Time to Look at Medusa in the Eyes

Time to Look at Medusa in the Eyes

Photo by Warren Archer

Photo by Warren Archer

Creator Sophie Amieva has always been fascinated by the story of Medusa since she was a little girl. "Her looks and power troubled me. Her curse and decapitation even more so" she shares. From this fascination came the development of a new show that combines butoh dance, storytelling, clown, and an international all-female cast and creative team. Premiering February 8th at Brooklyn's happyluckyno1, this seems to be developing as an empowering experience not to be missed.

What interested you in the legend of Medusa?

In the Ovid version, Medusa was a beautiful maiden and priestess who was raped by Poseidon, then turned into a monster by the goddess Athena as punishment for having been raped. You can find two versions of the story of Medusa: she either consented to Poseidon or she didn’t. But the result is the same, she is punished. From this came the idea of the trial. I called my friend Susu Bagert who is a writer and a lawyer and I asked her to help me write the trial of Medusa.  And then we just kept pulling the thread and realized that digging into this story means talking about women’s history and mythology.

How is Medusa Volution different from other shows that tackle the legend of Medusa?

This show is centered on a chorus of women representing the feminine archetypes embedded in and born from the myth -- the monster, the virgin, the temptress, the prostitute, the huntress. Through the chorus we tell stories of Salome, Eve, and conduct a “Trial of Medusa,” presenting a vivid enquiry into the maligned Monster Woman.

The trial of Medusa sprawls through time, calling for the testimony of contemporary women as well as their mythological sisters. The women of the chorus experience the suppression of their power, and the suffocation of their sexual pleasure. As they explore the narratives of so many women, we redefine the stories of our power, agency and sexual pleasure. The trial makes visible how we may be complicit in one another’s oppression and how we might support one another’s liberation. Today, can we look Medusa in the eyes?

How has Butoh served as a source of inspiration?

Butoh is, for me, transcendence. It is for when words are not useful or necessary. In this performance, Butoh helps us go beyond, to guide Medusa to transcend, so she can escape her chains, her anger, her pain.

Butoh becomes the expression and the way out. Ultimately it is a way forward to a higher level. Like in Butoh we have to tame the dragon and conduct our energy to calm it, to channel it, to dance and access a new level of control. We all have a dragon in us to tame. To ignore or suppress it will not control it or create a structure to make space for it.You have to let go of denying it and, instead, accept the dragon.

Here, Butoh is the inner story of the monster. We are going inward to find the dragon and breaking the chains of social construct  to see what is left.

What can you tell us about the cast that is part of Medusa Volution?

We are an international cast of talented women from France, Russia, China, Argentina and the United States. It has been a very enriching process where everybody can find themselves and distill the power struggle against patriarchy in their own cultures. It has been fabulous and exciting to gather around a common experience-- we share womanhood, and because of that there is a lot of complicity and honesty. The trust among the actors and dedication toward the work is motivating.

Medusa Volution is taking place in a gallery, happylucky no.1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating a site-specific show? Can we expect an immersive experience?

To be in a gallery is very exciting. Happylucky no.1 is a gorgeous space with an outside patio that has a vertical garden.

Karina Marcelja, my collaborator in set design and costume is working on a design. She is an international visual artist and architect. Once we have decided on the materials that should be used, she will transform the space. During the three week run she also has an art installation that blends in the space. Liz Stanton and Sarah Lurie, sound and light design respectively, are also working to make the show and being in the space an immersive experience.

There is also a music series accompanying the show?

Yes! Happylucky no.1 offers all kinds of music concerts in their intimate space during the year and it only made sense to honor that with the Medusa Music series, a program of women musicians curated by the multi-talented Jessica Luriea.

About the Medusa series: Spanning musical territories from new classical to free improvisation, avant garde song and  electronica, whimsical jazz and nocturnal funk, the three week MM series highlights the talents and new works of some of the finest female composers and improvisers from around NYC, in solo to quartet projects and new collaborations.

If you could have any artist –living or dead- as your special guest to the show, who would it be?

Medusa.

To learn more about Sophie Amieva and Medusa Volution visit sophieamieva.com

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