Translated by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish
Directed by Dawn Monique Williams
LOVE. BETRAYAL. VENGEANCE. African-American Shakespeare Company continues its 19th season with MEDEA, Euripides’ infamous Greek tragedy about a jilted wife exacting the ultimate revenge on a cheating husband. After a long series of trials and adventures, Greek hero Jason has abandoned his wife, Medea, and their two sons for the daughter of King Creon. Jason’s abandonment of his family crushes Medea, driving her to override her maternal instincts and carry out an unimaginable quest for justice.
As a theatre major in undergrad I read several of the ancient Greek tragedies. I understood the plays very well in their academic context – historical fictive narratives on the construction of a patriarchal Greek society – but it was their tribal markings that evoked my visceral response. Rich with song and dance, the voice of the community is what I heard in these plays: collected stories, shared history, heated debate, and invocation of gods. These plays changed my relationship to theatre and Euripides’ Medea, in particular, unlocked my sense of theatricality (becoming the first full length play I would direct). That was over a decade ago, and here I am revisiting this big, messy, impossible classic with renewed vigor.
Perhaps it was the fact that I was a new mother at the time I first directed the play, but Medea’s inconsolable grief permeated my psyche. I saw a play about postpartum depression, I saw Susan Smith, Andrea Evans. I wondered the big unanswerable question, “what would drive a mother to such horrible acts?”. I still wonder that now. I’m still in the trenches with this play and would probably unearth something new and revelatory if I directed it again every decade of my life. Right now I understand grief differently than when I was 23. I understand parenting differently. Grief is unreasonable. Loneliness, isolation, alienation don’t result in logical behavior. And truthfully, this play is less about parents and children, and more about neglect and punishment. It is a play about love. About sacrifice, betrayal, the importance of community, belonging, and the near impossibility of a human heart surviving unscathed.
I imagine we all agree that we could not do what Medea does, but I suspect we have all felt what Medea feels. That’s what keeps this play heartbreakingly alive.
– Director Dawn Monique Williams
- Leontyne Mbele-Mbong
- Elizabeth Strong
- Cathleen Riddley
- Dwight Dean Mahabir
- Khary Moye