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'Trojan Women' and the price of victory

Theatre in the Rough presents a modern translation of Euripides' once-controversial protest play

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2002

The gods were not happy with the carnage.

The day after the Trojans pushed a wooden horse into their walled city, Troy was in ruins. The gift from the Greeks was a brilliant trick, inspired by the goddess Athene, and after a 10-year siege the Greeks took the city in one bloody night.

"The Trojan Women" is a play set the day after the fall. With leather armor, spears, silk and dance, Juneau's Theatre in the Rough brings a modern translation of Euripides' classic play to McPhetres Hall. The play opens Friday, April 19, for a 12show run over four weekends.

"Euripides - he was a rebel back in his day," said director Aaron Elmore, who also plays the god Apollo. " 'Trojan Women' was written as a reaction to a battle between Sparta and Athens, nearly a thousand years after the Trojan War."

Athens won the battle and Euripides, an Athenian, was disgusted by his countrymen's treatment of the vanquished Spartans.

"It was written as an anti-war play," said Maria Gladziszewski, who plays the goddess Athene. "He couldn't write about the current war so he wrote about a war that was epic."

Elmore said the playwright's protest was unpopular with the establishment and not only did he lose his rights as a citizen, he was thrown out of Athens.

"The Trojan Women" opens with Athene and Poseidon, played by Darius Jones, surveying the smoking, corpse-ridden city of Troy. The two gods contemplate the price of victory and the responsibility of conquest. The Greeks sail from Troy victorious, but their ruthlessness has doomed them.

Throughout the play the gods move freely among the mortals, who only half sense their invisible presence.

"The gods weren't so much on another plane as they were side by side," Jones said. "They would step in and out, whether as men or beasts, and foster children and pick sides in war."

Jones saw this new translation of the 2,300-year-old Greek play two years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Elmore and Katie Jensen, directors of the Theatre in the Rough, had long wanted to do the show because of juicy roles for women, Elmore said. They appreciated this plain-spoken translation by Kenneth Cavander.

"We wanted something that would go straight to the heart," Jensen said. "You know exactly what is going on at every moment."

Jensen, who also plays Hecuba, queen of Troy, drew upon her training as a dancer and choreographer and created five dances for the play to complement the dialogue.

"Greeks would've known the myths and stories that are talked about in this play," she said. "The dances make the story more complete."

She studied paintings on ancient Greek vases from the Trojan era to help create poses and make a series of movements. She also drew on the traditional storytelling dances of Tahiti and Hawaii, hula dances that predate the stereotyped performances designed in the 1920s for tourists.

"Some of these movements date back to 1350 B.C. - the time of Troy," she said.

"The Trojan Women" runs about 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. In addition to Jensen as Queen Hecuba, the Trojan women are Doniece Falcon as the oracle princess Casandra and Ekatrina Oleksa as her sister-in-law Andromache. Asha Falcon is Helen of Troy. Young Ian Andrews is Astyanax, the 7-year-old heir to Troy.

The cast also includes Ed Christian, Zach Falcon and Brendan Sullivan as the conquering Greeks and Mary Campbell as Aphrodite.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.



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