In ‘Troy Women,’ turning tragedy to triumph

September 30, 2008

As Maggie Powell ’11 sees it, “Troy Women,” McDaniel College Theatre’s latest production, is about finding strength in weakness, discovering pride amid the agony of defeat, and maintaining hope in the midst of utter despair.

“It’s about finding those places where you can still hold your head up high,” said Powell, who plays the role of Hecuba, Queen of Troy, during a recent break from rehearsal.

“Troy Women,” a modern poetic adaptation of Greek playwright Euripides’ “The Trojan Women,” tells the story of the women of Troy after the city’s fall, and how they were affected by the devastation of war.

History always remembers the winners, said Chris Molloy ’10, who plays the role of a Greek soldier.

“This story is unique because it is about the other side – the victim’s side,” Molloy said. “This is about losing everything.”

And in this case, it is the women of Troy who have lost it all – their husbands, their livelihoods, their senses of security. But they band together to pick up the pieces of their war-torn lives.

“So often we don’t hear the woman’s side of the war story,” said Elizabeth van den Berg, associate professor of theatre arts at McDaniel College. “Wars are taught to us in numbers, in dates, in facts and figures. Perhaps the women’s side is too painful to address. It’s too difficult, too controversial.”

With the United States in the throes of its own years-long war in Iraq, van den Berg said she hopes audience members will think long and hard about “what war does to people.”

For this production, van den Berg directs about 20 McDaniel students – and about as many working backstage – as they endeavor to portray the female perspective on the ravages of war.

The play has been modernized in several ways. For instance, because historians have located the ancient ruins of Troy in modern Turkey, the set is designed with an Islamic touch (though technically the play is not set in a specific vicinity).

In addition, the cast will don costumes that are influenced by contemporary Middle Eastern styles. And the language has been updated. In “Troy Women,” Yale Drama School graduate Karen Hartman’s adaptation takes the words of Euripides’ play, which premiered in 415 B.C., and puts them in a modern context.

“Ms. Hartman’s adaptation of Euripides’ ‘Trojan Women’ allows us a glimpse into the woman perspective – anger, love, fear, and yes, hope,” van den Berg said.

“Troy Women,” which is open to the public, shows at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-4 in WMC Alumni Hall. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Box office: 410-857-2448.