Director Jay Scheib applied lessons in plot
development from the modern detective novel in planning his adaptation
of "Medea." Using a verse text based on Heiner Müller,
Euripides and Seneca, enhanced by operatic songs and heightened by multimedia,
he intends to put suspense back in the tale by playing the myth backwards.
Medea's children are killed at the beginning of the play and the climax
is Jason leaving his wife at the end. With the familiar narrative landmarks
reversed, the real power of the piece is that it is making a play about
Medea's decisions, more like a character study than a tale of fate.
The resulting production, named "The Medea," will be the second
La MaMa production of Actors without Borders-ITONY (International Theater
of New York), a new resident company of La MaMa headed by Zishan Ugurlu,
a member of La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory. The troupe's name is an acronymic
dedication to the Gengi Ito (1946-2001), the late beloved La MaMa musician
and composer. Last season, the group had its debut production at La MaMa
with "Last Supper" by Lars Norén, directed by Ugurlu.
Adapter/director Scheib writes, " What I hope to achieve in reversing
the story—by running it in reverse—is to reveal a gripping
examination of the process leading to Medea’s slaughter of her two
sons, a king and his daughter, and her brother. "Medea" is a
play about passionate ambition and irreversible decisions. The details
of these decisions are what interest me. They are made all the more horrific
by our knowledge of their outcome. I take my cue from the detective story.
We experience the presence of the end already in the beginning—but
we read it anyway. She hid the knife under the bed, a corpse is in the
closet. She’s going to sleep with the detective and he’s going
to lose his job but he’ll bust her in the end—and we knew
it all already, and we are glued to the unfolding of events—and
this is what interests me. Suspense. We all know how Medea ends. We barely
remember how it starts. I want to strike suspense into the heart of what
we are making—the horrific revelation, the bloodied footprints in
the hall, fear, paralysis, paroxysms of nausea—suspense in the camera
angles—suspense in the use of time. Suspense and her great accomplice—broken
expectation—these are the tools of our experiment."
The structure of the piece is experimental, but the language is classical.
The text is primarily in verse and is a compilation of a variety of sources,
including 18th cent translations of the plays by Euripides and Seneca
and Scheib's own English translation of an old German verse translation
by Franz Grillparzer, who wrote several Medea plays. There are also lengthy
excerpts from Heiner Müller's three-part, apocalyptic telling of
the Medea story: "Despoiled Shore," "Medeamaterial"
and "Landscape with Argonauts." Scheib has woven the pieces
together in collaboration with dramaturg Peter Campbell.
Stylistically, the play slips from theater to opera to cinema to a hybrid-kind-of-dance
theater. There are original songs composed and performed by Margareth
Kammerer, who is known in Europe for her "Oblique Pop-Songs"
and hybrid operatic vocal arrangements. Kammerer combines selections from
Cherubini's 18th century "Médée" (Medea) with
chorus texts from Müller, Grillpazer, Euripides and Seneca into an
original score for solo voice and electric guitar. Video design by Leah
Gelpe involves positioning cameras inside a classical Greek Skene such
that some parts of the play are done as if on a miniature sound stage,
with scenes being taped and projected at the same time. There are two
live handheld cameras; One is operated by a cameraperson. The other camcorder
is operated by Media's two sons, who are making "home movies"
that actually end with their own deaths.
The title role will be played by Zishan Ugurlu, founder of Actors without
Borders-ITONY. The other actors are Dan Illian as Jason, Aimee McCormick
as the Nurse, and Oleg Dubson and Dima Dubson as the Sons/ Creon/ Aegeus.
Scenic design is by Michael Byrnes. Costume design is by Oana Botez-Ban.
Lighting design is by Lucrecia Briceno. Assistant director is Shira Milikowsky.
Production manager is Mercedes Murphy.
Zishan Ugurlu (Medea) has never played Medea before, but has played Creusa
(Glauce) in the Great Jones Repertory's "Medea," the first part
of the epic "Fragments of a Greek Trilogy," directed by Andrei
Serban with music by Elizabeth Swados. She is an actress and director-in-residence
at La MaMa E.T.C., with which she has also performed in The Great Jones
Rep's "The Trojan Women" as Helen of Troy and toured to Japan,
Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Austria and Greece with the production. Her other
Great Jones Rep productions include Ellen Stewart's "Yunus,"
"Mythos Oedipus," and the title role in "Draupadi."
Under the direction of Robert Woodruff, she played Carmen in "Godard-Distant
and Right," which was awarded the grand prix at the Festival Des
Jeunes, Theatre des Amandiers Nanterre in Paris. She has been featured
in two international films including "The Letter," which was
shown in the Cannes, Argentina, and Calcutta Film Festivals and Dog Race,
and which was awarded the Martin Scorsese, Grand Marnier and W.Johnson
Awards at the New York Film Festival. Other recent roles include the world
premier of Dario Fo's "Peasants Bible" directed by Ron Jenkins,
Blanche in a "Street Car Named Desire," Ayline in "Master
Builder," Antigone in "Antigone," Masha in "Three
Sisters" and the Featured Singer in ”Musica Alla Turca."
With director Jay Scheib, she has played Desdomona in "Othello"
and Monique in Koltes' "West Pier" at the Ohio Theatre. She
earned a Ph.D. in Theatre from Ankara University and an MFA in Acting
from Columbia. She is Assistant Professor at the Eugene Lang College of
New School University.
Jay Scheib (adapter/director) is an international director who collaborated
with Zishan Ugurlu on a variety of projects when both were students in
the Columbia MFA program. This is their second professional project together.
His recent projects include multimedia theatrical adaptations of two works
of Russian romantic naturalism, "In this is the End of Sleeping,"
based on Chekhov's Platonov fragment, as part of the Chekhov Now Festival
in NY, and Tolstoy's classic, "The Power of Darkness," with
Pont Mühely in Budapest. Both of these projects were developed in
residence at MIT in Cambridge. Other recent works include the New York
Premier of "The Vomit Talk of Ghosts" by Kevin Oakes at the
Flea Theater and Musset's "Lorenzaccio," at the Loeb Drama Center
while in residence at Harvard University. His NY credits include "West
Pier" by Bernard-Marie Koltès at the Ohio Theatre; "Falling
and Waving," a digital opera composed by David Lang, libretto by
Ron Jones, at Arts at St. Ann's in Brooklyn and "Herakles" at
Chashama in Times Square. Projects in Berlin include "MARGARETHHAMLET"
at Schwedterstr 12, an adaptation of Aeschylus' trilogy, "ORESTIA,
AMERICA AMERICA," commissioned by the Exiles Festival at the Berliner
Staatsbank, and two plays by Lothar Trolle, "Fernsehen" and
"Vormittag in der Freiheit," in the 3.st Volksbuehne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
in Berlin. Other international credits include: "Glass/Mohn"
in Budapest and "The War Plays" by Edward Bond at the Mozarteum,
Salzburg Austria. He directed Brecht's "Caucasian Chalk Circle"
at the Yale Repertory Theatre produced by the Yale Dramatic Association.
He is winner of the Richard Sherwood Award. Scheib is an assistant professor
in Music and Theatre Arts at MIT and is a regular guest professor at the
Universitat Mozarteum Salzburg, Institute für Schauspiel und Regie,
in Salzburg, Austria. He holds an MFA in theatre directing from Columbia.
Dan Illian (Jason) appeared with ITONY as the Man in Nøren's
"The Last Supper" at La MaMa last season. He was a member of
the Guthrie Theater Acting Company for four seasons.
Margareth Kammerer (composer/ vocalist), a darling of the Berlin experimental
music scene, known for her "oblique pop songs." Her recent debut
album “To be an Animal of Real Flesh” with a remix track from
Fred Frith was released on Charhizma and hit the top ten album of the
year list in Italy. Known for her compositions melding classical and contemporary
poetry, guitar and voice, she has been involved in numerous cross-disciplinary
collaborations and live art performance, collaborating with filmmakers,
video artists, theaters, and dance ensembles including the Schaubühne
am Lehniner Platz, Theatre de l'Incendie in St. Etienne, France, Teatro
Nuovo in Napoli, Italy, the Volksbuehne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz Berlin,
and Chashama in NY.
Leah Gelpe (video designer) is a sound designer, projection designer
and filmmaker. She has collaborated with Jay Scheib on 15 productions
since 1996, including "West Pier" at Ohio Theatre, NY; "In
this is the End of Sleeping" at Connelly Theatre NY; "The Vomit
Talk of Ghosts" at the Flea Theatre NY; "Permit Me" (Sie
Gestatten) at 3. St., Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin;
"The War Plays" and "In the Solitude of Cotton Fields,"
both at Mozarteum, Salzburg; "Herakles/Herakles 5" at Chashama
Theatre, NY; "Glass Mohn" at Pont Muhely, Budapest; and "Falling
and Waving" at Arts at St. Ann's, Brooklyn. She was sound designer
for David Rabe's "The Black Monk" at Yale Rep, "The Lady
from the Sea at the Intiman Theatre, "Saved" at Theatre for
a New Audience, and "Godard (distant & right)" at the Ohio
Theatre, NY and Theatre des Amandiers, Nanterre, Paris. Her films have
been screened in a variety of venues including the Anthology Film Archives,
Bochum International Video Festival, and The Walker Art Center. She is
an alumna of the Berlinale Film Festival Talent Campus, and holds an MFA
in film from Columbia University.