A tale of two Medeas

BFA production makes Medea’s schizophrenic struggle literal

by Don M. Burrows

When drama professor Kenneth Mitchell went to cast the part of Medea in the Euripidean classic, he found that two actors in the University Bachelor of Fine Arts actor training program fit the bill.

So he cast both of them.

Mitchell’s adaptation of the play doesn’t include two parts for the witch. But her schizophrenic struggle and ultimate resolve to kill her children will physically manifest itself onstage in the program’s performance of “Medea” at the Rarig Center.

Kate Lawrey and Amanda Fuller, both undergraduates in the program, which provides academic credit to acting majors for several theater productions over the semester, will play Medea.

“It’s almost like we’re this tag team,” Fuller said.

“We’re a magical team, so we work together,” Lawrey added.

Often, this partnership is played out using Medea’s tormented scorn found in Euripides’ original. During one scene as the chorus sings of pain and love, Fuller’s Medea writhes in pain on the ground as Lawrey echoes some of her sentiments from backstage.

“I guess the concept is that this trauma has split us,” Fuller said. “I think it helps to show that Medea is this broken woman.”

After all, Medea was struck with the arrow of Eros as an adolescent princess, perhaps best described in the “Argonautica” of Apollonius of Rhodes, written two centuries after Medea was first performed. So her abrupt swings between competing passions ‘uncontrollable love and overwhelming hatred ‘ are part of her mythological tradition.

Lawrey and Fuller said it is this aspect of Medea, coupled with her magical and mysterious (and foreign and therefore exotic) appeal that lets casting two Medeas make perfect sense.

“It’s what crazy love can drive her to do,” Lawrey said.

Of course, traditionally, Medea has been portrayed so as to shock and horrify the audience while at the same time drawing their sympathy.

“You have to find the sympathy in theatrical parts,” Fuller noted. “And I think she’s a sympathetic character. I think she’s been wronged.”

And while the jury is still out on what Euripides truly thought of women, Fuller and Lawrey see a contemporary angle in her empowerment as a woman even as the women of the chorus lament the subjugation of their sex.

“We gain power through the play,” Fuller said.