Off Broadway

Does Her Joy Scare You?

Does Her Joy Scare You?

Director Michael Alvarez feels uncomfortable being boxed in. His newest project, LOVE, MEDEA, exemplifies a resistance to such a state, with the titular character resisting supposition and conjecture. With a resume that includes work on The West End, The Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and New York Theatre Workshop, Alvarez’s work toils to dodge those pesky labels that result in audience expectation.

Originally workshopped at New York Theatre Workshop, LOVE, MEDEA will have its official opening January 6th at Center at West Park in New York. The work hybridizes traditional theatrical modes, while incorporating music, dance, and couture fashion. Treading a sylphlike line between literalism and the avant garde, the new adaptation by Peter Gray aims to let audiences see a new, heartfelt and sometimes whimsical side of the infamous scorned heroine.

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Rehearsal Photos for LOVE, MEDEA. Łukasz Zięba, Dwayne Brown, Héctor Cerna. Photo by Alejandro Garcia.

How did you conceive of this piece?

MICHAEL ALVAREZ: I’ve always been fascinated with the character of Medea. Especially since reading that in her source mythology, she didn’t kill her children. She wanted to save them. Since the Euripides text, she has been infamously known as that vengeful woman who killed her children. I knew I wanted to create a piece in which Medea has the opportunity to tell her side of the story.

What does the story of Medea mean to you?

MA: In terms of this text, at its core, it is about a woman learning to own her power and agency in a world that oppresses her. It’s a very personal story for me, drawing from women in my own family whose lives have contained this pattern.

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Director Michael Alvarez.

Why did you feel the need for a new adaptation?

MA: I wouldn’t say this is an adaptation, but rather a theatrical exploration into previously unseen parts of Medea and her story. She is a woman who was driven, and destroyed, by her love. A woman who lived a life, not for herself, but for those she loved. And sacrificed her own happiness along the way.

What about Peter’s adaptation excites you?

MA: Everything! The language is exquisite. The depth of character and narrative is awe-inspiring. He captures the beating heart of Medea – her love, her fears, her demons and her pain.

LOVE, MEDEA incorporates theatre, dance, video and music. Why did you want this multimedia component for the show?

MA: The synthesis of all these disciplines dramaturgically ties into the telling of the Medea myth and her multifaceted identity. Her experience in the journey of the text isn’t tied to a single modality of experience. Various moments ask for various engagements of disciplines.

Where did you find choreographer Mara Driscoll and dancers?

MA: I’ve been collaborating with Mara on several projects and love her work! She dances at the Met Opera and asked some dancers she had worked with to join us.

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Francesca Fernandez McKenzie is Medea inLOVE, MEDEA.

How would you characterize the visuals (set, costumes, lighting, etc)?

MA: With a story and legacy of Medea’s size, the visual vocabulary of the piece needs to be as singular and epic as its title character. The visuals come out of the world of fashion and the visual arts to create a poetically unique universe.

There is an ensemble of six men.

MA: The men are phantoms of Medea’s subconscious that emerge to play various roles within her story. Yuan Yuan Liang (costume designer) and I were interested in architectural pieces of attire that visually aligned them to Medea. So, we started with a chain locket Medea (played by Yale School of Drama 2018 graduate Francesca Fernandez McKenzie) wears around her neck the whole show and built outward from that. We took the materiality of that object and created this chain sculpture, with the same pendent, which became the men’s “uniform”, if you will. The chain, combined with aged black pants and a black mask that completely covers the face, create the effect of making the men stylistically “other.”

What do you want the audience to walk away with?

MA: I think good work allows audiences to see aspects of themselves in the characters, so each audience member will, ideally, walk away with something uniquely galvanizing to them. Overall, I hope people leave with a greater sense of empathy and awareness of themselves and people they might think of as different from themselves.

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Rehearsal Photos for LOVE, MEDEA. Dwayne Brown, Łukasz Zięba, Héctor Cerna: all dancers with the Met Opera. Photo by Alejandro Garcia.

LOVE, MEDEA runs January 6 – 18th at Center at West Park in New York.

IG/FB: @lovemedeanyc

For tickets, visit https://www.centeratwestpark.org/events/love-medea

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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