Playwright and Director Emilio Williams and star Lisa Hodsoll reveal why Medea is such an enduring character.
After a sold-out opening weekend, filled with laughter, screams and a standing ovation, the hour long, one woman-show, “Medea’s Got Some Issues” returns next week to Stage773.
Thursday March 3rd will be a special “Ladies Night”. Join us for a defense of the most famous abandoned woman in history, the original founder of the “First Wives Club”. You can buy $20.00 tickets here. The show runs from 7:30pm to 8:30pm.
The award-winning farce is a surprising mix of high brow and low brow wickedness and has received rave reviews around the globe.
Celia Wenz in the The Washington Post called it “A killer comedy…witty…hilarious”.
Rachel Kurzies in the Washington City Paper said: “Seeing “Medea’s Got Some Issues” is a little like going to brunch with your craziest friend (…) Despite how horrifying some of her justifications are, there is a centrifugal force to each word. She is gushing in a manner that compels you to keep watching and keep laughing. …clever and devastatingly funny.”
The Washington Post recently joined the universal critical acclaimed for this one-woman rollercoaster ride. In New York, it won best international show at United Solo Festival (Off Broadway).
Join us for Chicago’s opening weekend of “Medea’s Got Some Issues”: Thursday 25th, Friday 26th or Saturday 27th at 7:30pm at Stage773.
The show is 60 minutes long.
Lisa Hodsoll came from Washington DC for this Chicago Premiere. She plays 8 roles, including Euripides’ Medea… she is now ready to take over Chicago.
Medea’s got some issues (and so do you)
by Paul Kubicki
Medea’s Got Some Issues is a bit of a Trojan Horse. Sure, its giddy, irreverent wit invites you to revel in schadenfreude at the suffering Medea caused. This won me over when I saw it work-shopped in 2012. But for me, the cryptic joke underpinning this vicious little play didn’t emerge for a while, and it’s more brutal than its clever trappings.
You see, Medea’s “issues” all stem from one primary problem: she is expected to embody everything, all at once. In one play Medea is a protagonist, a victim, and a mass murderer; she’s a radical, an icon, and an everywoman; she’s a foreigner and she’s Western cannon; she’s a duel between second and third wave feminism, and a misogynist cautionary tale; she’s a struggling actress, an archetypal diva, and a vicious critic; she’s a femme fatale and an old maid; she’s a sacred cow, an insufferable ham, and a tasteless butcher; she’s a snobby demigod who has been slumming it for a few thousand years, and she isn’t above begging.
Medea’s not all that easy to relate to, but come on, give her a break. That’s a lot for one woman to carry— just ask Hillary Clinton. It’s an unfair, absurd, and sometimes hilarious task.
And what happens to a character saddled with all of our cultural baggage? Medea tries to explain herself while juggling everything we’ve thrown at her since Euripides committed her to paper. She does her best to address all of our issues—the personal, the political, the particular, the universal. The joke is, she can’t. There’s no reconciliation. Sorry. This woman is a mess.
From there, any representative quality you thrust on her carries a grim conclusion. Perhaps Medea is the ultimate paradigm of the “feminine” and the radical “other,” as some of her proponents (apologists?) have claimed—is this what liberation looks like, then? Or maybe the joke is that we’re all Medea: fragmented, self-justifying shit-shows doomed to collapse under our cultural baggage. Or maybe I’m just making it all worse, asking her to carry another damn thing.
Not funny? Well, Medea’s more of a tragedy anyway. You know how it ends.
Paul Kubicki and Emilio Williams met when Paul attended a performance of Emilio’s “Smartphones, a pocket-size farce” at Trap Door Theatre in Chicago to write a review for Stage and Cinema. Later, Paul reviewed a workshop production of the US premiere production of “Medea’s Got Some Issues”. They became instant friends and collaborators. Paul will be in attendance at Stage773, Saturday February 27th. for this new production.
About Lisa Hodsoll
Lisa Hodsoll first performed Medea’s Got Some Issues as part of the 2014 DC Fringe Festival and is thrilled to perform it again in Emilio’s hometown. She recently performed the role of Marca Andronicus in Titus Andronicus with Chesapeake Shakespeare. Recent area credits include Maeve in Theater J’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures; Jane/Dot in Theater Alliance’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia (Helen Hayes nominated for best supporting actress); and Miller at Studio Theatre’s Edgar and Annabel. She is also currently acting in the independent film, Pipe Dream. Other movie credits: Buffurducken, Kosmopolites, and A Million Dollars and No Sense. Comedy/Improv (Chicago): Brouhaha, ComedySportz. Education: BA, University of Virginia.
During the hour long madcap comedy, Medea’s Got Some Issues, Lisa morphs into eight different characters including the title role of the sorceress Medea. Maura Junius begins her interview of Lisa focussing on that challenge.
MJ: You shift into several different characters during this play. What techniques do you use to make them distinct?
LH: For each character, I start with creating a specific image physically and psychologically in my mind. This leads to choices of distinct vocal quality, physical posture, center of gravity, specific gestures, and rhythm of speech.
MJ: Medea’s abandonment by Jason precipitates the drama at the core of the play. How did you believe Medea felt about Jason before this happened?
LH: She loved him beyond reason. After all, she betrayed her family and killed her brother for him before they even hit the shores of Corinth.
MJ: In preparing to play a most infamous villainess, what common ground do you explore in your preparation?
LH: First I never think of her as an infamous villainess but rather a person. I get to know her story – her background and the choices she has made and then I try to understand why such a person would do such a thing. I’m a detective ferreting through all the different accounts of her – what she says and what others say about her. Once I know her and understand her, then I can start trying to create her on stage.
MJ: What’s your favorite part of this play?
LH: I love it ALL!
MJ: You played Medea in this play in the DC Fringe Festival with a different director. How has having the playwright as the director change your experience and understanding of the play?
LH: Well there’s no struggle trying to figure out what the playwright meant as he is in the room with me and can tell me himself. So that’s a bonus! And there have been several things that Emilio was able to correct me on that I had thought was something completely different. It’s a great joy to work on a text with different directors regardless of whether the director is the playwright too. It becomes a new experience and a different piece and it’s exciting to experience that malleability and transformation – to have what you thought was one thing suddenly become completely different like going down a familiar road and suddenly realizing that there were things there you had never noticed before – never seen.
As playwright and director Emilio Williams prepares for the Chicago run of Medea’s Got Some Issues, he was interviewed by Maura Junius. Maura studied theater at St. Catherine University and in the MFA program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. As the Marketing Director for the Raven Foundation, she has led post-show discussions for the Chicago Theater Sweatshop and AstonRep Theater Company.
EW: Yes. Medea as written by Euripides is a feminist because she sheds light onto the double standards and the unfairness of Jason’s and Creon’s behavior.
Thanks to Gerard Jamroz for shooting our upcoming teaser trailer for “Medea’s Got Some Issues” at Stage773.
Award Winning Comedy “Medea’s Got Some Issues” opens Friday 26th at 7:30 at Stage773. Tickets here.
This is an exchange between Ana Marie Cox and the wonderful Samantha Bee on an interview in today’s New York Times Sunday Magazine:
AMC: Which do you think men find more threatening: a funny woman or an angry woman?
SB: I think angry women are so easy to dismiss as crazy or shrill. It’s harder to dismiss a funny woman.
AMC: A funny woman’s often an angry woman but she’s just…
SB: Harder to ignore.
This topic of the angry woman has been so much on the headlines lately, because of a perceived sexists double standard that allows Bernie Sanders to rage, and forces Hillary Clinton to tone down her message and smile as much as possible. An angry man is strong, and admirable, but an angry woman is a bitch and off-putting.
In the rehearsal room, for the new production of “Medea’s Got Some Issues”, Lisa and I have worked incessantly on tone. As we try to set up a reinterpretation of Euripide’s Medea as a one woman show, the biggest challenge was to find at every corner the right tone, in part to avoid the whole show to sound like a rant, in part to make sure the anger of Medea doesn’t kill the intended comedy. It’s a fine line to walk and one that requires so much discipline. Ultimately, we feel that in order for Medea to win the audience over, particularly on the first part of the show, she needed to use a detached humor to express her underlying anger.
One my favorite performances of Meryl Streep, in her current ham phase, is as the ruthless Miranda in “The Devil Wears Prada”. Streep famously chose not to raise her voice, making her character scarier in a perfect implementation of the old adage “less is more” (how I wish she would have taken some of that Mies van der Rohe’s medicine for her performance in the movie Doubt!).
On the other side, of the spectrum we have pure camp. An all-time gay favorite is Faye Dunaway on “Mommie Dearest”. While the movie is well known now for the over-the-top antics of Dunaway playing Joan Crawford, the actress owns her madness to a level that is both admirable and disarming. You just can’t keep your eyes off her, particularly when she becomes unintentionally funny.
Any human can benefit tremendously from redirecting anger with humor.
At the core of gay liberation, in the 20th century, was the use of humor to subvert gender roles and torpedo the status quo and its power (Ludlam, Waters, and Almodovar understood like nobody the infinite potential of camp as a political weapon).
Some exceptional women have also perfected that weapon as a craft: and there you have the history of comediennes as a testament to the power to make powerful social and political points, through the use of irony, sarcasm, and parody. This is how and why it’s so hard to ignore a Dorothy Parker, a young Joan Rivers, a Madeline Kahn, a Divine, or nowadays a Tina Fey or Amy Schumer.
Oscar Wilde said: “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.”
For me, that’s the ultimate challenge, at hand, as a theater maker: how to create relevance through humor, how to be silly without ever being stupid.
This is the poster for the 4th Production of Medea’s Got Some Issues
I met Lisa in September of 2013, in Washington DC, where we gathered for a reading of new Spanish plays sponsored by Spain Arts and Culture at iconic DC Landmark know as “The former residence of the Spanish Ambassador“. Its mix of splendor and decay was the perfect setting for Lisa to become the title character in “Medea’s got some issues”, a scorned woman who can jump from the sublime to the gutter, and back, in one microsecond.
That night, Lisa became the third actress to take over the role (I’ve been so lucky as to have the fierce Debora Izaguirre playing her in Spain and Argentina and the always suprising Ana Asensio playing her in New York, Chicago and Estonia). Debora and Ana are two of the hardest working actresses I have ever worked with. Both of them propelled this little one-woman show in radically different directions. I’ve learned so much from them as a human being, as a director and as a playwright, and I want to thank them for everything they have done for me and for this play. I have no doubt that their versions will continue to tour in years to come.
I knew Debora and Ana before we worked on their versions, but that night in DC the play was in the hands of a total stranger and knowing the difficulties of the text, I was nervous, I must admit. But, and the end of the reading, as the crowd gave Lisa a rowdy standing ovation, I remember thinking: “how is it possible that I wrote this play without knowing this woman?” It was one of those magical moments when the material seemed to have been written as a vehicle for the actor. (And not the other way around).
The play starring Lisa, directed by Joshua Morgan for No Rules Theatre, went on to the DC Capital Fringe Festival to much critical acclaim in 2014.
Now we’re under rehearsals on a new version (This play is adapted to every actress, every theater, and every city where it’s played) Lisa will present this new reincarnation of Medea at Stage773 in Chicago. I’m so excited that we managed to bring Lisa all the way to Chicago just for this run.
Opening Night will be Friday, February 26th at 7:30.
From left to right, posters for the Spanish production of the show, with Debora Izaguirre; for the NYC version of the show starring Ana Asension; and the Capital Fringe Production with Lisa Hodsoll.