'Medea' performing arts project offers new lens on a classic tale

Publication Date

Uprooting Medea, a London-based film and theater project that offers a modern take on the ancient Greek tragedy, comes to Union Monday, March 7, as part of a tour of U.S. college campuses by Khameleon Productions, which celebrates the creative power of global majority artists’ voices.

Uprooting Medea, a London-based film and theater project

Hosted by the Classics Department, Khameleon co-founder Shivaike Shah will visit the First Year Preceptorial class, On Travel, taught by Stacie Raucci, the Frank Bailey Professor of Classics and department chair.

At 5 p.m., Shah will give a talk in Karp 105. It is open to the campus community.

In addition, there will be an open discussion of the Euripides play on Friday, March 4, at 3 p.m. in Lamont 102, in preparation for the visit.

“I’m very excited that Shivaike Shah can be with us in person to discuss the Medea project,” said Raucci. “He visited my Ancient World in Film class virtually this past fall. Students not only appreciated his approach to critical themes in the story of Medea – our class had just finished discussing Pasolini’s film ‘Medea’but also found inspiring his personal story of co-founding Khameleon Productions.”

“Medea,” written in 431 BC, is based upon the myth of Medea, a high priestess, and her husband Jason, leader of the Argonauts, and depicts Medea’s ruthless revenge against her betraying spouse.

Shah, a British Indian producer, and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, a British Ghanaian-Nigerian actor, composer and musician, originally directed and adapted the play for a diversity-focused drama society at Oxford University, from which both graduated in 2019.

Their groundbreaking production united actors, dancers, spoken-word artists and musicians from multiple backgrounds, reimagining Euripides’s tale with an all-global majority cast and crew, and featuring original compositions, movement and spoken word.

Following the success of their production, Shah and Amewudah-Rivers launched Uprooting Medea to explore the play through an interdisciplinary lens of race, belonging, identity, home, otherness and the immigrant experience.

“So often, narratives about people of color are centered around trauma. These narratives are vital, but at Khameleon, we want to celebrate our experiences and draw strength from our struggles,” Shah says. “Our productions will demonstrate how diverse groups coming together can, and will, overcome the systemic difficulties we face.”

Shah has been awarded support from across the United Kingdom and the United States to build the theater project and company. He and Amewudah-Rivers have shaped their “Medea” adaptation into a short film, directed by Riffy Ahmed and set for release later this year.

The four-month Uprooting Medea tour began at Brown University earlier this month and has an itinerary that includes 30 leading colleges and universities across 12 states. Union is co-hosting its visit with Skidmore College, funded by grants from the Classical Association of the Atlantic States and the Society for Classical Studies.

At the conclusion of the tour in May, Khameleon Productions will return to Brown to host a virtual gathering for participating institutions to discuss their experiences with the project, the performance history and legacy of “Medea,” and the classics more broadly.