‘The Suppliants’ provides a powerful end to VUTheatre’s season

VU Theatre’s ‘The Suppliants’ will debut on April 4 at Neely Auditorium


Isabel Tannenbaum

Vanderbilt University Theatre will round out their 2018-2019 season this weekend with a modern reimagining of Aeschylus’ The Suppliants. Dating back to about 470 B.C., this is one of the oldest plays for which we have physical evidence of its creation. However, with director Jonathan Vandenberg’s interpretation in a present-day setting, it’s hard to believe that this story wasn’t written in the recent past.

The Suppliants tells the tale of three sisters who embark on a life-threatening journey seeking asylum in Greece in order to escaped forced marriages. The run-time, lasting just shy of an hour, is packed with intricate detail and many gut-wrenching moments. While there is not much spoken dialogue, the silence and dramatic tension between the actors speak volumes. Vandenberg’s staging that occurs in 360° around the audience allows them to be surrounded by and absorbed in the story, and even calls for a moment of active participation.

The cast spent a good portion of their rehearsal time researching the migrant crisis that affects much of the world today.

“It shows the idea of a tragedy in more of a bare and raw way,” actor Conner Pinson said. “The tone and the atmosphere that we set is trying to evoke those feelings [of tragedy] and see if we really are as desensitized to tragedy in the media as we are.”

The text, written in the old style of the time in which Aeschylus was living, calls back to the ancient origins of the play. However, with modern costumes and a projection screen displaying facts about the current refugee crisis, it’s impossible not to see the striking parallels to today’s political climate.

“Being able to reconcile the immense privilege that we have being students at Vanderbilt, able to put on a nice play about refugees while people are actually having to deal with laws that very much deny them basic human rights— I think that’s part of the tension of this play,” cast member Lucy Davies-Kemadiro remarked.

Curious to experience this thought-provoking show in person? The Suppliants will run this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are free for undergraduate students.