A classic tale with a new spin: ‘Argonautika’ comes to MU

Director Cheryl Black said her love of Zimmerman’s work inspired her to bring the play to the Corner Playhouse.

“Argonautika,” Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, is coming to Columbia for the first time.

The MU Department of Theatre will be performing the play at the Corner Playhouse on March 11-15.

The plot of “Argonautika” comes from the ancient Greek myth where the hero, Jason, and his team of men go on a voyage in search of the Golden Fleece in order to regain his father’s throne from King Pelias. On the way, they encounter goddesses, monsters and other challenges.

The director of MU’s performance is professor of theatre Cheryl Black. She said her love of Zimmerman’s work inspired her to bring the play to the stage this spring.

“What I really love about it is that it’s so theatrical,” Black said.

The play waxes dramatic in the traditional Greek theatre style, which plays on the audience’s emotion with exaggerated acting. Black said that this style “evokes the ancient Greek myth (with) heightened language and heightened mood.”

Zimmerman’s adaptation lends a more non-traditional, contemporary levity to the myth, though. Mixed in with heavy emotions and tragic plot twists are humorous witticisms and freshly modern qualities, Black said.

Senior Jarrod Beck plays Jason in the play.

“I can honestly say I’ve never done a show quite like this before,” Beck said. “Any given moment it can be hilarious and not at all traditional, and the next moment very traditional, and the next emotional, and the next dramatic.”

Liberties have been taken with the set as well. Set manager Dean Packard has worked to turn the whole stage into a gigantic ship, with special effects to allure the audience and create the illusion of a sea voyage.

Senior Lynett Vallejo, who portrays the goddess Athena in the play, said it is a play that brings a sort of unity between the cast and the audience.

“You don’t find that in a lot of plays — usually the audience isn’t involved directly and listens to the story while the characters go about their lives in the play,” Vallejo said.

Complete with dragons, puppets and plenty of action, Black said it is truly a show that has a little of everything for everyone.

Also adding to the modern twists are the score and costume design. The sound designer for the play ditched the original score and is offering instead a fresh playlist, which includes songs from Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift to soundtrack hits from composer Mica Levi.

Costume designer and MU graduate Rachel Schmidt has also added a twist on traditional Greek attire with inspiration from contemporary fashion.

Black said she encourages anyone who is looking for a play that is simultaneously provocative and entertaining to come see “Argonautika.”

“People should come see it because it should be a fun show to watch,” she said. “If you want to see a play just to have a good time, this is the show to come see.”

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