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Sugar House Journal

More than Just a Review of “Electra”

Oct 08, 2015 13h37 ● By Bryan Scott

By Elizabeth Suggs

Westminster presented “Electra,” a Greek play originally created by Sophocles, and now directed by Larry West on Sept. 4-5 and 11-12.

The production toured throughout Utah from Sept. 4-27. Locations included the Amphitheater in West Valley, BYU’s de Jong Concert Hall, Weber State University at the Wildcat Theater and the Red Butte Garden Amphitheater. 

“It’s so wonderful to work with students of such a broad interest,” West said. “They’re talented in all areas with a passion for theater.”

Sophocles’ play centers around Electra and her pursuit for justice over her father’s death. Electra is set on stage over 90 percent of the time, making the personality of the actress playing the character highly important.

Played by Melanie Nelson, her acting created the atmosphere of the play. Electra is a passionate heroine for her father and his death. To her, he had been killed unjustly by a mother who believed she had done no wrong. The father, according to the mother, had sacrificed her daughter, and this was enough to kill him. 

“I’ve always liked Melanie Nelson’s work,” Sterling Price, a Utah resident, said. “She’s always on TV.” 

The current “Electra,” West explained, was his seventh attempt at directing for the Classic Greek Festival, his first being 30 years ago. West has both written and directed shows, but those he has written were very different from those he has directed. 

“I never direct what I write,” West said. “Directing is really conceptual. It’s not really hands-on when I write.” 

West has only directed Greek plays. All non-Greek plays he has been involved with were written by him, but he was not the director. 

West held true to most of the original Greek plot but added modern devices, such as cell phones and attire. Most of the attire in the play was traditional garb, aside from two side characters who wore a skirt and a dress. 

When both characters appeared, dressed in conflicting fashions, it took one out of the play and into confusion, with a murmur breaking out in the audience. The actors played the characters so well and relaxed that, when played on stage, it seemed to be a mistake. 

The modern tone to an ancient story isn’t unlike Westminster. Many of Westminster’s plays incorporate modern devices. However, for West, using modern devices is uncommon. According to West, the devices used in the play are dependent on the situation. 

“I’m a storyteller,” West said. “Anything tells a story.” 

To better ensure understanding of the story, a dramaturage by Jim Svendsen was played 30 minutes prior to every show. A dramaturage is a way for the audience to better understand the play. Svendsen was the literary editor for those involved in the company, as well as the one who edited the texts. 

“For a play like this, [a dramaturge] is a good idea,” Price said. “Greek dramas can be difficult to understand.”