University Theatre students to perform 'Electra' this Saturday

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It’s safe to say putting together the Kansas University Theatre production of Sophocles’ “Electra” was all Greek to the students.

Not only did they speed-learn a play, but they did it in a new language, says director Dennis Christilles. No one came in having spoken Greek before.

“Many of the lines are in Greek so the students have done a lot of work,” Christilles says. “Having to learn, understand and use as an acting tool, a foreign language they hadn’t spoken a few weeks before, they really had their work cut out for them.”

The group will be performing "Electra" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall. Tickets are $15; $10 for students who buy them in advance.

Traveling to the village of Katohi, Greece, (in Lawrence's sister city of Iniades) during the summer, 14 students lived together in an elementary school adapted for housing, and attended classes in modern Greek language, history, art, architecture and literature.

Christilles has been the faculty member on this Summer Theatre study abroad program in Greece since 1997.

“For the students, this is is exciting because they are going to the birthplace of their craft,” he says.

Three and a half of those weeks were spent learning the one-hour adaptation of the Greek play, in both English and Greek, for a performance at Oiniades, a fourth-century-B.C. open-air theater.

“The people in the area have a theater festival every year, and whenever we are there, we get to be a part of it,” says Christilles, who adapted "Electra" for English.

One month later, they are bringing “Electra” to the KU stage.

“Electra” follows the quest of two siblings plotting to avenge the death of their father at the hands of their mother and her lover. They have overlooked that their father sacrificed their sister years ago.

It’s a simple story, Christilles says, but the overall theme of justice is complex. It begs the audience to contemplate what type of justice is moral, which is still a relevant question today, he says.

“This is an opportunity to show what work we’ve been doing,” Christilles says. “Getting that under their belt in three and a half weeks is as difficult as Shakespeare.”