Euripides Helen at the Getty Villa

Left to right: Jayme Lake (Cherry), Arsene Delay (Cleo), Rachel Sorsa (Helen), and Melody Butiu (Lady). Photo: Craig Schwartz

For over a year I’ve had the pleasure of working as a dramaturge with Nick Salamone, the playwright of this year’s Villa outdoor theater production of Euripides’ Helen. During rehearsals this summer I got together with Nick and director Jon Lawrence Rivera of Playwrights’ Arena to talk about how they approached developing a Los Angeles-based Hollywood version of Euripides’ rarely performed “non-tragedy.” In the video below, we reflect on the process and on Euripides’ complex character.

The magical setting of the Getty Villa’s outdoor theater and the powerful imagery of legendary Hollywood icons combine to tell the melodramatic story of the virtuous Helen. This Helen has been whisked to the island of Pharos by Hermes and replaced at the Trojan War by an identical phantom fashioned by a rancorous Hera. Seventeen years later and at the end of her wits, Helen is reunited with her husband Menelaos in an ancient musical escape narrative. First presented in the Theater of Dionysos in Athens in 412 B.C., Euripides’ play receives a thoroughly original adaptation that is still faithful to the classical text, and reveals for a new audience the “shockingly contemporary” attitudes of Euripides.

Helen plays tonight, tomorrow, and next weekend; the final performance is Saturday, September 29.