The Penelopiad, staged in Tivat, Montenegro.
Margaret Atwood's stage version of her novel The Penelopiad has returned to its Mediterranean roots.
Premiered in England and later presented locally by Nightwood Theatre, the play is currently part of the Purgatorio Festival in Tivat, Montenegro, a co-production between Canada's April Productions and the Tivat Cultural Centre.
The script, like the novel (both have been translated by Serbian writer Bojana Vujin), recounts Odysseus's travels around the Mediterranean after the Trojan War. Unlike the well-known Homeric version, Atwood tells the story from the viewpoint of his faithful wife, Penelope.
The Canadian contingent at the festival includes Atwood, director Dragana Varagic, set designer Kathleen Irwin, composer Aleksandar Gajic, project administrator Sheila Sky and three musicians. The Montenegro team is made up of the all-female cast, costume designer and lighting designer.
The Purgatorio Festival traditionally focuses on works of artists from the Mediterranean or works with Mediterranean themes. This year the programming, which includes a concert and art exhibition by Dusan Petricic, has a Canadian slant.
Varagic, who starred in two fine productions of The Vindication Of Senyora Clito Mestres (also inspired by Greek myth), spent a dozen years at Belgrade's National Theatre; since her move to Canada, she has worked on introducing Canadian plays and artists to theatre people in the region, formerly part of Yugoslavia.
"We are curious to see how a Mediterranean audience sees our new Canadian play, especially since it is based on myths from the area," says Varagic, artistic director of April Productions.
"Our production is different from the other versions Canadian audiences have seen, the staging by England's Royal Shakespeare Company and Ottawa's National Arts Centre, and the later Nightwood version. In our staging, seven women play both Penelope's maids (the tale's victims) and their executioners. We're exploring how the roles echo each other, just as the present echoes the past and looks to the future."
Varagic hopes to bring her production, presented in Montenegro with the support of the Canada Council International Program, to Canada.
Ryerson goes Greek
The Penelopiad isn't the only piece of Canadian theatre in the Mediterranean this summer.
At the beginning of July, the Ryerson University Theatre School hosted an international conference in Hydra, Greece, called Women And War, which linked artistic creation and performance with mental health research.
School chair Peggy Shannon and Candice Monson, director of clinical training in psychology at Ryerson, brought 34 Ryerson undergrad and grad students for a month of performances, workshops and the conference itself, which used classical Greek plays to explore the science behind post-traumatic stress disorder.
As part of the conference, Shannon directed three plays - Iphigenia In Aulis, Electra and Ajax - in modern adaptations by Judith Thompson, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Velina Hasu Houston. All three productions later toured Greece.
Women get radical
Next October, New Harlem Productions and Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company present the premiere of Métis playwright Keith Barker's The Hours That Remain, first in Saskatoon and then Toronto.
As a fundraiser and in the spirit of the play, which follows a determined woman's attempts to find out about the disappearance of her sister five years ago, the companies hold a multidisciplinary evening of music and visual art on Friday (August 3), featuring Aqua, Pamela Gilmartin, Gein Wong and hip-hop/spoken word artist Belladonna & the Awakening.
As an added treat, Native Earth artistic director Tara Beagan takes centre stage, accompanied by Henry Adam Svec.
Feast on FringeKids
Still looking for some Fringe hits?
Theatre Direct, in partnership with the Fringe of Toronto, remounts three hits from last month's festival aimed at young audiences and their parents.
The trio of shows, Something From Nothing, The Tempest - A Puppet Epic and Tick, run each day from Tuesday (August 7) through August 12 at the Artscape Wychwood Barns.