“The Trojan Women” Confronts Sexual Violence

. January 31, 2018.
Lindsey Scheidler and Shelby Seeley are two of the stars of this cautionary tale about what happens when women do not work together.
Lindsey Scheidler and Shelby Seeley are two of the stars of this cautionary tale about what happens when women do not work together.

Eastern Michigan University welcomes to the stage Ellen McLaughlin’s adaptation of Euripides’ “The Trojan Women.” Written in 415 BCE, the play tells the story of the widows of Trojan soldiers who endure captivity and sexual violence at the hands of conquering Greeks. “The Trojan Women” is a cautionary tale and a tragedy in part because, unlike much of the recent solidarity demonstrated by women in the #metoo movement,  its female characters are powerless, and choose not to help each other. The all-student cast will be directed by EMU Theatre Lecturer Jennifer Graham, who Current caught up with to talk about the production.

What made you choose this play?

I have always been interested in the movement qualities that can be created in Greek theatre – specifically the chorus. It [also] has almost a completely female cast, which is beautiful and a rare thing in the theatre world.

This year, many allegations of sexual harassment and assault have been made by women against men in power. You must have decided to direct this show before the allegations started to come out in the news…

I have been interested in directing this show for about six years, certainly before all the allegations. The current climate has given me a lot to consider in my direction of this piece; had I directed it six years ago, it would probably have been very different.  It certainly gives this production a really contemporary context.

Why is it important to you to be directing a show about oppressed women and the men they are standing up to?

Well, the women in this play do not get to stand up to the men, which is the real tragedy. They are spoils of war, tokens to be sold to the highest bidder. On one hand, it’s great to see women have the ability to be heard and stand up against the oppressors. On the other hand, not every woman has the luxury to do that, and we see both types of women in this play. Helen has the power because of her beauty to stand equal with men, and the other women destroy her because of it.

One of the things you focus on in your teaching is movement for the actor. How does movement play a part in your concept of this show?

Physicality is always a part of my art; I see theatre through movement. In this show I will be using a few specific movement qualities with the actors; we will be playing with elemental movement, i.e. wind, water, earth, and air.

What do you hope audiences get from this play?

I hope people see themselves in the characters, feel anger at the modern parallels, and see the uniquely feminine strength the characters possess.

Recommended for age 16+
$15/general, $12/seniors and students, $9/main stage
February 2-11 | 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays | 2pm, Sundays
EMU’s Sponberg Theatre, 124 Quirk Hall, Ypsilanti.
734.487.2282 | emich.edu

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