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FROM THE DIRECTOR | Medea: Re-Versed

Red Bull Theater and Bedlam present MEDEA: RE-VERSED on stage at the Sheen Center Shiner Theatre, in a world premier co-production with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival for a limited Off-Broadway engagement, September 12 - October 13, 2024.

Insights | Arden of Faversham by Brandi K. Adams

“When passion ignites both ends of the candle It’s double the light but hard to handle”


Euripides’ Medea has long been recognized as one of the greatest classical theater pieces ever written. It has been translated, adapted, and ‘improved upon.’ It has been the source of inspiration for countless productions for almost two and a half  millennia. At first blush, that made it an odd play for Luis and me to focus on in April of 2020 when we began discussing a revolutionary (but not irreverent) way of adapting non-English language classics. Perhaps Medea’s isolation spoke to us in those early Covid days, or perhaps it was the rampant stories of the mistreatment of women and children in the emotional hotbox of being trapped inside for months on end. Whatever the reason, Medea was a play that needed to be heard now, and needed to be heard in a new, and at the same time, quite old, way. An adaptation that celebrated the spirit of the original rather than the letter. 


But how to do that? How do we find the spirit of a piece first heard in 3,000 year old amphitheaters, with theatrical concepts being invented in real time and in a  language sung out in contemporary and deeply personal verse structure?


Enter Rap.


Despite the fact that Rap (and the entirety of Hip Hop culture) celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, it is only just now beginning to be recognized as one of America's great dramatic verse structures. Its flexibility, muscularity, and density of language makes it a perfect American verse form for heightened language theater. Luis Quintero’s unique style, with his background both in Hip Hop and Theater, worked brilliantly to bring forward the themes of Medea in a way that is both deeply loyal to Euripedes' tale and astonishingly, unabashedly, and undeniably of today. 


Because the use of Rap is still relatively nascent in theater (though many, like the great Will Power and of course Lin Manuel Miranda have come before), we have had to explore what new form of theater best serves this Medea. This required creativity and support. Through a series of developmental workshops beginning at Red Bull Theater we have developed a form that is 50% concert, 50% traditional Shakespeare–and 100% theater; a form that I hope will make you sit up and say ‘This is new! This is now! This is needed!’, just as I imagine the Greek audiences did 2,000 years ago.

 

Of course, in the end, theater is always about the story. Yes, this brilliant adaptation that Luis wrote is about creating a true American verse Medea, but in the end what makes it great is that it is a Medea that reminds us that women thousands of years ago dealt with the same misogyny, racism and gaslighting that they do today, a Medea that has at its center a demi-goddess who does the extra-ordinary in the face of social hatred and indifference that is distressingly ordinary; a Medea that has us bopping our heads with the music but also challenges us to do better. 


This play doesn't try to answer the hard questions – we aren’t smart enough for that. All we can do, as a great playwright once said, is “hold as t’were the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” 


I hope audiences walk away from this play changed in some way, asking new questions, perhaps, or just having had the time of your life, and remember…


“Y’all the kinda people who came here to see a tragedy

You can’t get mad at me when the ending happens unhappily.”

NATHAN WINKELSTEIN

 

Nathan Winkelstein has been with Red Bull Theater for nine years, and Associate Artistic Director for four. He is the Producing Director of the Revelation Reading Series as well as the host of Red Bull Podcasts, the Director of Education and the Casting Associate for Red Bull. Nathan has acted or directed for numerous companies around the country, including The Alley, NYU Grad, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Shakespeare Theater Company, LCT, The Folger, American Shakespeare Center, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, and others. Dubbed 'The Pied Piper of Shakespeare' Nathan provides private acting coaching to select clients and has taught for Red Bull, STC, LCT, TGS and Maggie Flanagan Studio. Nathan received his BA in Theater from the University at Buffalo and his MFA in Classical Acting from the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the UK.

Nathan is a proud member of Actors' Equity and SDC.


For complete details about MEDEA: RE-VERSED, visit here.

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