Photo provided by SOU theater arts department
A production shot of "Women of War" presented by SOU's Department of Theater Arts.
Patrons of the Center Stage Theatre sat in awe as Southern Oregon University’s Department of Theatre Arts gave an emotionally charged presentation of "Women of War" last weekend.
"Women of War" is a classical Greek tragedy rolled up into a contemporary war drama. Hilary Tate, formerly of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and James Edmondson of OSF adapted Euripides work to create a modernized story that addresses the impact of war from the perspective of the women and children who are plagued by the immediate loss due to military conflict and the aftermath of warfare.
With the exception of 7-year-old Tal Halevy, who plays Orestes and Astyanax, the play boasts an all-female cast. Several of the actresses said it was intimidating in the initial stages, but once everyone got acquainted, the whole cast took on a very positive attitude. Another component that made things pleasant for the cast was the presence of writer and director James Edmondson.
“I loved working with Jim. It was the best experience I have ever had in my career,” said actress Jordan Leigh Wakefield.
The actresses play the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the El Salvadorian men who went missing during a horrific period in the 1980s.
“The sacrifice made by families as well as the soldiers are apparent in this play,” said Edmondson. “Neither the Greeks nor the Trojans are left whole.”
The Salvadoran Civil War lasted from 1980 to 1992. People were subject to senseless detainment, imprisonment and, often, execution. The actresses play El Salvadorian women who are lamenting over their loved ones who have disappeared at the hands of a corrupt government. As a means of demonstration, these women utilize Greek Tragedy and the art of theater. All the while, they are crouching and hiding from search lights and helicopters. Essentially, "Women of War" is a play inside a play.
The women enact work by Euripides because they find a parallel between their situation and that of the women of Troy. They portray classic characters such as Helen of Troy, Achilles, Agamemnon, Menalaus and Iphigenia. "Women of War" contains two Greek plays within its acts. The first part is the telling of "Iphigenia at Aulis" and the second part is the telling of "The Trojan Women". Together, they are among the top ranks of anti-war stories.
As an adapted version of Greek tragedy, elements of comedy are nonexistent in "Women of War". Through its serious approach, the play poses questions regarding the nature of wars, how they begin and whether or not they ever truly end. In addition to its unique perspective, the play offers a level of emotion so intense that many audience members find themselves crying along with Hecuba, played by Tai Sammons.
The powerful sense of loss invoked throughout the performance is a testament to the magnificent talent this all-star cast is capable of. The amount of time these ladies spent perfecting the feelings of torment and anguish shows in their every word, movement and expression. As a spectator, it is a captivating experience. This play brings the true horror of war and death to the stage for all to see, and offers a distinctly original finale that alters the traditional applause.
Further performances are scheduled for Nov. 8-10 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 for general admission, $14 for senior citizen and $5 student tickets. This is a play that anyone interested in war; history or art should make sure to see.