Notre Dame of Maryland University presents Iphigenia and Other Daughters, a retelling of the Greek classic tragedy about the fall of the House of Atreus. Associate Faculty member and Director Lola Pierson, along with Assistant Professor and Drama Chair Kate Bossert give us an inside look of what to expect when they yell “action.”
Q. Why Iphigenia and Other Daughters?
Pierson: We knew we wanted to do a Greek, but had a hard time finding the exact right fit. We were looking for something that was written by a woman and that had accessible language. As a director I'm also interested in atypical narrative and reimagining of classics so when Dr. Bossert sent this piece to me I was really excited. The language is really interesting, and I love short plays (this one's only an hour)!
Bossert: One of the chief goals of our Drama program at NDMU is to create opportunities for students to work on a wide range of plays in a variety of different directing styles. IPHIGENIA was a great way to bring together the classical and the contemporary— it’s both based on foundational ancient Greek tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides and adapted by award-winning contemporary female playwright, Ellen McLaughlin. McLaughlin retells the fall of the House of Atreus from the perspectives of the female characters, including Queen Clytemnestra and her daughters Iphigenia, Electra, and Chrysothemis, as well as her son Orestes and a dynamic (and musical!) female chorus.
Q. What makes it an adaptation of the classical Greek tragedy?
Pierson: The playwright doesn't read Greek so her interpretation of this piece is second hand in one sense. In another way we're all exposed to these stories from so many different sources that we all have at least some passing experience with them (even if we don't know we do). It's a very interesting retelling, where she approached the story from another angle that I've never encountered before.
Q. Since the play is an adaptation on a tragedy, should viewers expect the mood of the play to be dark?
Pierson: Somewhat, but we've added in a bunch of funnier parts (we hope), and the script itself has some pretty good jokes as well.
Bossert: What I love about this production is that the characters will make you laugh in one moment and deeply move you in another.
Q. How have the NDMU students adapted the play?
Pierson: They've really been heavily involved in shaping the piece. As an ensemble they have an incredibly interesting energy, and as individuals they all have amazing ideas. It's been really exciting to watch them take the piece and make it their own.
Q. What are some exciting things we can expect?
Pierson: Cool noises, rapid shifts, and presence.
Bossert: One of the things that's so exciting about doing a Greek in the Copeland is the experience it creates for our audiences. Lola and I were drawn to staging a Greek in part because of the unique performance space we have at NDMU. Greek plays were originally performed in huge amphitheaters where an all-male cast performed in masks. Our production moves the play into a 40-seat black box, where are our all-female cast creates a truly immersive experience for our audiences. As an audience member, it’s so striking to have these characters— thousands of years in the making—look me in the eye and resonate for me in such sharp, varied, and witty ways. This production is creative and edgy and takes all sorts of wonderful risks that will surprise and delight audiences!
Q. What is the most difficult aspect with this play that you plan to overcome?
Pierson: There's a lot of stillness in the piece, and I hate boring theatre, so we had to inject a lot of shifts and dynamics in order to keep it feeling exciting.
Q. Do you have a favorite scene?
Pierson: Yes! I don't want to ruin it for everyone, but the song and dance bit is currently my favorite part.
Q. Finally, most of the roles are female; does the play have a feminist undertone?
Pierson: Yes, absolutely.
The play runs November 3-5, and 10-12. Tickets are still available. Students are eligible for discount tickets ($9), while general admission is $15.