‘Iphigenia’ to adapt greek stories for the stage


Courtesy of ISU Theatre

Iphegenia adapts greek stories for the Fisher stage.


Every single day, people face difficult choices. For most, the hardest choice to be made in a day may be deciding what to eat for dinner or whether to spend a few extra hours studying instead of watching TV. In the story of “Iphigenia,” however, the decision that the play revolves around is a matter of life and death.

This show, directed by Amanda Petefish-Schrag, is centered around the Greek tragedy of Iphigenia, the the daughter of a lord and a general of war, Agamemnon.

“The Trojan War is impending, but there is no wind so they can’t sail to go and attack Troy,” Lena Menefee-Cook, an Iowa State sophomore who plays the title character, said.

Agamemnon is then told that the only way to get wind is to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to the goddess Artemis.

“So then from there… everything’s a mess,” Menefee-Cook said. 

The character of Achilles, played by freshmen Ben Mayer, also makes an appearance in this show as Iphigenia’s love interest who she is to be married to. 

Unlike some other plays, Greek tragedies often deal with characters who are well known by the general public because of the popularity of Greek mythology. Though it may seem like a daunting task to take on these familiar roles, both Menefee-Cook and Mayer were more than up for the challenge.

“Achilles is a really powerful warrior and his sole purpose in life is to achieve glory, like every hero,” Mayer said, “ I’ve always thought it would be really cool to play some sort of hero in general…because you think these people are so untouchable, so it was really cool to find my voice and be boomy and big on stage while getting to own the character.” 

Menefee-Cook agreed that getting to play a character from Greek mythology is an exciting task, and touched on her experience in portraying Iphigenia.

“Iphigenia… is high up in the world of the women of Greece, but as a woman of Greece she has no power and she’s a child. She essentially has no say in the matter… and in this play she is really the picture of innocence,” Menefee-Cook said, “She is what family is, she is what is being sacrificed for war both in the literal sense and in the theoretical sense.”

Even though the plot itself is interesting enough to grab the attention of any audience member, this play also includes an element that is not often seen on the Fisher Theater stage and is sure to leave viewers in awe: puppets.

“It’s been an interesting process because… in this version of Iphigenia we’re actually using puppets. They are big cardboard heads that are three-dimensional and have these different expressions,” Menefee-Cook, who also serves as the assistant puppet designer, said. “The actors are using the big heads as an extension of themselves… and their power is in these giant heads. 

Mayer added, “I knew there were puppets involved and I’ve never done that sort of things before so I thought it would be really cool to do… The fact that [the Greek tragedy of Iphigenia] is something so simplistic and has been turned into something so like intricate and complex makes it stand out.” 

Menefee-Cook claims that getting the opportunity to help design the puppets has introduced her to a whole new side of theatre that she has never seen before. 

“Puppets are like a whole new realm for me, so getting to work with someone like Amanda who has trained in puppetry for years and years, and is a puppet designer, has given me an understanding of the play from a totally different perspective,” Menefee-Cook said. 

Not just being an actor, but being on the outside and seeing what is going to read to an audience, like how will Calchas’ cheekbones make a difference… has been such an interesting experience and a challenge.”

Mayer and Menefee-Cook both believe that this show is an important one for people to see. 

“Even if you aren’t into theatrics there are still a lot of cool elements in the show,” Mayer said, “It also brings to light a lot of struggles, obviously to an extreme, that happen in a relationship between husband and wife and the fact that such a large group of people can sway such an intense decision.”

Menefee-Cook agreed, adding, “I think people should come see it because it’s fun… it is a tragedy, but it’s exciting, too, and I mean if you’re not sure, come for the spectacle. It’s not that long of a play so you really get to come in and be in a different world. 

If you are considering seeing the show, Mayer would like to leave you with this word of advice, “If you go see the show you really have to take into consideration the symbolism of everything like specifically really taking into consideration why the masks are there and why we have masks… Keep an open mind and come out and see it.”

Iphigenia will be performed Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Fisher Theater.

Tickets start at $11 and can be purchased at the Iowa State Center Box Office or online via Ticketmaster.