By Quinn Wilson
Fontbonne University’s theatre department premiered its final production of the academic year with its own adaptation of “The Trojan Women,” a classic Greek tragedy by Euripides. This production portrayed the events that followed the Trojan war. Veteran director Deanna Jent had an image and took the original storyline from “The Trojan Women” and paralleled the tragedies in Troy to more contemporary events such as the Bosian Genocide and the Battle of Aleppo.
The production hit the stage in the Mustard Seed Theatre on a cool Early-March evening. With a fair opening night crowd on hand, the audience was essentially packed on top of one another just before the stage. The demographics of the audience ranged from fellow Fontbonne University students, family members and friends of the performers. When asked about her thoughts on the contemporary adaptations to the production, audience member and Fontbonne sophomore student Paige Stamps said, “I thought it was really interesting because the stories fit together so well.”
Following the defeat of the city Troy, the Trojan women and children are left behind and forced into slavery subsequently to the deaths of their fathers and husbands. The grim realities of defeat are portrayed in this storyline.
The production began by running through the circumstances the women and children of Troy would have faced in a more ancient time period. There were many heavy emotions of grief and fear being portrayed on stage. Actress Taylor Ortsheid delivered a very powerful soliloquy in the climax of raw emotion from the evening.
The cast changed the contextual perspective by introducing the audience to the background of the Bosnian genocide and how it directly related to the plotline in “The Trojan Women.” The cast repeated this action later on in the performance to switch to the context of the Battle of Aleppo which ended in late 2016. Near the end of the performance, the cast switched the context even more contemporary as it shifted its focus to the vandalization of the local St. Louis Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in February 2017.
These modern adaptations stem directly from the production’s director Deanna Jent. Jent has been teaching and directing shows at Fontbonne University since 1995. In addition to her university productions, she has directed 46 shows at 10 different professional theatres in St. Louis.
Jent explained her first exposure to “The Trojan Women” while in college and that it caught her attention from her first time seeing it. She decided she wanted the Fontbonne University theater department to put on a modern adaptation of the production last year, yet the production developed even well into 2017 just before its premiere.
With the ongoing tragedies in Aleppo, Jent wanted to incorporate that piece of contemporary history into the production in addition to the Bosnian Genocide. Not much more than a month away from “The Trojan Women’s” opening night, tragedy struck St. Louis as a nearby Jewish cemetery was horridly vandalized and gained national media attention. Jent decided to incorporate this unfortunate event into the production as more proof that history is always repeating itself.
During the rehearsal period of “The Trojan Women” Deanna Jent experienced her own personal tragedy. Like the women portrayed in the production, Jent too lost her husband. She explained how she felt a strong connection to Euripides’ tragedy during this period and her “treasured” theatre department at Fontbonne helped make this production a very special time period for her.
When asked whether she finds more satisfaction directing theatre at the college level or the professional level, she responded without a doubt in her mind, “College.”
Quinn Wilson is the News Editor and a contributor to Fontbonne University’s Griffin Roar.