A Greek tragedy, with a twist

A new wind will blow into Fisher Theater, bringing a Greek drama to life with contemporary flair. Audiences can expect a combination of music, puppetry and classical language in ISU Theatre's production of "Iphigenia," which opens a two-weekend run on Friday, Feb. 23.

"We're really excited to share what we think is an engaging and relevant ancient story in a new way," said Amanda Petefish-Schrag, assistant professor in theater and the show's director. "It's some things we haven't done a lot of on the Iowa State stage -- incorporating puppetry into a production with classical acting that one might expect in any Greek tragedy. That layering of approaches is part of what we think makes this fun and dynamic."

Petefish-Schrag worked with her husband, Ben Schrag, on the adaption. She said it's a story they've been drawn to for quite some time.

"For a story that's thousands of years old, it has some really interesting questions that I think resonate contemporarily," Petefish-Schrag said. "Our hope in doing an adaptation was to take so much of what works really well for a classical Greek tragedy and think about it in terms of how it connects with an audience of people in Ames, Iowa, in 2018."

As in the original work written by Euripides around 400 BC, Greek general Agamemnon is told to sacrifice his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to earn favorable winds from the goddess Artemis, and send his thousand ships to war against Troy. The struggle of the characters -- within themselves and among each other -- fuels the drama.

Puppetry allows the 14-member cast to play multiple roles, while a three-person band performs an original score. The one-act play features episodes, separated by choral odes.

"We are incorporating puppets in places where the ancient Greeks might have used masks to portray important characters," Petefish-Schrag said. "In classical tragedy, there are choral odes that come between each scene -- and there's good evidence that those were sung by the ancient Greeks. We have set those choral odes to music as well, but incorporating more contemporary music. We're using an old technique and layering it with a more contemporary approach."

Show times for "Iphigenia" are 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23-24 and March 2-3, and 2 p.m. on Feb. 25 and March 4. Tickets are $18 ($16 for seniors and $11 for students), available on Ticketmaster, at the Stephens box office or at the Fisher Theater door.