Queer feminist utopias. Tarot cards. BDSM. What do all of these things have in common? They’re all topics featured in the Pomona College Department of Theatre and Dance’s latest play, “Trojan Women: A Love Story,” performed from April 6-9 at Pomona’s Seaver Theatre.
Written by Charles L. Mee, “Trojan Women: A Love Story” is an adaptation of the play “Trojan Women” by Euripedes. According to the playbill, Mee posted scripts for “Trojan Women” on his website, “the (re)making project,” and encourages people to “use them freely.” Director Joyce Lu collaborated with the cast of the play in order to interpret and mold Mee’s work into their own projects.
The result is a beautiful and experimental production, full of the “sharp edges” that Mee praises.
While not exactly a musical, the play featured songs that were selected by Lu and the cast. The songs were molded into the world of “Trojan Women” based on the actors’ experiences of the show throughout the production process.
“Trojan Women” features two acts, though there isn’t an intermission explicitly dividing the first half from the second. Instead, the stage shifts before the audience’s eyes. The first act is a more direct interpretation of Euripedes’ “Trojan Women,” graphically depicting the horrors of war after all of the men have been killed off and only the women remain.
The second half of the play takes place in a spa in what seems to be a parallel world. In this act, the women live in a sort of all-female utopia that some battle-ravaged men stumble upon after losing their war.
Berto Gonzalez PO ’20, who played Talthybius, said that the actors all researched their characters in order to create their own backstories. This is called “devised theater,” in which the script grows from the collaboration of the actors rather than a direct interpretation of the script.
This collaborative, experimental element is threaded throughout the play. When speaking about the final product of the show, Barbara Peisch PO ’19, who played Cassandra, said, “This was a really abstract, experimental show and maybe what is fulfilling about it isn’t necessarily a storyline, but rather the imaginative approaches of interpreting ancient storylines.”
Gonzalez and Peisch both spoke to the rewarding and unique aspects of drama at Pomona College.
“Theatre at Pomona has a really supportive community,” said Peisch. “It doesn’t feel really competitive or intense, which is awesome.”
Gonzalez added that theater at Pomona is different from theater elsewhere because “it’s more of an academic process.”
The actors put in work outside the theater, researching the characters and creating a more authentic final product.
“Playing a darker character has been a new experience for me …I ’ve been able to explore myself a little bit more as an actor here because of that,” Gonzalez said. “Becoming someone who is very much not me … someone who is very outside of myself, has been the best part of theater at Pomona.”
Rachel Tils PO ’19 was striking in her role as Helen, though she expressed her reservations about the production:
“I think the bottom line is that the show was way too ambitious for our school. The script is complicated, requires huge, vastly different sets, and contains some very violent, graphic imagery about war, violence, and especially violence towards women that I feel our cast was not prepared to tackle in a meaningful way,” Tils said.
It is without a doubt that “Trojan Women” was a highly unusual production, tackling some very difficult and complicated topics, and might not have been accessible to as broad of an audience as past Pomona College productions. Nevertheless, despite its confusing moments, “Trojan Women” was thoroughly enjoyable to watch as its characters came to life on stage.