the actor to employ. The Greek plays seem to transcend time, giving us a fresh look at our own world and how we perceive it,” she concluded.
The Plymouth production, Trojan Women by Euripides is directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Paul Mroczka.
“Of the three great writers of ancient tragedy, Euripides was the most controversial as he re-envisioned the stage as a place where the gods were more human than god-like, Greek heroes were ridiculed as fools and buffoons and women were the centers of tragedy,” said Mroczka. “ In The Trojan Women, Euripides exploits these elements to their fullest to create a play that gets to the heart of and exposes the guts of war.”
The second play in the trilogy, Agamemnon by Aeschylus, is directed by KSC Associate Professor of Acting and Directing, Ron Spangler. Electra, by Sophocles, last in the trilogy, is directed by David Kaye, UNH head of acting and directing in the Department of Theatre and Dance. Celine Perron of KSC designed the set which will be used for all three plays.
“While we were looking for plays, the three directors finally decided to simply propose the one play that they were most interested in directing,” Kaye explained. “Something truly amazing occurred. A perfectly linear story emerged. The trilogy would begin with Trojan Women, the tale that follows the fate of the women of Troy after the sack of the once invincible city. The story would continue with Agamemnon, when the victorious general returns home from the war with his concubine, the princess and prophetess Cassandra, only to be killed by his wife, Clytemnestra. The trilogy would conclude with Electra, the chapter that sees the avenging death of Clytemnestra at the hands of her exiled son, Orestes. Two versions of Electra exist, and by including the Sophocles play rather than the one by Euripides, all three of the great Greek playwrights would be represented.”
“The effort to bring together more than 100 students and more than 15 faculty from three institutions was something as epic as these three plays,” said Kaye. Designing and building a set that could travel to three venues, developing funding for the additional costs of touring a show, and securing dates at three performance spaces with limited availability were just some of the challenges,” he said. With guidance and support from USNH Chancellor Stephen Reno, solutions were found.
It is rare to see three Greek plays in one weekend, as the Greeks did. “It will be great for students to meet each other from program to program and see how we all work,” said Cox. “Seeing other programs produce and experience the same process, and then being able to evaluate the results is an excellent opportunity,” she said.
David Kaye primarily focuses on acting, directing, playwriting and “Theatre for Social Justice” at UNH. He is the faculty advisor for UNH’s Mask and Dagger theatrical society, and is the co-director of WildActs, the UNH social issue theatre troupe.
Ron Spangler has served as chair of the KSC Theatre and Dance Department and co-chair of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for New England.
Paul Mroczka has served Theatre By the Sea as associate director and playwright-in-residence. He has directed for companies including North Country Center for the Arts, Pontine Movement Theatre, The Theatre of Newburyport and the Palace Theatre.
Performances in Plymouth will be March 7–10 at 7 p.m. and March 10–11 at 2 p.m. as follows:
Trojan Women, March 7, 10, 11; Agamemnon, March 8 and Electra, March 9.
Tickets for the Plymouth venue are $12 each, or $16 for two plays, $21 for three plays for adults; senior tickets are $10 each or $14 for two plays and $18 for all three; youth tickets are $8 each or $12 for two plays, $12 for all three. Tickets are available at the Silver Center box office, (603) 535-ARTS.