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Release: Oct. 19, 2001

University Theatres Second Stage produces first of two classic double bills Nov. 1-4

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University Theatres Second Stage will present two connected masterpieces of ancient Greek tragedy, "Agamemnon" by Aeschylus and "Electra" by Sophocles, Thursday-Sunday, Nov. 1-4 in the David Thayer Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Performances of "Agamemnon" will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. "Electra" will be performed at 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Each day of the run theatergoers will have the choice to attend either one of the productions, or to attend both at a special price.

The "Agamemnon"/"Electra" combination is the first of two classic double bills, produced by University Theatres Second Stage on consecutive weekends. Two modern classics, "Machinal" by Sophie Treadway and "Woyzeck" by Georg Buchner will be presented as a double bill Nov. 8-11. Each production features direction by a second-year student in the Master of Fine Arts directing program in the UI department of theatre arts.

Kristin Horton is the director of "Agamemnon," the first play of the "Oresteia" trilogy, which dramatizes the murder of King Agamemnon of Mycenae by his adulterous wife, Clytemnestra.

Horton says, "Although written more than 2000 years ago, the play has a haunting sense of immediacy in light of the recent attacks on the United States and Afghanistan; it evokes the same controversy we find ourselves in today as we question how it is we should proceed after acts of violence."

Andrew Golla is the director of the related tragedy, "Electra." The plot is set in motion by Electra's hatred of her mother, Clytemnestra, and Aegisthus, who has assumed the throne of Mycenae following the murder of Agamemnon. Electra's thirst for revenge is satisfied when her brother, Orestes, returns to slay his mother and her lover.

"This is a play about a woman consumed by mourning and a desire for revenge," Golla explains. "In encountering this woman we are confronted by our own capacity for grief and vengeance. The questions that Sophocles' asked about this all too human condition 2500 years ago still ring true for us today."

Aeschylus was the earliest of the great playwrights of Greek tragedy. His career spanned more than 40 years, from the beginning of the fifth century B.C. through 458 B.C., when the "Oresteia" was first produced. He may have written as many as 90 plays, of which only seven survive in their entirety. Aristophanes is said to have praised Aeschylus as "the first of the Greeks to build up a towering fabric of majestic phrases."

One of Athens leading citizens, Sophocles was born about the time that Aeschylus' career began -- he eventually became the older playwright's student -- and he lived almost until the end of the 5th century B.C. He defeated Aeschylus in a dramatic festival competition in 468 BC, gaining ascendancy in a career that is said to have produced more than 120 plays -- of which only seven survive in complete form.

Admission to the Second Stage productions, at the door, will be $5 ($3 for UI students) to one play, or $8 ($5 for UI students) to both plays on the same day.

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