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A Miami Native Puts a Modern Twist On An Epic Greek Tragedy

MDC Live Arts
A photo from MDC Live Arts production of La Medea at the Sandrell Theater in Miami.

A new show from Miami-Dade College Live Arts is putting a modern twist on an epic Greek tragedy. Miami native and New World School of the Arts graduate Yara Travieso is the brains behind the production of La Medea. The show incorporates a live Latin disco band, cameras and is being live streamed and filmed as it's happening.

The show debuted in Brooklyn to strong reviews and a film of the production has aired at festivals across the country. There will be performances at the Sandrell Theater in Miami on Friday October 26 and Saturday October 27. 

Travieso spoke with Sundial host Luis Hernandez about the inspiration for the show and why she wanted to include modern technology in the production.

WLRN: First of all, remind people of the premise (of La Madea.) It's a very tragic play.

Travieso: It is the tragic of the tragic plays. Medea is written by a few different writers. It's a Greek myth ... the one that I'm adapting or sort of taking on is the one by Euripities and essentially it's a story about a foreign mother who is betrayed by her partner and is left with her two boys alone in this foreign land and she finds herself exiled and he's left her after she has committed every possible crime she could commit to save his life. And to thank her he abandons her for the younger princess and now she's left exiled and alone. So the reason why she's famous is because she murders her children, which is one of the most revolutionary violent acts that you could ever see in any sort of female archetypal Greek figure.

You gave this (play) a modern twist. I mean, how do you go about it? What was it you wanted to accomplish? 

Well to be completely honest when I took the work on I was really excited about Medea as this kind of revolutionary feminist figure because she has these really breathy, beautiful monologues about women coming together and the uprising of the women's voices together and in particular foreign women that are already unaccounted for. But taking on the story as a director now and the kinds of works that I'm interested in, I had to sort of dig in a little deeper and realize that this is a pretty problematic as are most of the Greek plays or anything written by a man. Back in the day, you don't have a real woman depicted.You have a projection of a fear of a woman depicted.

This show is a show where you are filming it as it's happening. It's a movie. And you're streaming this live and the audience takes place in it. Alright, imagine I'm sitting now in the audience. Take me through the experience. 

You enter and you're transformed into a space that is essentially a television set. You have camera women running around everywhere, multiple film set stages, mirrors and a band. You see the live editing suite, the booth, everything, the inner workings of a live film being made and you as a group, you're never individualized, you're always functioning as a group so you're safe in numbers and it's essential you play the role of a Greek chorus and you help us color the world. You're our greatest collaborator. And with that comes tasks. Like everyone slow dances for the scene where Jason and Medea fall in love and you're creating these textures almost like a film extra would in the background of a film. And so in that way we're making a really beautiful image for the audiences that are watching from home in their televisions, their computers or however they're streaming it and we're creating multiple images of this woman not just the one in the space.

Watch the 2017 trailer of the production of La Madea.

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.