Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Greek Play presents war drama in the way theatre was invented

Randolph College students are prepared to transport audiences 2,500 years into the past to experience a war drama as an original Greek audience may have seen it.

Seven Against Thebes, the 2012 Greek Play, will be performed Friday–Sunday, Oct. 5–7, at 4 p.m. In this play by Aeschylus, the sons of the Greek tragic hero Oedipus go to war against each other. The citizens of the besieged city Thebes fear the fate that might meet their city and its leader as, one by one, generals are sent to stop the invading army at each of the city’s seven gates. The Randolph actors will perform the play using original practices—including theatrical masks that amplify their voices; song and dance; and an outdoor theatre much like those used in ancient Greece.

The cast of Seven Against Thebes rehearses in the campus chapel. The performances,
beginning Oct. 5, are in the Mabel Whiteside Greek Theatre (The Dell.)
“You should come see our play for the reasons you should go see any play—to be involved and be entertained,” said Amy Cohen, the play’s director and a Randolph classics professor. “You should see a play in the way that the people who invented western drama did it. You get to be a Greek audience for a day in our beautiful theatre.”

The biannual Greek Play is a treasured tradition at Randolph College. Mabel Whiteside, who taught Latin and Greek at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College for 50 years, started producing Greek plays with her students. The College revived the tradition 12 years ago. Now a part of the College’s new Center for Ancient Drama, the play is held during the Ancient Drama in Performance conference at the College.

Karen Rose ’13 shows off the mask she wears in Seven Against
 in the outdoor theatre that hosts the Greek Play.
Seven Against Thebes tells the story of a war between Eteocles and Polynices, the sons of Oedipus who disagree on how to share power over the city of Thebes. Polynices brings an army against the city to seize control. Eteocles, played by Claudia Troyer ‘14, sends generals to defend each of the city’s gates. When Polynices himself leads a group of warriors at the seventh gate, Eteocles goes to lead the defense.

“It’s a short, sharp play,” Cohen said. “It is about patriotism, how you engage patriotism, and what it means to fight for your country—but also what the consequences of that are.”

“From the perspective of this play, and the way the audience is involved in this play, we want Thebes to win,” Cohen said. “Thebes does win, but there’s a price.”