, Salem, MA


October 18, 2012

Theater of extremes

'Big Love' adapts Aeschylus for a modern audience at Salem State


This range of feeling points to “the largeness that humanity can encapsulate,” Amory said, and helps make ancient theater popular with her drama students and with audiences today.

Stories written by contemporary playwrights are, by contrast, often intimate, Amory said, exploring the inner lives and psychological motivations of a few characters, within a narrow range of experience.

“Some of the more popular writing isn’t leading with major issues, in a way that perhaps Tony Kushner dealt with 20 years ago in ‘Angels in America,’” she said. “Now there’s this swing around to looking at some of the larger stories and mythology.”

By allowing students to tap into larger emotions and meaningful themes, she believes, classical drama helps them channel their energies and enlarge their sense of self.

“I find they soak it up,” she said. “I think it’s the universality of the stories and archetypal characters. There’s a longing for a connection to something larger and more universal.”

Those connections aren’t available, for the young especially, in the mainstream media culture.

“This generation — they find it hard to find their voice. They’re all about updating their status in the third person, but expressing their feelings in their own voice is difficult. The way it’s set up on Facebook, it’s not an ‘I’ statement.”

Other aspects of the play, beginning with its language, have been adapted to make Aeschylus’ ancient script more relevant to contemporary audiences.

“It’s a very contemporary adaptation, very loosely adapted,” Amory said. “Mee’s taken the original mythology and created a contemporary, postmodern version of the story.”

Just as he has re-created the original story, Mee encourages theater companies to make their own adaptations of his script. But Amory feels there’s a genius to what he’s written that she wanted to preserve.

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