Author: Becca Vaclavik

Never before seen on stage: CU Theatre puts on a world premiere translation of ‘Hecuba’

The world premiere translation by visiting Roe Green Artist Diane Rayor will feature original masks by Roe Green Artist Jonathan Becker and original live music by Theatre & Dance Senior Instructor Jesse Manno.

When audiences think of classical theatre, they typically think of Shakespeare or, perhaps, Molière. But from Nov. 2-11, Coloradans will have the opportunity to see classical theatre of the Greek variety when the CU Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance presents Diane Rayor’s world premiere translation of Euripides’ “Hecuba.”

In the play, years of violence and war have stripped Hecuba, Queen of Troy, of all she holds dear. After her son’s dead body washes ashore and her daughter is sacrificed to the gods, Hecuba—held captive, unsure of her fate and with nothing left to lose—works with the women around her to exact her revenge on the men who wronged her family.

“I’ve always had a fondness for the character of Hecuba and her strength and her resiliency and her agency,” says director Tamara Meneghini. “There’s a symbolic, really heart-wrenching part of the play about how much we speak up for what we believe in or speak up for the things that we’ve been silenced by before … It’s very much a play about these women who don’t give up—it’s a feminist play.”

Even though “Hecuba” is an ancient story, these themes, along with the imagery of women defending their children, have become a critical part of the design and rehearsal process, given current events.

“What’s happened in the past year is that we’re constantly seeing mothers separated from their children. Of women being silenced. And also of women speaking up. The tidal wave that is happening from that is very, very present in the play … It has sort of pervaded everything.”

And, of course, Hecuba is the personification of these themes: “She’s a cool woman, right? She’s like all of the women that were silenced and have now spoken out rolled into one person. And then all of the women of Troy echo her.”

CU Boulder’s production of “Hecuba” is a world premiere translation by visiting Roe Green Artist Diane Rayor, with original masks made by Roe Green Artist Jonathan Becker. The production will also feature original live music by Theatre & Dance Senior Instructor Jesse Manno. The impact of these artists’ work on the production is remarkable, says Meneghini.

“These masks were designed for our show. So they’re not masks that Jonathan Becker has made before, and it’s not a project he’s done before. These are original creations. It was really important to me that I have him here—the artist, his hands and hours of his sweat and toil that made these things that the actors are now wearing on their faces. It’s a really intimate thing.

“And then we’re integrating it with the translation of Dr. Rayor. Her translation is a direct translation from the original Greek. We’re doing this poetic way of telling this story … People will see something they haven’t seen before in the masks and the telling of it,” says Meneghini. “Everything has been sort of driven by this idea of the poetry of the piece and the masks reflecting that poetry. It’s going to be a spectacle—it’s going to be just beautiful.”

Because ancient Greek tragedies are rarely performed for contemporary audiences, the production offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for audiences. In fact, in ancient Greece it was one of the most popular plays of its time. Meneghini hopes to bring it back into fashion.

“[‘Hecuba’] is a journey into something very unfamiliar, into a world that’s not really known,” says Meneghini. “That’s why I do theatre. I like to be transported to somewhere else. [For audiences,] it’s something a little different, and you’re going to walk out thinking about things a little bit differently.”

“Hecuba” runs Nov. 2-11 in the University Theatre. Tickets start at $20.