U-M Dept. of Theatre & Drama presents Euripides’ “Iphigenia at Aulis”
The U-M Department of Theatre & Drama presents the Greek tragedy, Iphigenia at Aulis, by Euripides in a translation by Don Taylor. One of the great anti-war plays, Iphigenia exemplifies how the momentum of war can propel individuals and a nation toward horrific acts. The drama plays April 2 & 9 at 7:30PM, April 3, 4, 10 & 11 at 8PM, and April 5* & 12 at 2PM (*Easter Sunday) at the Arthur Miller Theatre on North Campus. Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama Malcolm Tulip (The Tempest, Red Noses) directs.
Greek playwright Euripides (480 BCE – 406 BCE) wrote over 100 plays during his lifetime, of which 19 survive today. Euripides was known for bending convention. His plays are not always straightforwardly tragic; a few even have happy endings, although it is worth noting that ancient definitions of tragedy differ from the modern sense of the word. In antiquity, a drama with a happy ending could still be a tragedy. Some of his linguistic patterns show influence from comedy, and his plays show interest in alternate re-tellings of myth, philosophical and scientific thinking, and marginalized voices. For centuries, Euripides has remained the most popular Ancient Greek playwright. His works have influenced modern drama due to his use of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
The last extant work by the Greek playwright. Iphigenia at Aulis was first performed a year after Euripides’ death. The play is set prior to the Trojan War. Prepared to exact revenge on Troy for the abduction of Helen, the Greek army is stuck at the port of Aulis, stymied by unfavorable winds. As his men grow restless, their commander Agamemnon grows desperate to retain his command. Persuaded by his priests that the only way to set sail is through familial sacrifice to the goddess Artemis, Agamemnon sends for his wife Clytemnestra and daughter Iphigenia under the pretext of a royal wedding to the hero Achilles. When the truth reveals itself, the two women and Achilles plead for young Iphigenia’s life against the swell of a growing mob.
In 1989, the late English playwright Don Taylor, a key figure in the golden age of television drama, translated, directed, and produced Iphigenia for the BBC, starring Fiona Shaw. It was subsequently produced by the Royal National Theatre in 2003. Staying true to the original, Taylor’s translation uses contemporary language to vividly depict the horrors of war that Euripides decried over two thousand years ago. Director Tulip chose the play due to the timeliness and timelessness of the topic. “There do still seem to be some wars going on and conflicted feelings about them.” He states, “We’ve set it in a period that echos the Gulf Wars which should resonate with the audience. I’m looking at the play from the non-noble side of tragedy. I don’t want there to be any doubt that there is no good in the outcome of this play – Iphigenia’s choice is not really a choice, they’re going to kill her anyway. We start with blood in the sky at dawn and end with blood everywhere.”
Joining Tulip on the artistic team is scenic designer Angela Alvarez and costume designer Kayleigh Laymon, both BFA design & production majors in the Department of Theatre & Drama. Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama Rob Murphy (Dead Man Walking, Cabaret) serves as lighting designer. The sound design is by Associate Professor Henry Reynolds (Fuente Ovejuna, Stupid F###ing Bird) and Evan Klee-Peregon, a senior majoring in sound engineering at the SMTD.
Following the Friday, April 3, performance of Iphigenia at Aulis will be Curtain Call, a post-performance discussion moderated by Tulip and featuring members of the cast and artistic staff. Curtain Call for Iphigenia at Aulis offers an opportunity for audience members to talk with the artists and experts about the issues raised in the play. The discussions are free and open to all.
Ticket prices for performances of Iphigenia at Aulis are $28 general admission and $10 for students with ID. Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9 AM – 5 PM, Monday through Friday and 10 AM – 1 PM on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted. Tickets may also be ordered online at tickets.music.umich.edu. The Arthur Miller Theater, located within the Walgreen Drama Center at 1226 Murfin Avenue, is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.