Written around 406 BC by Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis is a prequel to the Trojan War. Agamemnon, leader of the unified Greek army, must choose whether or not to sacrifice his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the goddess Artemis and secure favourable winds for his fleet.
Studio Theatre’s production takes this 2400-year-old classic and translates it (both linguistically and visually) for the 21st century. Although its new look isn’t inspired by any specific conflict, Iphigenia includes all the trappings of modern war: guns, media manipulation and video games.
“We’re very interested in drone warfare,” says David Feehan, who plays Agamemnon. “There’s two screens in [the play] that will show what drone pilots do. They sit in these little sheds and then they survey someplace that’s across the globe and drop bombs on them from a very far distance. So one of the characters in the play, Achilles, who is a mythological hero and the greatest warrior of them all, is sitting for a large portion of the play behind the action in his little command centre, surveying a far-off distance where he can drop bombs.”
Even though the play depicts the brain-over-brawn nature of modern warfare, Feehan and his fellow soldiers still had to do some physical training to prepare for their roles.
“A lot of times you’ll be doing plays [and] you have a movement coach to kind of get into the body of the character: how do they walk and how do they move throughout this world? But what [coach Amber Borotsik] did was she just totally kicked our butts by taking us through actual army training. … It was a very intense workout process, and then we’d get thrown back into rehearsal just drenched in sweat and exhausted.”
Apart from a thousand push-ups and jumping jacks, Feehan and his castmates have been busy exercising their minds with ethical dilemmas. The moral justification of war is a central question of the play, one that Iphigenia has left unresolved for two millennia.
“Everyone in the play is faced with that question: is the cost of one life worth the cost of millions? Should Agamemnon kill his own daughter to win the war?”
Until Sat, Dec 5 (7:30 pm; Thu, Dec 3 matinee at 12:30 pm)
Directed by David Kennedy
Timms Centre for the Arts,
$12 – $25