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“The Eumenides” runs Oct. 5 — Oct. 8 in the Markel Audi­torium | Tower Players

Last night, the curtain went up on the Tower Players’ pro­duction of “The Eumenides” in a dizzying display of tow­ering temples, grotesque demons, and bewitching odes.

Angell said he selected this play in part because its key theme — the con­flict between “rea­soned jurispru­dence” and “vengeance” — is a question human soci­eties have debated for cen­turies.

“The essential theme of the play is justice and how you achieve justice in a society,” he said. “This was the very first courtroom drama ever. And it lays out the Athenian court system, which we have adopted as our court system.”

“The Eumenides” is the third play in Aeschylus’s “Oresteia,” pre­ceded by “Agamemnon” and “The Libation Bearers.” The action begins with Orestes (played by sophomore Austin Benson) mur­dering his mother Clytemnestra (sophomore Rebecca Carlson) in revenge for her mur­dering of his father Agamemnon earlier in the trilogy. The ancient guardians of justice, the Furies — this pro­duction has five — demand that Orestes die for his bloodshed, but Apollo (sophomore Lane Gaudet) pleads on his behalf and sends him to Athena (senior Dani Morey) for justice. The rest of the play revolves around the court case. Athena assembles a jury to hear both Orestes’ and the Furies’ side of the story, and the tension of the play becomes whether Orestes’ life can be spared by the law or whether, as the Furies claim, “there is no sal­vation — not from Athena, nor from Apollo.”

While classic Greek drama on the Hillsdale stage is exciting enough, rev­eling in this play’s spell­binding aes­thetics is an added delight. Angell and his team have put together Greek staging methods, rotating scenery, gods in gleaming masks, the haunting melodies of live cho­ruses, and com­pli­cated dance rou­tines to create an impressive display of tech­niques that pro­vides a kind of drama all its own.

“One of my par­ticular exper­tises is in masked per­for­mance, and Greek plays are all masked per­for­mance,” Angell said. Though he has led pro­duc­tions where the actors wore half-masks before, this time he decided to go with full masks — a decision that sig­nif­i­cantly com­pli­cated the pro­duction process.

All the super­natural char­acters in the play — Athena, Hermes, Apollo, the ghost of Clytemnestra, and the Furies — are masked. While David Knezz, a pro­fes­sional based in Chicago, created the masks for the gods, Angell asked senior Katherine Frank to design and build five for the Furies. Though she’d never built a mask before, as an art major she was familiar with three-dimen­sional work and had expe­rience working in the theater department’s scene shop.

With the over­sight of costume designer Bryan Simmons, Frank spent the summer con­structing five masks from cel­luclay (a powder mixed with water, akin to paper-mache), Fos­shape (a fabric that can be heated and hardened into any shape), and acrylic paint.

“In some ways, I was con­trolling the design,” she said. “The one thing that I really have been leading in all of this is the color. For the most part, Bryan’s cos­tumes are bouncing off of my color.”

“All of the furies have their own per­son­ality,” she said. “Their own slightly dif­ferent colors, some of them are very dif­ferent shapes.”

The Furies are cer­tainly the stars of the show. Played by senior Ria Harju, junior Katie Dav­enport, sophomore Jessica Mac­Farlane, senior Mikel Eatough, and junior Rachel Watson, they have had to learn both to act as indi­viduals and to speak in unison, as a single char­acter — all while wearing masks, writhing about the stage in con­torted posi­tions, and speaking or singing their lines through micro­phones.

“Everybody’s worked so hard,” Angell said. “I’ve been so impressed with my Furies — the main char­acter of the play is divided into five chunks, but they’re all pulling together as a team.”

According to Frank, Angell wanted the Furies to be neither too ani­mal­istic nor too human.

“Trying to make some­thing non­human, not a direct relation to an animal, but not com­pletely abstracted, was a very dif­ficult tension,” she said. “Some of them suc­ceeded more than others.”

Angell employed Eilly Hal­ligan, an alumna, to record original music for the odes in the play. She used two Greek the­atrical instru­ments — the aulos (a wind instrument) and the stringed lyre — to create the recordings. Onstage, the cast will sing the odes along to the recordings.

“In the ancient Greek plays, the choral odes that are the cen­ter­pieces are sung and danced and chanted in the orig­inals,” Angell said. “If you see a Greek play today, you seldom see those odes done because there is no music.”

What with masks and live music, the crew used the Whalen Tape method to make rehearsing a bit easier. The actors recorded their lines in the initial stages of rehearsals and then worked through prac­tices acting along to their own pre-recorded voices.

“We would play that and everyone would work through it just lis­tening to them­selves speak and acting it out,” assistant director junior Elena Creed said. “It elim­i­nates that awkward phase of having your nose in the book and not being able to work on the phys­i­cality of your move­ments.”

The crew also used ancient Greek staging tech­niques.

“There’s a platform that will roll out called ekkeklyma,” Creed said. “We’re making that like it would have been back in ancient Greece — it’s going to be a spec­tacle, and that’s how things were then.”

Yet, even after the actors “strike” the show on Sunday, it might not be the end of “The Eumenides.”

“We’re actually entering our show in the American College Theater Fes­tival,” Creed said. “So we’re hoping to get nom­i­nated to compete at the regional level in January.”