Widely considered the greatest anti-war play ever written, Euripides’ The Trojan Women (415 B.C.) remains both timeless and timely, a poignant meditation on the aftermath of battle.
Ron Himes — the Henry E. Hampton Jr. artist-in-residence as well as founder and producing director of the St. Louis Black Repertory — is directing a new production of Euripides’ enduring parable for the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences.
The Trojan Women will begin at 8 p.m. Jan. 28-29 and at 2 p.m. Jan. 30 in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre. Performances will continue at 8 p.m. Feb. 4-5 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 6.
Written shortly after Athens’ brutal sacking of Melos in 416 B.C., The Trojan Women is set in the days following the fall of Troy, famously described in Homer’s Iliad. The drama focuses on the women of the defeated city, who — still grieving lost sons, husbands and brothers — learn from the Greek herald Talthybius (junior Pushkar Sharma) that they will be distributed among their conquerors.
Hecube (senior Lindsay Brill), the former Trojan queen, will be given to the hated Odysseus; her daughter, the prophetess Cassandra (senior Laura Harrison), is allotted to Agamemnon; and Andromache (graduate student Ann Marie Mohr), wife of the slain Hector, is taken by Neoptolemos, Achilles’ son.
Meanwhile, Helen (junior Jenny Lichtenberg) is condemned to return to Greece with her former husband, Menelaos (junior Chris Wilson).
Himes noted that, in its focus on female characters and less-than-heroic depiction of the conquering Greeks, The Trojan Women was revolutionary for its day.
“I think that Euripides was trying to give these woman a voice,” Himes said. “Men waged the war, but (the women) were the ones who suffered most.”
At the same time, Himes sees powerful resonances between The Trojan Women and our own strife-filled era.
To that end, the production will feature spare, timeless costumes and sets — designed by Bonnie Kruger, senior artist-in-residence, and Christopher Pickart, artist-in-residence, respectively — and, in counterpoint to the classical Greek dialogue, a hip-hop-inspired chorus.
The Trojan Women comes at a busy time for Himes. He is directing Javon Johnson’s Cryin’ Shame (through Jan. 30) for the Black Rep and will soon debut Bill Harris’ Stories About the Old Days (Feb. 9-March 6).
For more information about either production, call 534-3810.
Himes founded the Black Rep, one of the nation’s largest African-American performing arts organizations, in 1976, while a WUSTL student.
He has produced and directed more than 100 plays and received numerous honors, including: The Better Family Life’s Creative Artist Award; the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Life and Legacy Award from the National Pan-Hellenic Alumni Council; and honorary doctorates from WUSTL and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Euripides (c. 480-406 B.C.) was one of three great tragedians of ancient Athens, along with Aeschylus and Sophocles.
He is estimated to have written more than 90 plays, of which 18 survive, most famously Medea (431 B.C.) and Electra (c. 420 B.C.).
Though frequently based on the exploits of Athenian heroes, his works helped reshape attic tragedy through their skeptical tone and strong secondary characters.
Tickets for The Trojan Women are $12 for the general public and $8 for senior citizens and WUSTL faculty, staff and students. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
For more information, call 935-6543.