Photo by Don Kellogg

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Sometimes you have to venture out of milquetoast midtown to get a re-grounding in what it means to educate in the theatre.  Having ventured up to the Harlem School for the Arts this Sunday, I got a glimpse of this concept in action.  Artistic Director, Alfred Preisser has adapted, directed, and produced a compact and powerful Medea mixing both students and theatre professionals (HSA Faculty) and the result packs quite a punch.

First performed in approximately 431 B.C (that's a long time ago folks), this tale is just as relevant 2400+ years later.  A lot has changed in the world, but Mr. Preisser's production reminds us - a few things have not.

Women's rights, immigrants, misogyny, murder, and betrayal.  These thorny subjects were around then - and they are still around today.  I would agree with Mr. Preisser that Medea is just as culturally relevant today as it was then. Our news feeds are filled with reminders of this on a daily basis.

Medea (Tracy Johnson) is a strong woman.  Medea killed for what she believed in.  She is a warrior.  Despite these strengths, she is the oppressed by her powerful husband Jason (Khalil Kain).   Ms. Johnson exuded the very aura of confidence and conviction the tale requires.  In classic form, the Greek Chorus of mostly student echos the thoughts and themes of the tale.  The tale we see unfold could have unfolded on West 96th  Street today ostensibly the same as it did 2400 years ago.  Swap the poison crown for a gun, and the castle for a coop and -  voila - Medea today.

While nobody would advocate killing your own children, one can admire the strength, conviction, and power a woman can wield.  The education of our youth in the theater is an important task and HSA has taken this to heart by mixing life lessons with acting lessons - all in a black box theater in Harlem.  An easy trip uptown well worth making.

HSA is located at 645 Saint Nicholas Avenue and the production runs February 26 - March 20 - Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 7 PM.