Themes of individualism and feminism are explored in “Helen,” an adaptation of a historical play opening Feb. 19 at Willamette University.
The play tells the story of Helen of Troy, daughter of Zeus and Leda in Greek mythology. Only instead of Helen remaining helpless as she waits for her suitor, this production — by Ellen McLaughlin — suggests the gods made a replicate of Helen and put the copy in Troy. In doing so, Helen is forced to stay in an Egyptian hotel room through the entire Trojan War.
“The story is about Helen’s struggle to find her own voice and individuality — even through the constant stereotypes that people place on Helen and her beauty,” says Guest Director Michelle Seaton. “It’s about seeing past the façade of physical appearance and perceptions and believing in your voice and yourself.”
This adaption is based on the play originally produced in 412 BC by the classical Greek tragedian, Euripides. Though the play was written centuries ago, Seaton says many of the lessons still ring true today, in particular, the societal expectations Helen faced and the expectations set for young women.
“My hope as a director is to always illuminate humanity,” Seaton says. “I just want people to walk away thinking about the show and its messages — the pressure we put on our young women to strive for perfection and to always look beautiful.
“Especially because our world is so media driven in this day and age, I hope this production will at least shed some light on the harsh judgments that we as a society place on women and their images.”
As a female in a male-dominated industry, Seaton says she related to the themes of the play and is thrilled with the connection students have with it as well.
“I did a workshop with Willamette theatre students a couple of years ago and was so impressed with their dedication, as well as their insightful remarks,” she says. “Theatre can be such a harsh struggle, but if you know yourself and your truth, it makes the journey easier and more enjoyable. My hope is to inspire these young people to discover, and allow them to wonder.”
“Helen” is showing in the Willamette University Pelton Theatre Feb. 20 through 28, with a preview performance Feb. 19. Thursday through Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m., and matinees begin at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 and 28.
General-admission tickets for the preview performance cost $8, the same as all tickets for students and seniors 65 and older. Matinees are $10, and evening performances are $12.
Tickets may be purchased at the door, by calling the WU Theatre Box Office at 503-370-6221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are also available at www.boxofficetickets.com and at Travel Salem, 181 High St., 503-581-4325 ext. 21.