Three words can be found on the front steps of the Fine Arts Building on the Seattle University campus: TROY IS BURNING. “Women of Troy” is an alternate title for the “The Trojan Woman,” a play written by the Greek playwright Eurypides. “Women of Troy” is interesting because it deals with the female characters from Homer’s “Iliad.” The play adds perspectives to a well known story and provides some commentary on contemporary world issues. The Seattle University production of the classic tragedy is also a chance for students to engage with those issues.
Chalk advertisements for “Women of Troy” cover various parts of campus pavement.
In Greek tragedies the chorus relays a play’s exposition and narration. Men typically make up those roles, however, female actresses play the chorus in this play, and represent the Trojan women destined to be carted off as slaves, wives or concubines to the victorious Greek men.
“‘Women of Troy’ has a great chorus and it also has great female roles in it,” said Rosa Joshi, the play’s director. “It also speaks to current political issues.”
Due to its subject matter, the play is quite intense, a feature amplified by Alice Gosti’s choreographic direction.
According to cast members, Gosti’s creativity has been apparent throughout the play’s production.
“There is a part in the play where we build the Trojan Horse with the bodies of us—the chorus—and we came up with that by doing a series of compositional exercises, and we didn’t know that we were creating the horse when we made it,” said chorus member and junior Emily Haver.
The play is largely about dehumanization, especially the dehumanization of women. In the play, women are reduced to sex objects by the winning army.
Student assistant director Frances Mylet said that the women are “treated as loot,” and that in the play Andromache, the wife of Trojan hero Hector, “arrives with her son on a baggage wagon, as if she is just another piece of the soldiers’ plunder. She then says, ‘My son and I, we are loot, soldiers’ plunder.’”
Objectification is not a new concept, nor is it confined to a single tragic event in history. Many times throughout the course of history, particularly the history of war, women and children have been treated as spoils that were divided amongst the winners. The story’s retelling shows that in war, victors slaughter the men of the losing side, and kidnap and sell the losing side’s women and children. “Women of Troy” explores this side of war from the female perspectives. For instance, Cassandra, the prophetess was cursed to always have truthful visions of the future that will never be believed, and Hecuba, the queen of the doomed city of Troy, among others. Helen, the reason both sides fought this war, receives treatment that seems equivalent to a grand prize than that of a person. However, in spite of the painful fates that they will be forced to endure, the Trojan women show a remarkable amount of resilience in the face of tragedy, refusing to merely go along with what they are being forced into.
“I think the theme that we really tried hard to bring across in this play, and it sounds counterintuitive, is hope in the face of despair,” said Frances Bringloe, sophomore and member of the chorus.
For many people, what happens in wars is a faraway concept—something that people hear about on the news or through word-of-mouth—and actual understanding is something else entirely. The play is one medium for understanding. Rosa Joshi noted that there are Syrian women who are performing the play “as a way of dealing with what they’ve gone through [during the Syrian conflicts]” and it is relatable to the women who have been forced to leave their homes in fear of persecution, pain and death. The premise dictates that a happy ending is not guaranteed, but that is not what is important. The women’s struggles drive the play forward, what moves the emotions of the characters and the audience, and the women’s fight for survival is what makes “Women of Troy” a tragic and timely piece. An impressive feat for a play written in 415 B.C.
“Women of Troy” opened on May 5 at the Lee Center for the Arts and will run until May 15.
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