So many Elektras by Chip Rodgers

Posted on April 11, 2013 by Haymaker

In the lead up to our upcoming draft performances, we’ve asked a few of our friends and collaborators to share their thoughts about Elektra. We hope to see you on April 22 and 23: http://elektraprocess.eventbrite.com/

About a year ago, when I began to work on a new version of Elektra, I had no idea Haymaker had set out to do the same thing. I currently live in New York, working as a director and designer, and I am beginning to dabble at playwriting. Having grown up in Raleigh, I try to keep some connection to theater in the Triangle, and I decided to workshop this version of Elektra at Meredith College.  The performances were scheduled one week before Haymaker’s draft performance at UNC. There were, on the surface, a lot of similarities between these works. It was spooky and weird to say the least.

A couple of months ago, however, Haymaker and I had a Skype session to talk about our versions of the play, and found just how different they actually were from each other.

To me, Elektra is interesting as a character because of her inaction. For an entire play, we watch the central character do nothing. Why do we want to watch someone who does nothing? Why do we care? What makes her story interesting – not to mention tragic? This mammoth task of creating a character who is lethargic, self-conscious, and pitiful but also watchable is what drew me into the play.  She puts herself down. She stops herself. Her self-awareness, her judgment, and her nostalgia for what might have been takes up so much of her time, that she cannot do anything else.

When writing the play, I faced my own demons and self-doubts. I procrastinated and edited myself before the play was even on paper. I laid in my bed one night, after throwing out a complete draft and thought to myself “I’m not good enough!”. I then learned just why I related to this character. She is that little voice of judgment that lives in all of us. Just like Elektra, we all know what it is like to walk around putting ourselves down. We know too well these feelings of procrastination. We know what it’s like to go on Facebook, to see our distant friends and relatives, and to compare and judge ourselves all too harshly with the outside world. I quickly learned that a character that does “nothing” can actually be doing hundreds of things throughout the entire play, all of them relatable.

Haymaker, in my  understanding of it, has come at this inaction from a different angle. What is it like for us, as an audience, to do nothing while we watch violent atrocities onstage? How are we, the spectators, responsible for what is happening in front of us? How can we claim the actions of the characters onstage as our own? In this version, the audience is literally forced to put themselves into the violence of the play. With all of the talk of gun control due to the overwhelming number of recent tragic shootings, being forced to deal with violence in the theater is eerily relevant. By confronting the audience with actual weaponry, chopping wood with an axe to demonstrate that an actor onstage could physically kill the other actors in front of us, we are forced to deal with a reality we are not often asked to deal with in the theater.

Yet somehow, I believe that both our versions of this classic may be dealing with a similar issue. For me, it is the violence of emotional self-destruction, and for Emily, Dan, and Akiva it may be a more immediate violence. But it is not the violence that makes this play truly tragic.  It is not a play about violence. It is a play about the possibility, somehow, that this violence and self-destruction doesn’t have to happen. And, to me, that’s the tragedy.

Come to Meredith College Studio Theater on Saturday, April 13th at 7pm, and hear us talk about this and other issues surrounding creating our own work, before a showing of Elektra at 8pm.  Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for students and seniors, and can be reserved at boxofficeatmeredithdotedu  (boxofficeatmeredithdotedu)  . The show at Meredith runs tonight until Sunday. Make sure to check it out before the performances of Haymaker’s Elektra on April 22nd and 23rd at Swain Hall.

Chip Rodgers currently lives in NYC, working as a director and sound designer for theater. He’s good people. See the stuff he’s done here: http://chip-rodgers.com/.