Electra to open Friday at The Lantern Theatre

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published October 19, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

The Conway Community Arts Association and The Lantern Theatre will present the Greek tragedy Electra. Cast members include, from left, Darby Burdine, who is the sole member of the chorus; Dana Kordsmeier, who portrays Electra; Jazz Summers, who plays Electra’s mother, Clytemnestra; and Len Schlientz, who plays the servant.

CONWAY — The Conway Community Arts Association and The Lantern Theatre will present the Greek tragedy Electra. Adapted and directed locally by Shua Miller of Conway, this frightening story is being presented just in time for Halloween.

Electra will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Lantern Theatre, 1021 Van Ronkle St.in downtown Conway.

Additional showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and again Oct. 27 and 28 and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Oct. 29.

The play tells the tale of Electra and the vengeance she and her brother, Orestres, seek after their father, Agamemnon, is killed by their mother, Clytemnestra, and stepfather, Aegisthus.

“In this bloody Greek tragedy, we ask, ‘What is the meaning of family? What is the price of loyalty? Will Electra avenge the death of her father if it means killing her mother?’” Miller asked.

“Electra was written by Sophocles in about 410 BC. Our version is an adaptation of a translation done by Lewis

Campbell in 1906 and presented in verse,” Miller said.

“The plot is the same; the characters are the same. We’ve just pared it down. We’ve added some spooky elements to it just in time for Halloween,” he said.

“Our goal is to keep the beautiful language and make it accessible to everybody, … but we have added a lot of special effects,” Miller said. “After all, spectacle is an element of drama.

“Plus, it features an original score by Paul Bowling and an original song by Darby Burdine, [both veteran actors at The Lantern]. You don’t have to be an English major to enjoy this show, which I would rate as PG-13.”

Miller, who is a past president of the CCAA Board of Directors and its current treasurer, said the story “revolves around Electra, who knows her father was killed by her mother and her stepfather. She longs for revenge and the return of her brother, Orestes, to help her get revenge.”

Miller said there are several “myths” as to why Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon, adding with a smile, “It’s a soap opera of another time.”

Miller said he has set the play in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s and ’40s in Oklahoma.

The cast includes the following:

• Dana Kordsmeier of Conway plays Electra.

“This is the first time I have ever appeared in a Greek tragedy,” she said. “Shua has done an amazing job of adapting it. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Kordsmeier, who has appeared in several plays at The Lantern, is a graduate of Conway High School and Hendrix College and is a dental hygienist in Little Rock.

• Max Churchwell appears as Electra’s brother, Orestes.

“This is a big part for me,” Churchwell said. “It’s been a little tough. I have never had the opportunity to do a play that is dark and serious; I’ve usually been in comedies. But the way Shua has adapted it, it flows together smoothly and is easy to understand.”

Churchwell is a graduate of Greenbrier High School and a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where he is studying creative writing. He said he plans to switch his major to theater.

• Alisa Harral of Enola portrays Electra’s sister, Chrysothemis. Harral is making her acting debut at The Lantern, although she was a member of the crew in July for The Importance of Being Earnest. She teaches at Mount Vernon-Enola High School.

• Darby Burdine is the sole member of the chorus. Burdine sings an original song, “Electra’s Lament,” in the play. Burdine said she took a lot of words that Miller had cut from the play and used them in the song.

“This is the first time I have ever been in a Greek tragedy, although I have taught them,” she said. Burdine has a master’s degree in English from UCA and teaches drama at Bigelow High School. She is a veteran actor at The Lantern Theatre and is a member of the CCAA Board of Directors.

• Jazz Summers of Conway plays Electra’s mother, Clytemnestra.

Summers is making her acting debut in this production, although she was involved in theater at Mills High School in Little Rock.

“I was a theater kid,” she said. “I attended summer camps in high school, and we would always present a musical like Guys and Dolls at the end.”

Summers is a recent graduate of UCA with a degree in creative writing.

• Len Schlientz of Conway plays the servant.

“The language in this play is very nice,” said Schlientz, who is a veteran actor of more than 50 years. “It’s just beautiful. It’s accessible … it flows. It’s really a nice piece.

“Oddly enough, the very first play I did on the university level in 1964 was Medea, which is also a Greek tragedy. I’ve always liked Greek tragedies.”

Schlientz works part time for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in the Standardized Patient Program, in which he portrays patients with certain symptoms or illnesses so medical students can “practice” their skills. He is a member of the CCAA Board of Directors.

• Jeff Ward of Conway portrays Electra’s stepfather, Aegisthus.

Ward is a UCA graduate with a degree in theater. He has been in several productions at The Lantern, both as an actor and director. He is vice president of the CCAA Board of Directors.

Members of the crew include Trent Reese of Conway, president of the CCAA Board of Directors, as the costumer;

Jeannie Denniston of Conway, props master; Ike Farrell, makeup; Shane Atkinson of Morrilton,

CCAA board member; Josh Anderson of Little Rock, special effects; Alex Garrett of Conway and a student at Hendrix College,

stage manager; and Graydon Carter, who is also a student at Hendrix, dramaturge.

Tickets to Electra are $15 and can be purchased online at conwayarts.org or thelanterntheatre.com or by emailing info@thelanterntheatre.com.