Jennifer Phenix on Living with Medea
In the beginning…
You enter the theatre. The house-lights are on. Underneath the din of the audience-in-making, you fix upon the dream-like music of Thomas Newmann’s ‘The Orchard’. There is excitement in the air — electricity in the ether.
The house-lights fade. Darkness envelops the theatre. You’re embraced by its stillness and reminded of that blackness that lies between the brightness of awake and luminosity of dreams — that state of betwixt-and-between. A piercing white spotlight hits the stage. Like the finger of a goddess pointing down from the heavens, the dazzling light commands the presence of the storytellers. They arrive on stage. The narrative begins. You enter their dreams – their liminal space of creativity.
On Wednesday, January 22nd the Sheridan community was delighted to experience the second installment of the Medea Monologues series, “Dream Narratives”. Performing before a full-house, this year’s ‘dream weavers’ consisted of series progenitor, Jennifer Phenix, performers Elaine Brodi, Ginger Grant, Golnaz Golnaraghi, Kristin Newell, Laura Sky, and director, June Cupido.
For those of you who have not familiar with this unique “creative space for storytelling and personal narrative”, the Medea Monologues first came into being in 2009 when Jennifer Phenix and a group of friends cultivated an idea about sharing experiences of being a mother. “We didn’t want to start a therapy session — or anything like that at all — rather we wanted creative space where women could come together and speak openly and honestly about their experiences of motherhood. It was very informal in the beginning, and we weren’t quite sure what ‘it’ was going to be. We developed our own short narrative, and these where loosely woven into a play of sorts. It was kind of a cross between scripted play and workshop.”
“We really go a lot out of the first experimental ‘Monologues’, so we thought we should make a more ‘official’ evening of it. We rented a yoga studio, made some food for the occasion – you’ve got to have good food – and sent out some invitations to our friends. Guess the message go out. To our great surprise over fifty people came to the first installment.”
Though lacking what some might call a ‘formal mission statement’– a key component deliberately avoided in order to allow for a more capacious creative space – the concept of the Monologues is nevertheless steeped in the strong storytelling tradition of the Greek Classics, particularly the Medea narrative. “Medea is such a deliciously complex character. We see her as very determined, extremely focused, incredibly self-willed, and tremendously powerful. And yet, she is both good and bad – she use her powers, wit and intellect to ‘win her prize’, and ends up suffering the worst for it. She eventually kills her own children, and yet, she doesn’t suffer for those crimes. Again, it’s a very complex story. Interestingly, at the end of her story, she dies and gets to spend eternity with Achilles. That’s what I really like about the Medea narrative. There are many views and perspectives. Medea brings to the surface that what lies hidden in us all.”
In this context, if the Monologues needs a ‘working philosophy’ then it follows the themes of the Medea. As Jennifer adds, ‘like the Medea story, women can avail themselves of a creative space in which they can explore and share their own powerful narratives.”
So what is next phase of the Medea Monologues? Jennifer tells us that it’s a tough question to answer. “In the beginning there was no real plan behind this project per se. It might have started as a workshop or group get-together, but then it sort of took on a life of its own. It developed as part of its own natural evolution – a creative evolution. I’m so excited by the themes that we’ve explored, and it is those themes that have given the Medea Monologues its own life, its own direction. I guess we’ll have to keep revisiting the Medea story to see where she leads us next.”
For more information about the Medea Monologues project, please be sure to visit the website: medeamonologues.com