In ancient Greece theater played a big role in entertainment for royalty, commoners and everyone in between. Today many Greek plays are enacted and portrayed in on all kinds of broadway scenes all over the world.
Every year the Greeks held playwright competitions to see who had the best literacy skills and to portray the roles of gods, heroes and other important figures in their culture. Each playwright would construct a three part play with two smaller plays in between and then at the end they would be judged by the public.
Over time, scholars have found many smaller Greek tragedy plays but have only uncovered one complete trilogy set. This is known as the Oresteia. Lane Community College has just finished performing it’s final show with a twist on a very old classic.
Brian Haimbach, head of the theater department, was instrumental in the writing and construction of this show. He also offered plenty of insight on the plot of this particular piece of theater.
“The Oresteia tells the story of when Agamemnon comes home from the trojan war. Upon his return his wife kills him, because in order for the Greeks to go to war Agamemnon and his wife had to sacrifice their daughter. This concludes play one,” Haimbach said “In play two their son comes home to revenge his father and kills his mother, and then play three is a courtroom drama. The citizens of Athens end up calling the goddess Athena down from Mount Olympus to help them make the decision,”
Haimbach went on to explain that the purpose of this play is to show how Greek culture went from a society of vengeance to a society of justice. With this year’s adaptations, there were a few changes that Haimbach and a few other students who helped write the play made to give the play a more modern twist. According to Haimbach the original play would take about seven hours to act out, however this version was shortened down a bit.
“In the original there’s a whole lot of juxtaposition that occurs to give the audience a backstory on what happens. In this version we really just focused on the action that happens,” Haimbach said. “The design of the whole play was much more modern, the set and the costumes were very much rock and roll. It was really based on an ancient Greek theater and a rock concert,”
Haimbach also highlighted that the music, as well as all of the stage lighting, were focused on this contemporary approach. Considering that Lane’s Oresteia Project was portrayed as a musical, Haimbach wanted to approach the audience with these complicated stories through song. “Through songs you can really figure out what’s going on in the actor’s heads, what they’re feeling. It was much more direct and the language was very updated,” Haimbach said.
Several students who participated in the show won awards for excellence in several different categories through the Kennedy Center. The stage manager, both lighting designers, the sound production designer and director Haimbach himself all got certificates of merit for the Oresteia project. One of those students, Justin Dennis, won an award for excellence in sound production.
“I walked into this show not knowing how to do anything, but I learned how to do it all,” said Dennis. “I think the biggest challenge was getting sound effects on the mics, one of them was called the bowels of hell. I used a pitch corrector to make the actors voices reverb and echo and also lower the tone of them as well.”
Haimbach and Dennis both concluded that the show was a great success and are looking forward to new productions next year.