Greek production 'Orestes' to be reprised at KU

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Theatre's production of Euripides' "Orestes," performed this summer in an ancient theatre in Greece, will be restaged at KU Aug. 24 and 25. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.

Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre, adapted the script and directed the bilingual production, performed in both English and Greek. This new adaptation was developed for this production, which was first performed July 28 at the Ancient Theatre of Oiniades.

The production is the result of a six-week Study Abroad program in Greece. The KU Summer Theatre in Greece program, which has been running since 1990, involves about 14 students who live and attend classes in the village of Katohi, which is a part of the larger community of Iniades. The classes include instruction in Greek language, history, art and architecture as well as lessons in traditional Greek folk dancing. The group also visits archaeological and historical sites in Delphi, Corinth, Mycenae, Nauplia, Epidauros, Cephalonia, Messolonghi and Athens.

Christilles said "Orestes" was written during a time of strife and unrest in Greece when the Peloponnesian War was draining the resources and morality of Athens.

The story is familiar: Orestes, son of Agamemnon, in order to avenge his father’s death, has murdered his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus.

"Our production explores the importance of personal responsibility," Christilles said. "When Orestes is discovered sick and mad six days after he has slaughtered his mother, his sister, Electra, tolerates and cares for him as their city decides their fate. Orestes is eager to find others to blame for what he has done. Apollo, having ordered Orestes to seek revenge (or so he says), seems to have abandoned him. Orestes attempts to find allies and scapegoats, all the while denying that he did anything more than follow orders."

Euripides’ play is not a tragedy in the classical sense, Christilles said. In many ways, it resembles melodrama, satire and, at times, comedy.

 "'Orestes' is a reflection of a world without reason. Everyone complains. Everyone finds fault in others. Responsibility is the burden of others. Orestes’ lack of a moral compass, his denial of personal responsibility and his unbelievable ability to escape justice are issues that resonate even today in more enlightened times."

This summer, the KU students were joined by a 14-member delegation from the City of Lawrence. In 2009, Lawrence and Iniades officially became Sister Cities. The Sister Cities organization, began during the Eisenhower Administration, is an effort to spread understanding between nations. Lawrence has two other Sister Cities, Hiratska, Japan, and Eutin, Germany.

Reserved seat tickets for "Orestes" are on sale in the KU ticket offices: University Theatre, 864-3982, and Lied Center, 864-ARTS, and online at kutheatre.com. Public tickets are $15, tickets for all students are $10, and senior citizen and KU faculty and staff tickets are $14.