With mere days left prior to the opening night performance of “Trojan Women,” students and faculty alike are perfecting techniques, cues and other last minute details in order to create the ultimate Trojan experience and engage their audience in the classic Greek tragedy. The set of “Trojan Women” will be a convincing factor in creating the Trojan world, and is confidently assuming a title as one of the largest sets WCU Theatre has had in the past few years.
“It’s designed as a street in Troy that shows some of the ravages of battle, placed as an out of the way space to hold the captives,” director Harvey Rovine said.
Providing a scene of fallen Troy, the main elements of the set are two double-story buildings and a truck bed. The buildings show obvious effects and damage from the events occurring during the fall of the city, and the general mood of the scenery is one of dismal oppression.
“It all lends to the ambiance of war,” Rovine said.
In addition to the primary elements of the set, the scene also shows the precautions the Greek soldiers have taken regarding their captives: rows of sandbags create blockades at possible escape routes, and a separate, barred, holding cell beneath the main ground.
Parts of the set serves to show the modernization and futuristic approach the University Theatre production has taken in the development of the show. Set in 2014, the play will incorporate modern elements such as trucks, guns, and megaphones in order to clarify the parallel themes of war in the time of the original production of “Trojan Women” (215 B.C.) to present day.
Though the play does contain traditional aspects of Greek theatre and culture, there is a balancing counterpoint which intertwines that culture with that of present day. The opening sequence of the show will feature a confrontation between two gods: Poseidon and Athena, but also introduces the technology incorporated into the production: two large projector screens, one each focused on the two war-ravaged buildings.
“You’ll see our faces on the screens, you’ll hear our voices, but we won’t be speaking. It’s more to set up the tone of the play,” said Emily Rogge, who plays Athena, goddess of War.
The projectors will show segments of film throughout the course of the play, video shot and produced by Thru Vegas Media Productions. Thru Vegas, created by two WCU alums, has spent the past few months shooting a series of news segments documenting the events leading up to the moment of the play.
The videos, clips from a network called Trojan World News, show a modern take on the conflicts and peace negotiations between the Greeks and Trojans, creating a greater understanding of the historical context of “Trojan Women.”
The videos are available on Facebook, Myspace(.com/wcutrojanwomen), and YouTube(.com/wcutrojanwomen), and will be shown in the lobby of the theatre prior to each performance.
Providing another unique element of the show is the collaboration and transitioning between roles of the students and faculty members. Rogge, along with Dr. Leonard Kelly as Poseidon, god of the Sea, are two WCU faculty members who are playing pivotol roles within the production.
Erica Imparato will not only perform as the grief-stricken Hecuba, but also assumed the role of costume designer, becoming a key link between cast and crew
See ‘Trojan’ on page 12
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This collaboration between all members involved is a vital concept to the success of the show.
“It’s such an ensemble piece,” said Monica Simpson, who plays Helen of Troy, “It’s all dependent on each separate part to come together as one thing.”
In order to create characters as realistic as possible to the combination of Euripedes’ play and their modern adaptation, the cast has spent much of their time devoted to developing their historical characters.
“I think everybody can identify with the fact that.when people wrote plays back then, there were ideas that don’t occur now, like ideas of so much character development doesn’t exactly go into a lot of things now,” Eric Scotolati said, who is taking on the role of Talthybius, the Greek herald, and main link between the Greek soldiers and the captive women.
Due to the play being written as a part of history, more of the key parts of the play are based on politics, and character interpretation is based largely on the actor or actress involved.
The cast members have been able to, in a sense, create their own characters, providing their individual character’s history and personality.
“You see everybody’s character that they’ve developed in their head come out on stage,” Jessica Suda said, a captive in the chorus “It’s really exciting, because it’s still staying true to the traditional chorus members, but with a modern take on it.”
The cast also shows elements of modernization through the different groups and roles the characters portray. The captive women, whom also serve as a modern Greek chorus, will also serve as informants for the audience, relaying information through song and movements of varying dynamics.
“The staff really wanted us to get into who these women were an the lives that they were being forced behind to leave so that we can really understand and show all of the emotional states,” Ashley Hard said, a member of the chorus.
While the chorus and royal women act as personifications of grief and tragedy, the soldiers signify harsh, strict, discipline. Though being roles of nearly total silence, the soldiers looked to other methods of expression in order to create their strong characters.
To prepare for the roles, the actors trained with the campus ROTC program as well as prepared their own separate training regiment.
In addition to this training, the soldiers have collectively had their hair dyed black, and designed a (Sharpie) tattoo for each to wear on his arm in order to create small, though noticeable signs of unity among their force.
“One cool thing about our soldiers is that everybody is individual. We all have our won different design and look,” Peter Collier said, the soldier assuming the role as technician. “It’s not like a lot of shows that we see where the military all looks the same. We are all individual people, and that really helps to build our characters as well.”
Besides personal appearance, each soldier has his own role within the group, and an individual personality to go along with it. On top of creating character bios, like the Trojan women, the soldiers looked up events and past historical documentation regarding similar events to what transpires in “Trojan Women.”
“If we wanted to, part of character research was to look up real beheadings, real, true, intense things,” David Lucena said, the Greek soldier determined as the scout. “Our group of men have looked up very, very, violent videos.”
“We’re probably on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list,” Collier joked.
Though the groupings of roles within the play are distinctly different from one another, each individual role lends to the dominant air of the production. The sorrow and loss of hope revealed by the women, and the overbearing force represented by the soldiers is aimed to portray the desolation and despair typical to tragedies. It is clear that there will be no “happy ending,” that audience members will be left with the knowledge that there is no hope for the characters in the show.
“[Harvey] really wants the audience to have a really amazing experience from the production standpoint,” Lucena said. “But he wants to make sure everyone knows that this is a problem, and it should not be taken lightly.”
This creates quite a contrast to the shows one may typically view, and allows for audience members to experience a higher level of emotion and
form their own individual thoughts regarding the events throughout the play.
“It is a challenge, but in a good way,” Rebecca Righi said, one of the captive women in the chorus.”It’s been a challenge in every aspect.”
“I think everybody’s going to take something really different from it,” Jackie Reid agreed, who plays the cursed Cassandra. “There are so many different things you can do and see with this show.”
Trojan Women will be shown at the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre in Swope Music Building from March 25 – 29. Show times are: 3/25-26, 7:30 p.m., 3/27-28, 8:00 p.m., and 3/29 at 2:00 p.m. For ticket information, please call 610-436-2533.
Tara Tanzos is a second-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.