By Ron VandenBoom
A brilliant, all-white set built in the style of an ancient Greek temple is the backdrop for the Havre High School Drama Department's production of the famous Greek tragedy Medea.
The play will be presented to Havre audiences at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 18-20, at the Havre High School auditorium.
The cost will be $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students.
"It's basically the classic tale of the wronged woman out to get revenge," said Jay Pyette, director of the play. "She is betrayed by her husband, Jason (of Golden Fleece fame) and she vows to get even with him -- to take from him everything that he values."
Medea, the mother of Jason's two sons, is jilted when Jason decides to marry the king's daughter, Kreusa. How Medea gets her vengeance presents the spectator with high drama, searing emotion and thunderous consequences.
The drama is guaranteed to leave a lasting image of betrayal, tragedy, and pain burned in the hearts and minds of the audience. It is an image that will remain long after the curtain falls and the grease-paint dries.
The play, written by Euripides about 2,400 years ago, is not only good drama, but is also a critical glimpse into the culture and social life of a completely male dominated society.
"Euripides was really the social playwright," Pyette said, adding that Euripides was not really very popular in his own society "for reasons like this."
The performance at Havre High will be a rare treat for audiences and actors alike.
"We returned to the origin of the theater," Pyette said. "Theater, as we know it in the world, began in Greece. Our common perception of the narrator in a play comes from the Greek chorus."
Pyette's foray into this extremely ancient art form is, in and of itself, a reason to see the play, but coupled with traditional Greek theater will be another ancient art form -- Kabuki.
Kabuki is an ancient Japanese form of theater that is very dependent on color, sound, and dynamic qualities to tell the story.
The use of color lighting and background music dramatically helps to illustrate the emotion of the play and makes what Pyette said is "a pretty dynamic show."
The change in formats from the traditional American and Shakespearian styles has presented Pyette and his crew of 22 actors and actresses with some unique challenges.
"I am now telling the students to break a lot of the stage directing rules that I've laid out for them over the last four years," Pyette said, citing as an example the rule that actors should never speak with their backs to the audience.
"There are scenes that just wouldn't work if they didn't break that rule," Pyette said.
The cast is large with 22 students participating in Medea. Eight students are principles, two, Joe and Jacob Palmer, are grade-school age, and 12 are members of the chorus.
Another change for modern theatergoers is the lack of violence allowed in traditional Greek theater.
"Greeks did not permit violence on the stage," Pyette said. "They would have a messenger bring in the news of violence or refer to it, but never show it."
Pyette said he will stray a little from the tradition by using red streamers to portray blood in the play, but it will still be notable for the absence of violence.
Asked whether the new and unusual format created any new and unusual challenges, Pyette answered, "it was an adventure."