Nobody Puts Medea or the Dashwood Sisters in a Corner

By Aaron Higareda

What could Euripides’s Greek tragedy Medea and Jane Austen’s 18th-century Sense and Sensibility possibly have in common? At first glance, not much. But our M.F.A. artists have made the connections, and they’ll present these shows in repertory beginning May 8.

Medea, which director Peter J. Kuo has set against the backdrop of 1930s New Orleans, features an immigrant with no means of returning home after leaving everything behind for her unfaithful husband Jason. Her only option? Vengeance. Sense and Sensibility, directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh, is set in 1790s England, where the Dashwood sisters are left penniless, homeless, and vulnerable to gossip after their father’s death. Their only option? Set aside their differences and learn to rely on one another.

Despite their differences, both plays have strong female characters at their heart, and both are adapted—Medea by Robinson Jeffers and Sense and Sensibility by Kate Hamill (Vanity Fair)—to resonate with 2019 audiences. “This adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is playful, fluid, and inherently theatrical” says Yousefzadeh. “The freshness of Hamill’s voice and her sense of the way a play must move and breathe in three dimensions makes this fresh, fun, and vibrant.”

“Jeffers’s adaptation of Medea pulls away from the heavy monologue verse and gets a little bit more dialogue driven,” says Kuo. “He allows the characters to exchange in the moment. I like that.”

For Kuo, A.C.T. associate conservatory director, Medea is a passion project. “I love female-centric characters, and I like watching women be empowered,” says Kuo. “Medea losing her children has to affect her as much as it affects Jason, and I’d love for us to have a moment where she also has to live with that.” 

Fully-fledged female characters are equally important to Yousefzadeh. “While there are many for whom the gender dynamics of this world and period are behind us,” says Yousefzadeh, “these same patriarchal dynamics still exist, just on a subtler, more insidious level. All the pivotal women in my life—family, friends, colleagues, and mentors—have been profoundly strong, powerful and wise. So the inclusion of strong female characters is a no-brainer and a seamless reflection of the world I know.”

Come compare and contrast these two classics on Market Street. Medea runs May 8–12 at A.C.T.’s Costume Shop Theater, and Sense and Sensibility runs May 9–11 in The Rueff at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater. Catch them both before it’s too late!

Aaron Higareda is A.C.T.’s 2018–19 Marketing Fellow.

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