With captivating musical numbers, elaborate sets, and immersive acting, the cast of “Argonautika” dazzled their audiences with their three weekend shows. Organized by the Theatre and Dance Department and directed by Natalya Baldyga, Instructor in History, and Olivia Silva, Theatre and Dance Teaching Fellow, the stellar production elicited laughs, applause, and even tears from their audiences.
“Argonautika” follows the famous Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, from the narration of Greek goddess Athena. Transforming the stage into a ship, the production’s characters embark on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the island of Colchis. While the story’s fame stretches back centuries, director Olivia Silva aimed to frame the story in a more critical light that questioned popular narratives of heroism and acclaim.
“We wanted to approach the show with these more modern interpretations: maybe these characters weren’t so good after all. Maybe there’s more complexity to them. It’s important to look at this story and come away with new questions. What does it mean to be a hero? Why is going on a quest or an adventure a narrative that we often glorify? What are the repercussions of that?” said Silva.
Something even more important to the show was establishing a bond between the cast: as the production’s preparation lasted two trimesters, both directors found it crucial that all of the actors felt like one team working together. To cultivate a positive atmosphere within the cast, Silva and Baldyga decided to only cast the show long after official preparation had begun, with the first few weeks spent reading through the play and participating in team-bonding exercises.
“We wanted the cast to find a show that they could connect with and create together while also having fun. Argonautika is a big ensemble show: there’s a lot of characters and actors, but we wanted to establish from the get-go that there is no ‘big’ part. They all contribute to telling this incredible story,” said Silva.
Silva and Baldyga’s efforts proved successful, as the cast of Argonautika grew extremely close throughout the two terms of their preparation. Miles Palmer ’23 commented on how the cast created a light-hearted and encouraging environment during both class and rehearsal time.
“We always have fun in rehearsals, whether it’s someone improvising a line or forgetting something. We never feel like we’re judging one another or feel bad about what we’re doing. The cast is just a really supportive and wonderful group of people,” said Palmer.
By cultivating a collaborative environment and approaching the production from a more critical lens, the cast was able to attain a richer understanding of their characters. As a result, the actors used their own perceptions to develop the character in various ways that surpassed the script. According to Silva, this elevated the quality of the production and was a testament to the personal development and confidence of the cast.
“Seeing them grow into these characters and take on new things was so special to watch. When acting out scenes, you would see an actor do something in character off-script that they hadn’t tried before. They really got into the characters, thinking, ‘Oh, maybe they would react in a scene like this!’ Seeing them start to make these choices and really take their own spin on the characters was amazing to see,” said Silva.
Palmer also commented on this process as crucial to the success of the production and a demonstration of the cast’s overall growth. According to him, these adjustments made by the cast added to the dynamic and atmosphere of the show.
“During a roll call in Hercules’s scene, I was doing pushups and dips to represent his strength, and that was something that I came up with that wasn’t included in the script. Athena at certain times, would be sharpening her spear. There were these little, special things like that that truly represented us developing the character and really becoming them,” said Palmer.
These efforts did not go unnoticed by the audience of the production, who remarked on the cast’s cohesion, comedy, and powerful acting skills. Karis Sarkisian ’24, one of the audience members, shared her thoughts on how the cast’s performances kept the audience engaged and enthralled.
“You could tell how the cast had been working on the production because they were so passionate. They were so into the story, and that was what made it so engaging with the actors and the audience. Argonautika is a hard story to tell- there are so many parts of it and so many characters, and yet they still made it memorable for everyone. Each character is highlighted in their own stories,” said Sarkisian.
While the cast had to work through long rehearsals and other challenges involving set design and audio, the production was deemed a success, with the actors coming out of the experience with more developed skills and a strong team bond. Silva noted that while the show faced hardships at some points, it was incredibly rewarding.
“We had such an amazing cast and an amazing crew, and it was incredible to see the play go from this idea to a fully-fledged production. This was a process that took a lot of time: it was very challenging at some points, but also very rewarding. I’m proud of all the time and effort we put in together,” said Silva.