Yum Yiu ‘23
I went to watch the last showing of Iphigenia last Sunday, which was amazingly done. To my surprise, I was able to see the show in a completely different light thanks to my directing class. During the show, I was actively observing it rather than passively watching it. When you watch a show passively, your brain is taking a break. Just like when you put on a show on Netflix on a Saturday night, most of the time, we watch shows to relax. There is nothing wrong with watching a show with the purpose of relaxing, especially when you are watching your favorite sit-com for the 10th time. However, there is an opportunity cost to it. When your brain is turned off, the only thing you take in from a show is the plot (and sometimes you miss that too). There are actually so many aspects to a show that make it incredibly interesting. One of the things that caught my attention during the show was detachable gates in the second part of the show.
To some modern audiences, the plays from older times are not always interesting; they much prefer the modern plays. There are a lot of reasons for this preference. One of them is the lack of relevance. They are more willing to explore the new ideas that come along with the new plays. Relevance to current affairs seems to be crucial to these active observers, as they are more interested in the present than the past. Nonetheless, Iphigenia is not one of those plays. Despite being older, the play talks about relevant themes, such as love and sacrifice, that are timeless and can be discussed regardless of the context. Interestingly, Professor Isser, the director of the play, makes a creative choice of modernizing the costumes. The costumes of the protagonist, Iphigenia, and her bridesmaids are distinctly mid-20th century. When they enter the scene, the music and their dances match with their costumes. I would have not known the play was set in the 1950s, if the show didn’t start with military soldiers with distinct modern military uniforms. At first glance, the setting of the play seems messy and incoherent, but I think there is more to these artistic choices.
A symbol only can be a symbol if its meaning is agreed upon and implicitly accepted among the audience. For instance, a crown is usually seen as the symbol for royalty and power. Depending on the context, the meaning may change. However, for other symbols, such as a raincoat, the audience will not have a consensus on its meaning unless the context is given. Professor Isser has chosen costumes that will let the audience learn about certain traits of the characters in the fastest way. For example, anyone who lives in the modern world will get the idea of wars and soldiers without any historical knowledge about ancient Greece. And for the bridesmaids, everything about them screams celebration and excitement. It is nearly impossible to get any other ideas before getting these. These choices are deliberate and effective in their own ways.
Sometimes, the odd choice is the best choice. I think every good director designs their pieces with so much thought and creativity, that they will not let any part of it go to waste. Their intentions might not be obvious at first, but with some careful examination, their intentions will be clear as day.
Image courtesy of The College of the Holy Cross Twitter
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