SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -
An updated version of Sophocles' well-known, revenge-filled Greek tragedy "Electra" will be presented as "Electra: An American Gothic," written by David Skeele, Slippery Rock University theatre professor, in three performances in SRU's University Union.
The campus performances are previews before the work is presented later this summer as part of the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
The play, directed by Gordon Phetteplace, associate professor of theatre, runs at 7:30 p.m., April 15-16, with a 12:30 p.m. performance April 17 planned for local high school students.
The updated version recalls the landscape of deep-seated rivalry and war amidst the hillfolk of the Appalachian Mountains. The work will be underscored with live Americana folk music.
The story tells of one woman (Electra) blinded by hatred, and driven by her need for vengeance, and how she reveals how destructive one can be when pride is the only thing left.
From the moment Electra's mother, Clytemnestra, and stepfather, Aegisthus, brutally murdered her father and issued a warrant for the head of her brother, Orestes, Electra thinks of nothing but revenge. The only people she has left in her life are her optimistic bookworm sister, Chrysothemis, and her daft house servant, Cora, who has visions of the future and death.
Skeele said he developed the idea for the play in part because he had been on a "rural crime kick," watching such TV shows as 'Justified" and "Banchee," which deal with backwoods crimes.
"I knew that Gordon would be directing the play, and I knew he liked works by Sam Shepherd, who wrote 'True West," 'Buried Child' and 'A Lie of the Mind,' all dealing with rural America and with endless cycles of murder and retribution, not unlike the American story of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys, so the overall idea just popped into my head. The next thing to pop into my head was 'Hillbilly Electra,'" he said.
"I had originally been thinking about creating a modern version of 'Madea,' the character of Greek mythology, and setting the play in rural backwoods, or what I call 'meth lab country,' but I really did not like the original play, so I opted for 'Electra,'" he said.
'It occurred to me later that this play could really be set just about anywhere where there have been longstanding blood feuds and it would resonate with the audience - Bosnia, Rowanda, Albania. These places have been having blood feuds that have lasted generations. I knew the play I was thinking about would make sense for our location and with a European audience, since both have been fascinated with the Hatfield and McCoy battle. I think it is going to come together nicely and has provided a good fit," Skeele said.
The cast includes, theatre majors: Carina Iannarelli from Bridgeville, as Electra; Amber Mikec from Strabane, as Chrysothemis; Cindy Brennan from Duncansville, as Clytemnestra; Rachel Lambert from Hermitage, as Cora; Malic Williams from Aliquippa, as Reverend; Joe Karl from Moon, as Orestes; and Ethan Rochow from West Middlesex, as Aegisthus.
The production is supported by: Colleen Reilly, assistant professor of theatre and company manager; Kyle Andreas from Bethlehem, as scenic designer; Karl Wiltraut from Hershey, as lighting designer; Alex Barnhart from Butler, as sound design and lead musician; Kayla Boulton from Youngstown, Ohio, as costume designer; Jina Pounds from Alexandria, Va., in charge of props; Jack Libengood from Apollo, as technical director; Margaret Rial from Erie, as stage manager; Becca McGann from Berwick, as assistant stage manager and house manager; Deb Cohen, professor of modern languages and cultures, will serve as a musician, and Samantha Kuchta from Lower Burrell, is the public relations coordinator.
Tickets are $12 for the general public; $7 for SRU students. They are available from the Smith Student Center Information Desk and at the University Union Box Office, one hour before curtain.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.