"Medea Unleashed" actor & co-director Ian Heath shares his thoughts on the daunting task of bringing Euripides' play into the 21st century.
Ian Heath has appeared in numerous productions in the greater Los Angeles Area, including “Urban Death” at Zombie Joe's Underground, “Wicked Lit” with Unbound Productions, “Delusion” with Thirteenth Floor, and various works with the Immersive Art Collective at its DTLA venue, the Count's Den. He is co-directing and acting in the production of “Medea Unleashed.”
When Elif Savas initially approached me to both act in and help direct “Medea Unleashed,” a little part of me panicked. But as I read through the script, I got a better idea of what I was signing up for.
That’s when I really panicked.
This, in many ways, is a massive undertaking. “Medea Unleashed” will be the first traditional stage play put up by the Immersive Art Collective, a collaboration of 7 actors, 2 directors, and 3 designers, and draws deliciously dark comedy out of a play about a woman killing her children.
Despite the many intricate and daring productions I’ve worked on with IAC, “Medea Unleashed” still seemed – to me, at least – a task of Herculean proportions.
However, this panic eventually morphed into pure excitement. Elif is, and always had been, one of my favorite collaborators. We’ve shared the stage on countless occasions, directed each other in various projects, and created some weird, weird art together. Buoyed by her deep understanding of Euripides’ original play, Elif proved to be my ferrywoman on the River Styx as she skillfully traversed the challenges of reimagining it for a contemporary audience.
I’m loath to give too much away (and it is genuinely a good sign when your production of a two-millennium old play has elements that can actually be given away), but Elif has drawn out some incredibly salient themes that always lurked under the surface of Euripides’ tragedy. In many productions, Medea’s power and agency become footnotes to the wrongs she has suffered and the acts she commits. We get the chance to not only dive deeper into her as a more three-dimensional human being, but into the cause and morality of her actions when viewed in the context of a society so catered towards the (very specific sect of) powerful that everyone else is left to the wayside.
Despite the countless analyses and iterations of “Medea” throughout the centuries, Elif still managed to wring from it a new revelation of the human condition. What a stroke!
Perhaps it’s an offense to the divine spark that inspired Euripides, an effrontery to one of the great Gods of Theatre, but Elif’s vision was the sort of theft of fire I could get behind.
Add on stage, light, sound, and video design being shared by Francesca Bifulco, Alex Schetter, and Rachel Leah Adams, three of the most talented artists I know, and it was hard to not to confront this challenge with Olympian amusement. It’s always a good sign when working with a cast absolutely packed with talent is the cherry on top of an already luxurious sundae.
And now, I beg you; don’t let me ramble anymore. Spare yourselves. Go see this marvel we’ve been working on with your own eyes.