When I set out to adapt Medea I asked myself who am I writing this for? First, I needed to honor the memory of the original Medea. Meaning the very woman who fought for her own justice when no one else would. Her suffering was not a play, it was lived and I felt compelled to write with that reverence in mind. Second, to expand the traditional theater audience. I wanted to compose a piece that pushes the boundaries of musical theater and utilize a three-piece band with simple music that anyone could play. Thirdly, it needed to accentuate the live theatrical experience. In a world of streaming the communal exchange of vibration and energy in the present moment is what sets theater apart. So, I’m attempting to create a new form of theater that encourages you, the audience, to participate in the storytelling itself. Using these three pillars as my compass I began writing Medea.
To start I looked up the testimonies of women who had committed filicide to try to understand why they felt that was their only option and what kind of spousal relationships fostered these outcomes. I researched the Ancient Greek societal opinions of foreigners who they considered barbarians, something not so dissimilar to the opinions some Americans hold. With this research in mind I exposed myself to several adaptations of Medea and was captivated by her unique story. Despite the high mortality rate of childbirth and lack of medicine at that time, she survives her pregnancy only to be treated as an outcast by her village and adopted country, and emotionally abused and abandoned by her husband. My mission was to honor her suffering while daring to investigate the reasons behind her decisions.
When I thought about how to style the music I was hit by this brutal fact. My non-artist friends don’t listen to Musical Theater. The sound palette just doesn’t resonate with their tastes. So I set out to compose music and write verse that got them excited to come to see the show on the first listen. I explored the underbelly of hip hop. Medea is about blood, blades, betrayal, fate and fire and there are scores of albums in the Hip-Hop canon that are depictions of real-life people in similarly desperate situations. Suicidal thoughts by Biggie Smalls, Dance with the Devil by Immortal Technique, N.Y State of Mind by Nas, to name a few. I wanted to create a space for them in the theater. That meant I had to depart from the traditional form. I had to think grittier. Challenge the audience to keep up with the lyrics or, even better, earn their investment so much so that they return to listen again to catch all the double and triple meanings embedded in the words. No disrespect to the Tony voters in the seats I’m composing for the homies in the streets.
There is an intrinsic musicality to speech. The transition of vowels form melody, the consonants create percussion and rhythm. I am a student of Shakespeare and Hip-Hop as both are auditory experiences filled with metaphors, rhyme schemes and word play. Shakespeare also embraced the reality that there was a live audience viewing his plays. There is no fourth wall. The active participation of, and engagement with, the audience is paramount to the experience. I looked to Battle Rap culture to inspire this cross pollination. In Battle Rap the audience’ opinion is what matters most. This is how I built the scenes. Each interaction is a battle that the audience participates in. There’s no telling what punchlines will hit certain houses and which will not. Whose side will each audience be on? I don’t know - and that uncertainty, that openness, is what will create the irreplicable communal experience that IS theater.
LUSI QUINTERO is thrilled and humbled to be making his playwriting/composing debut in NYC with Red Bull Theater. Graduating from UNCSA in 2016, Luis has worked all over the United States as an Actor at theaters such as DCPA, The Old Globe San Diego, The Alley, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, Stages Reparatory Theater, Triad Stage and more. He is currently performing in his fourth season with The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Cold Spring NY. As a writer Luis could not be more thankful to Red Bull for their belief in MEDEA RE-VERSED. He’d like to offer a special thanks to Jesse Berger, Nathan Winklestein for their ongoing support of the piece. Luis would also like to thank his Mom, his brother Pablo and his father for all their love and support.