In 431 BC, Euripides entered his “Medea” into the Athens City Dionysia competitive play festival. His play was awarded fourth place (last) against rival shows “Philoctetes”, “Dictys”, and the satyr play “Theristai”; none of the other scripts have survived the trials of history. It is hard to imagine that after 2,443 years anyone would have something fresh to say about this ancient tale, yet tens (if not hundreds!) of reproductions are produced around the world annually. How has the mythology of one scorned woman been able to capture the attention of theatregoers for millennia?
In many ways, Medea is the ultimate antihero - she connives, lies, and murders in pursuit of her own sense of twisted Justice. It is critically debated whether Euripides intended a proto-feminist narrative in his telling of the story (some suggest that Medea as sorceress/barbarian is actually a critique of the savage and primeval nature of both women and foreigners), but the modern narrative resonance is clear: the tenuous line between “good” and “evil” can easily become entirely circumstantial. I chose to produce Joseph Goodrich’s translation because the modern speech and moral synchronicity of the Chorus’ narrative assessments with our own seemed unparalleled. This is a “Medea” that is easy to connect with, that is visceral and poignant for our times.
In this script, Medea responds to one of Jason’s cruelest accusations of her supposedly revolting nature with the following: “You say I’m evil. Of course I am; I have to be.” For me, reading this line was knowing that the script needed to be produced. For anybody — but especially for a woman — to be forced into the particular corner that Medea is forced into is to be forced into the impossible. The objectification of women, the taking of women as spoils of war and conquest (both literally and figuratively), and the oppressive male voice in the debate about women’s rights have transcended the millennia and now land on our stage today. It’s no wonder that Medea is still losing her patience and her mind after saying the same things for almost 2,500 years.
Though our staged version of the myth does not include a conclusive epilogue, allow me to finish the story - as is accepted in popular mythology - for you before it starts: following the well-known events of Jason’s treachery and Medea’s subsequent revenge, Jason loses his favor with Hera (the wife of Zeus) and dies unhappily and alone as his rotting ship Argo collapses and kills him instantly. One wonders whether Euripides’ place in the City Dionysia - or in our modern imagination - would have been different had he included this fittingly tragic aftermath.