Sophomore Christine Nathanson of Chula Vista stars in “Electra,” a masterpiece of dramatic literature, on Friday, Jan. 31, and Feb. 1, 6-8, all at 8 p.m. at an outdoor location northeast of Westmont’s Van Kampen Hall. Sophocles wrote the ancient tragedy, and acclaimed young British playwright Nick Payne has developed a new contemporary version of the text. General admission is $15; $10 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased online at westmont.edu/boxoffice or by calling (805) 565-7140. The play, which contains adult themes, runs 90 minutes without an intermission. Wooden benches provide seating; feel free to bring your own seat cushion for comfort.
“The title role of Electra is a demanding, tour-de-force performance that requires an extreme physical and emotional journey for the actress,” says Mitchell Thomas, the play’s director and Westmont associate professor of theater arts. “Christine is a ferocious actress and is tackling the part head-on.”
“Electra” features seven other cast members, including seniors Paige Tautz, Chris Wagstaffe, Lauren White, Becky Jacks, Ben Offringa; sophomore Connor Bush, and first-year Chloe Burns.
The plot, encased with adultery, murder and revenge, hinges on the murder of Electra’s father by her mother. Electra is driven to the edge of madness as she is consumed by a fierce desire for justice and revenge.
Thomas says he had an epiphany two years ago while attending a seminar at Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., and knew he was going to direct “Electra.” “The gathering focused on the song culture of Athenian drama,” he says. “After reading and studying many of the extant Greek plays, I was struck again by the poetic language, the dramatic elegance of the writing, and the continuing power of these very old, excellent texts.”
Mitchell says one of the challenges directing a Greek play is choosing its translation. “I had a wonderful time reading many excellent versions of the play and finally settled on a powerful, fast-paced adaptation by Payne,” he says. “It contains an urgency and fierce energy that, for me, honors the mythic origins of the material and yet will be accessible to contemporary audiences.”
“Our production is rooted in an ancient/modern aesthetic and performance style that features choral movement and singing, an outdoor performance in a Mediterranean oak grove, and a fresh new version of the text that honors the original story but feels absolutely in the here and now. During rehearsals, it has been both intoxicating and humbling to have moments where I feel connected to a theatrical tradition that has endured for 2,500 years. I hope audiences will experience the same.”