A Collision with Euripides

April 11, 2013—The area premiere of Trojan Barbie: A Car-Crash Encounter with Euripides’ “Trojan Women” by the Department of Performing Arts will run April 11–20, 2013.

Trojan Barbie is written by Assistant Professor Christine Evans, the department’s newest faculty member, and directed by Associate Professor Maya Roth. The idea for the play began when Evans was asked to write an adaptation of Trojan Women. “I wanted to write a play that had this feeling of post-modern disconnection of war as well as honoring the ancient play and [including] this focus of what happens to women in war,” Evans explained.

Trojan Barbie follows doll-repair expert Lotte Jones on a singles trip to modern-day Troy, where she is flung into an ancient prison camp with the Trojan women. While desperately trying to contact the British Embassy, Jones encounters Hecuba, a young Iraqi performance artist, Helen of Troy, and a war-weary U.S. solider. “It’s a deep conversation with Euripides’ Trojan Women and Hecuba,” Roth explained.

Roth, who is also the chair of the performing arts department, became enthralled with the play after it won the 2007 Jane Chambers Playwriting Award. “It’s post-modern in the best of ways, colliding worlds, cultures, and perspectives,” Roth said. “I love that it does not map the Middle Eastern culture as being primitive. It’s a responsible complex understanding of cultural encounters, collisions, and complicated international concerns,” she continued.

Although Evans has addressed the aftermath of war in many works, each play comes from a different inspiration. For Trojan Barbie, Evans was inspired by a photograph of a doll hospital. “[The image] really captured for me this sense of modernity and the ancient times that I wanted to create because the pictures of broken dolls really looked like images from war photography,” Evans explained. Through the main character’s experience with the Trojan women, the play examines the “ancient recurring experience of war through a modern lens,” Evans said.

As a counter of the war dead, Euripides was a playwright intimately familiar with the aftermath of war. “Part of what this play deals with is honoring the dead and honoring the atrocities that happen on all sides—that you must account for the human toll and loss,” Roth said.

But Euripides’ plays also recount the untold stories of war. “One of the things I particularly love about his work is that he was not afraid to look at the world from the view of the underdog,” Evans said. “He wrote about the experience of women in war and of slaves, while writing from inside an imperial society,” she continued.

In Trojan Barbie, Evans also explores war in the age of global media. While a tourist lost in Troy garners media attention, the daily struggles of the civilian women in the camp go largely unnoticed. “There’s something about the unacknowledged in the known that makes me want to write about it,” Evans said.

According to Roth, the Georgetown production highlights the young men, women, and families affected by war. “When a professional theater does [Trojan Barbie], they tend to age up,” Roth said, referring to casting older actors in younger roles. Georgetown’s cast emphasizes the age group most affected by current wars, which Roth believes makes the production “an important realization of this play,” Roth continued.

With Evans now at Georgetown, students in Trojan Barbie had the unique opportunity to work directly with the playwright. “It is so rare [for] an actor to be able to ask questions about character choices in the script, directly to the author of the play,” cast member Benjamin Prout (C’15) said. Evans spoke with the cast about her inspirations while writing and encouraged students’ creative interpretations. “The presence of the playwright during rehearsal provided yet another point of reference for the cast when making acting choices,” he continued.

Students also experience an important, and rare, model of theater production: a playwright working directly with the cast and director. “It’s such a gift to have her here, partly for the students,” Roth said. “Having the playwright involved in the collaborative model of making theater is something we care about here.”

—Elizabeth Wilson