By Elijah Dennison
From March 27 – 31, the St. Petersburg College (SPC) Theater opened its doors to guests for Medea, a Greek tragedy of murderous jealousy and revenge. The event was located in the Arts and Auditorium building on the Clearwater campus and performances began at 7:30 p.m. March 27 – 30 and at 2:00 p.m. March 30 – 31. An open dress rehearsal was also held on March 26 at 7:30 p.m., a day before opening night. The production was brilliantly directed by Betty-Jane Parks, who had also previously directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream for SPC in 2017.
On opening night, people packed into the ominous candle-lit Arts Auditorium filled with anticipation for Euripides’ tale of vengeance and betrayal. Scott Cooper was the set designer for Medea and has been the head of SPC’s Theater Department for ten years. He also played the role of Creon in the play. Cooper gave a few opening remarks, and then, shortly afterwards, descended from the stage. The tragic story of Jason and Medea began. No more than a few seconds later did all eighteen actors appear before the audience one by one on stage, caught in a vicious cycle and cursed for eternity all thanks to Medea’s murderous actions. Those familiar with Euripides’ work may know that Medea ended up relatively unscathed and headed to Athens for refuge in the Greek tragedy. However, Betty-Jane Parks had a different idea in mind with her production. Director Parks’ response when asked her favorite part of the play: “The messenger’s speech all the way to the end because we see the consequences of (Medea’s) actions, and they’re horrifying.” She continues to say up to that point the audience sides with Medea until they witness her murdering the princess and Creon, along with her own children, to cause Medea’s former husband Jason unbearable pain for betraying her. Parks’ unique addition to the story has Medea trapped in a time loop, reliving the agony for all eternity as opposed to her “winning” in the end.
Rebekah Stevenson played the role of Medea, and her portrayal was everything I envisioned in that character and more. The second Rebekah walked onto the stage, she commanded attention with her poise and verbal prowess. JD Stauffer, who brilliantly played the role of Jason, is thrilled to be a part of SPC’s production for a third time. He says that Jason was an interesting character to prepare for, and he likes how confident his character is despite the fact that, ultimately, his confidence becomes his undoing. Everyone’s performance was phenomenal, and each member of the cast and crew should feel proud of themselves for the roles they played in successfully bringing one of Euripides’ most famous pieces of literature to life. Don’t just take my word for it, though. One of the enthusiastic members of the audience, Qai, said that the actors were spectacular. He was inspired by how much the actors go through to prepare for their roles and deliver them on stage. He also believed they were very sincere with their acting for Medea and that they brought a lot of power to their performances. Brandy, who was not only an audience member but mother to one of the performers, loved the play and encourages people to take the time to compare the differences and similarities between ancient and modern literature to see how issues of that time period still impact society today.
I asked Scott Cooper what the theater’s main purpose is and how events like MEDEA help contribute to SPC and its students. He explains, “The theater’s purpose is to help with community engagement (bring new people on the campus) and to help students understand the importance of the arts (and theater). Events like MEDEA help with this by having Humanities classes read and then get to actually see the story on stage (the way it was meant to be told). I think this can be a big help to faculty and students.”
The event ended in a round of applause from the audience and a final bow from all of the actors. The cast then called up Betty-Jane Parks and thanked her for all of her hard work and dedication. Afterwards, the actors were eager to greet their friends and family who were there to support their performance. It was an honor to talk to all of these hard-working people, and it was pleasure to witness this incredible production.