Inés Braun Directs Euripdes’ Alkestis

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Current students, Inés Braun directs Euripdes’ Alkestis, translated by Anne Carson, for her directing thesis, February 15 – 18 at The Connelly Theatre.
The play tells the story of Admetos, king of Thessaly, who seeks to find someone to die in his stead and discovers that only his wife, Alkestis, is willing to do so. Braun first worked on Alkestis during the fall of her first year at Columbia, when the directing students, under the guidance of faculty member, Brian Kulick, tackled scenes from Ancient Greece.
“For the first time in the semester, after doing six or seven Greek scenes I was like, ‘Yes!’ I have to say, I nailed it,” said Braun. “After that I started to fall in love with the play. My first reading of the play was very different of my reading of it now, but over time it kept popping into my head.”
Alkestis is a genre-defying work by Euripdes that blends tragedy and comedy. It was originally performed in the place of a Greek “satyr play,” the most raucous form of Greek drama, in spite of it’s lack of satyrs. Translator Anne Carson introduces her translation of the text by noting that it explores, “the psychological weirdness of ordinary people and everyday existence by jarring comic and tragic effects against one another as if they belonged to the same conversation.”
Braun was attracted to this melding of comedy and tragedy, as well as to the themes at the play’s core. Looking back on the plays that she’s worked on at Columbia—Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice and Trial by Fire, a devised piece of theater inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s The Trial of Joan of Arc—Braun realized there was an undercurrent connecting all these stories.
“The theme of these women sacrificing for their husbands, or for god, or for the father is something that fascinates me. And the idea of being reborn,” said Braun. “Alkestis is sacrificing for the family, but what I’m intrigued by is really, deep down, what does that mean? Is she really sacrificing for the family? Because she is also destroying the family by doing so. What is the real motive of her sacrifice?”
Alkestis features a classic Greek hero, Herakles, and a Greek chorus. Inspired by this theme of female sacrifice and agency, Braun’s production delves into the relationship between the chorus—played by three women—and the dramatic action. She is interested in underscoring the ways that the chorus of women helps to transform the action, and how the events of the play transform them in turn.
“My idea [for the play] was very personal. It was: what does it mean to me to sacrifice and to be reborn?” Braun said. “It’s because I’m in a moment of my life where I’m asking myself, what should I sacrifice to have a better life? What kind of life do I want to have?”
Tickets for Alkestis are free with any CUID, $15 for General Admission, and $5 for Seniors; they can be purchased here. Performances are at the Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th Street, at 8 pm on February 15-17  and at 2 pm and 8 pm on February 18.

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.