by Haley Flanders and Katie Jarvis, dramaturgs
“Sing in us, Muse, the story of Jason and his Argonauts, how he was sent away on the first voyage of the world to bring back the Golden Fleece.” (Act 1, Scene 1)
Hello! Welcome to the 4th wall dramaturgy page dedicated to the spring 2017 mainstage BYU play, Argonautika by Mary Zimmerman.
This production is set to perform June 2 through June 17, 2017 in the Pardoe Theatre in the Harris Fine Arts Center (HFAC) on campus.
We are thrilled to be giving you a backstage pass into the creation of this epic play, which will feature Greek warriors, gods and goddesses, monsters, clashing rocks, dragons, giants, golden fleeces, missing shoes, and much more!
In preparation for seeing this show, we have provided a synopsis for you below. This 2-hour play has many different scenes, along with 16 actors often portraying multiple characters. Throughout the next few months, this blog will assist you with the plot, character relationships, and scene breakdowns. It will also provide more information on Greek mythology, the playwright, and our production. There will be:
- director and actor interviews
- rehearsal photos
- map of the Argonaut voyage
- games and fun facts
- information about the interactive lobby display
- a list of books you can check out to learn more about Greek mythology
- constellation and zodiac significance to the characters
- highlights of the technical elements such as set, costumes, and props
- videos about Zimmerman and perhaps even our cast!
So what IS Argonautika, anyway?
It is a famous Greek myth. Myths are fictional stories that date back thousands of years. They have been passed down through oral tradition and textual translation. The myth of Jason and the Argonauts first appeared in an epic poem called “Argonautica”, written by Apollonius of Rhodes during the third century B.C. Mary Zimmerman’s play is one of numerous interpretations of the tale.
Plot Synopsis of the Play
Jason travels to Iolcos, Greece to claim the throne from his uncle, King Pelias, who is celebrating his birthday. Hera (queen of the gods), disguised as an old woman, asks Jason to carry her across the river. In the crossing, he loses a sandal. Hera and Athena (goddess of wisdom and war) bless Jason on his quest to restore the throne. Meanwhile, King Pelias has dreamt that a man with one bare foot will come to kill him. Recognizing it as a prophecy, King Pelias is afraid when the one-sandaled man arrives. Although King Pelias’s servants plot to kill Jason, King Pelias instead decides to send him on an impossible quest. He tells Jason of the story of the golden fleece and orders him to recover it to prove himself worthy of the crown. Jason gathers a band of heroes for the journey. They all aboard a ship called the Argo and Jason is chosen as the leader of “The Argonauts”. The blind prophet Idmon has a vision that the crew will face many obstacles. Indeed, on their journey, the Argonauts face gods, sea monsters, giants, and clashing rocks.
The Argonauts arrive in Colchis, home of King Aeetes and the fleece, which is guarded by a dragon. Knowing that Jason will be unable to retrieve the fleece alone, Hera and Athena conspire with Aphrodite to have the powerful daughter of the king, Medea, fall in love with Jason. King Aeetes requires several tasks of Jason before he can approach the fleece: he must tame two wild bulls, plough a field with them, and plant dragon’s teeth in the field. The bulls breathe fire and the dragon’s teeth sprout magical warriors. With the help of Medea’s magic, Jason accomplishes the tasks. Medea helps by lulling the dragon to sleep so that Jason can retrieve the golden fleece. Knowing her father’s fury, Jason promises to take Medea away with him and to marry her.
King Aeetes pursues the Argonauts as they sail away with both the fleece and Medea. The giant Argo is overtaken by the Colchian fleet, but Medea again saves the quest by tricking her brother Apsyrtos into meeting her. She sacrifices him and King Aeetes stops his pursuit to retrieve his son. By murdering her brother, Medea has saved her husband and is bound to him forever. However, after returning home, Jason marries another princess. The gods help the Argo return, and Athena and Hera place the heroes in the night sky as constellations.
This synopsis will be in the program. It is compiled from the 2008 Shakespeare Theatre Company First Folio Teacher Curriculum Guide. Click here for access to the full Curriculum Guide to learn even more about the play.
Also, click here to watch a promotional video for the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Argonautika and get a sneak peek into the exciting world of the play.
We hope you will enjoy exploring our posts, and that you will venture to see this unforgettable escapade of Jason and his Argonauts! Til we meet again, fellow voyagers!
Haley Flanders, MA (click here for bio) and Katie Jarvis, MA candidate