ELECTRA by Sophocles

Adapted by Frank McGuinneS
Directed by Rodney Higginbotham

Fall, 2008
Years ago Electra’s father was murdered by her mother’s lover.  Since that time Electra has daily suffered and mourned her father’s death, sustained only by the belief that her brother Orestes, upon attaining manhood, would one day return to exact revenge.  At the opening of the play, the morning light falls on the palace of golden Mycenae as Orestes secretly returns with a plot to satisfy Electra’s deepest desire.  Thus begins one of the most frequently produced of the classic Greek tragedies. "Leave it to a playwright who has been dead for 2,400 years to jolt Broadway [with] soul satisfying drama at its most passionately, intensely alive.... It's a provocative evening that not only reacquaints you with the direct, unprocessed power of Greek drama but also provides a depth of pleasure you associate with great movies " (New York Times found in Samuel French, Inc.)

  Pictured:  Gail Wittenstein as Electra, Cheryl Lyman as Clytemnestra

The Background of the Story
Agamemnon, King of Mycenae and father to Electra and Orestes, sacrificed their sister Iphigenia to appease the gods as he led the Greek fleet to war with Troy.  During his absence, his wife, Clytemnestra, Electra’s mother, took Aegisthus as a lover.  On Agamemnon’s victorious return from Troy, they assassinated him.  The infant Orestes was snatched to safety by his sister and sent away into hiding.  Electra, haunted with love for her dead father, awaits the return of Orestes and retribution.


Servant to Orestes_____________________Andrew Berlien

Orestes____________________________________David Mitchell

 Pylades___________________________________Kyle Youngblut

Electra___________________________________Gail Wittenstein

Chorus___________________________________Laura Gryfinski

                                                             Wendy Silva

                                                             Whitney Behr

 Chrysothemis______________________________Colleen McCread

 Clytemnestra_________________________________Cheryl Lyman

 Aegisthus________________________________ Kenneth Kirschnick

Andrew Berlien (Servant to Orestes) is excited to yet again perform with The Stage Center Theatre.  He has most recently performed in Stage Center Theatre productions of Charley’s Aunt, Private Eyes, Arcadia,  and Stage Door.  Andy is delighted to once again take the stage with such a wonderful and dynamic cast.  He would like to thank everyone involved with this production for the opportunity to shine.  Oh, and Mom, Dad, band, all my loved ones...My shoes hurt for you too.


David Mitchell (Orestes) is very excited to be appearing in his fourth production with the Stage Center Theatre.  He was seen in such past productions of Mrs. Warren’s Profession, The Skin of Our Teeth and Charley’s Aunt, all  with the Stage Center.  Thanks to the CMT Department, family and friends for support and love.

Kyle Young (Pylades) has been a part of Northeastern Theatre for a number of years being both on and off stage.  He would like to thank Rodney, Dan, Anna, Sara, and Bill for their guidance and support.


Gail Elyese Wittenstein (Electra) is making her second appearance at the Stage Center Theater, having previously appeared  in Charley's Aunt. Gail is honored to be performing alongside such an amazing group of talented actors. Gail gives a special thanks to Rodney Higginbotham for allowing her the opportunity to portray the wonderfully complex character that is Electra. Gail would also like to thank her friends and family for their loving support as she continues to pursue her passions. Last but not least, Gail would like to dedicate her performance to her dear friend Irina (for I know your pride is beaming from above).


Laura Gryfinski (Chorus) is thrilled to be acting yet again on the Stage Center Theatre’s stage. She is in pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a minor in History as well as a second major in CMT here at NEIU.   She appeared as Mattie  in Thymely Theatre’s Stage Door, and was part of the Children’s Theatre Workshop’s ensemble performances of Monkey Magic:Chinese Story Theatre.  She would like to thank Rodney for giving her the opportunity to be part of this  wonderful cast.  And special thanks to all those who have long supported her along the way!

Wendy Silva (Chorus)  is glad to be appearing in Electra. In the past she has performed in The Skin of Our Teeth, and Wiley and the Hairy Man here at the Stage Center Theatre. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with such a talented cast and director.


Whitney Behr (Chorus)  is thrilled to be appearing at the Stage Center once more. You may remember her as Amy in Charley's Aunt and Susan Paige in Stage Door. Past roles include Tess in The Sisters Rosensweig at P, M, & L Theatre in Antioch and The White Stag in Narnia, The Musical at Bowen Park Theatre Company in Waukegan. She is an Environmental Studies major here at Northeastern.  Many thanks to the cast and crew for being so much fun!


Colleen McCready (Chrysothemis) is elated to be a part of another Stage Center Theatre production.  She most recently appeared in Thymely Theatre’s production of Stage Door, and Children’s Theatre Workshop performance of Monkey Magic: Chinese Story Theatre.  Colleen is a junior at Northeastern Illinois University. She would like to thank her friends and family, especially Mark and Sebastian, for their support and love.  She would also like to thank Rodney for this opportunity.


Cheryl Lyman (Clytemnestra) is delighted to be in her fifth show at NEIU. She is a Communication, Media and Theatre major. Recently seen in Charley’s Aunt, she also performed in Stage Door, Arcadia and Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Cheryl would like to thank Rodney, Anna and Dan for being such wonderful directors, and all of the amazing cast and crew for being so fabulous. You guys all make it easy as well as FUN!

Kenneth Kirschnick (Aegisthus) is currently pursuing two Bachelor Degrees, one in Communication, Media, and Theatre and one in History.  Kenneth thinks acting is just a hobby for now, but his future is wide open.  He has performed in Oliver, Homesick, Wages of Sin, The Other Side of Capone, Wit and Wilder: Three One Acts by Thornton Wilder, and Buried Child.  He knows his best performance can be attributed to his fellow actors that he joins on stage.

Message from the Dramaturge________________

On Sophocles' Electra

My college-aged literature students are sometimes a fairly cynical lot when it comes to certain things. If they were in the audience tonight, their initial response to Electra's histrionics would be a curt dismissal. They might even refer to the Electra as a 'pity party,' by which they would mean a way of embracing grief that involves interminable whining, whimpering and whingeing about how unfair life has been.

To Sophocles' great credit, he has already made the case for my students. His Chorus of Good Women say it: "Hold your tongue. Has it never dawned on you how much you make your own misery? You pile on your agony." Even Electra's sister Chrysothemis tells her to knock it off: "After so long lamenting, will you not learn you are wasting your time? Your anger is useless." It is shrewd of Sophocles to establish on stage the easy response to another's suffering. That response is less indifference to suffering than plain annoyance at how protracted and vocal the suffering has become.

In the play, Chrysothemis is clearly wrong in her choice to stop mourning the death of their father and to get on with her life with mom and mom's lover, the very man who killed dad. The Chorus seems wrong as well. Sophocles, I think, allows these veiws to be worded because they stand in contrast to the idea that pervades the story of Electra and her brother Orestes and the entire house of Pelops. That idea is not pragmatism as Chrysothemis practices it. What animates the story of this family is the idea that the gods are just even though all evidence proves the contrary.

I am not ready to say that Sophocles believes this idea of justice. In fact, scholars of classical literature have long argued whether Sophocles was even interested in such moral issues. Some say yes; some say no. But my point isn't really about Sophocles' dramatization of a story as widely known to ancient Greeks as Batman, say, is to modern Americans. The story itself, its full narrative and sweep, carries in its literary DNA the question of justice in the face of existential misery.

The full family story goes as follows. Pelops wishes to marry the daughter of King Oenemaus. To win his bride, Pelops must beat Oenemaus in a chariot race; losing means death. Pelops conspires to cheat by having Myrtilus, the king's servant, remove a lynch pin from the king's wheel. The king crashes and dies. However, Pelops now refuses to pay Myrtilus the promised bribe and throws him in the sea to die. Myrtilus expires, but not without first casting on Pelops a terrible curse. Initially, Pelops seems to do well. His finances thrive, and he begets six sons. Two of his sons became at odds with each other. Atreus becomes king after Pelops and then banishes another son, Thyestes, because Thyestes has seduced Atreus' wife and fathered with her a son. Banished, Thyestes learns that Atreus wants to mend their differences. Atreus invites Thyestes to a feast, during which Thyestes realizes too late that his son is the main course. Thyestes flees in horror and fathers a son with his own daughter. The daughter abandons her son Aegisthus, and he is raised by shepherds. Atreus eventually hears of the boy's existence and raises him as his own son, along with his actual sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus. Atreus sends the grown Aegisthus to kill Thyestes, but Thyestes recognizes his son, and together they manage to put Atreus to death. Agamemnon marries Clytemnestra, and they have a son, Orestes, and three daughters, two of whom, along with Orestes, appear in Electra: Chrysothemis and Electra. The other daughter, Iphigenia, does not appear in the play because she is already dead, having been put to death by her father as a sacrifice to appease the gods so that he may continue his attack on Troy. When Agamemnon returns from war, Aegisthus kills him and takes over the kingdom. Electra puts her young brother into the hands of a servant, and they flee. Electra spends the intervening years in vengeful mourning, but hopeful for Orestes' return and revenge. Electra begins with the return of the son, who has come home to avenge his father's death at the command of Apollo, the Greek god of reason and justice.

The latter part of the story is usually told from the moral dilemma of Orestes, who is being asked to kill not only his uncle, but his mother as well. In the most popular version of the family saga, Aeschylus' trilogy, The Oresteia, written a generation before Sophocles' version, the chief emphasis is Agamemnon and the son who is to defeat the curse. The middle play, The Libation Bearers, covers the same ground as Electra in terms of the saga, but the effect is different. Electra is a present and necessary support of Orestes as he completes his obligation to Apollo. But the focus is primarily on him.
Sophocles' audience knew this story in its entirety. They also knew that the story did not end with the death of Aegisthus. No, where Electra ends, Orestes' torment begins. He becomes persecuted and prosecuted by the Furies, merciless spirits of punishment for crimes done to kindred.

Sophocles is the first to give Electra center stage; this play is all hers. Her grief and anger need no explanation. Her 'pity party' needs no defense because the destruction of her family by the gods is as unrelenting as her grief. She carries the burden in Sophocles' rendering not a whine nor whimper nor a whinge, but the eternal cri du coeur of being alive on this woeful planet.

-Patrick McGuire
English Department, University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Production Staff__________________________

Producer.....Anna Antaramian
Director.....Rodney Higginbotham
Stage Manager.....Lakeisha Richardson
Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director.....Jessica Kuehnau
 Light Designer/Co-Tech Director.....John Rodriguez
Costume Designer.....Jana Anderson
Sound Designer.....James Mallory
Master Electrician.....Eric Senne
Public Relations Director.....Sara Moss
Poster/Brochure Designer.....Cheryl Lyman
Theatre Manager.....Sara Moss
Box Office Manager.....Marjie Kranz
House Manager.....Laura Aldmeyer
Theatre Bookkeeper.....Becca Raven Uminowicz
Set Crew.....Evlien Khanis, Andre Segovia
Light Board Operator.....Lakeisha Richardson
Sound Board Operator.....Keith Johnson
Set Construction.....Theatre Practicum class

Artistic Staff Profiles                                                      

Rodney Higginbotham (Director) holds an M.F.A. in theatre directing from Southern Illinois University and a B.A. in Speech Education from Northeast Louisiana University. He has served as Managing/Artistic Director of the Stage Center Theatre and Acting Chair of the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre. He has directed several productions for the Stage Center and for professional, educational, and community theatre in Chicagoland.

Jana Anderson (Costume Design) has worked with the Stage Center Theatre for the last few years.  Her work has also been featured by numerous theatre groups including: Redmoon Theatre, Light Opera Works, Irish Repertory Theatre, just to name a few. Prior to coming to the United States, Jana created elaborate costumes for classical opera productions at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.  When she is not preparing costumes for theatre productions, Jana is busy designing and creating unique haute-couture fashions for individual clients in the U.S. and Europe.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer/Co-Tech Director) joined the theatre faculty at Northeastern four years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center productions.  This past season he designed the lights for the four main stage productions: Mrs. Warren’s Profession, The Skin of Our Teeth, Private Eyes, and Arcadia and for the two Thymely Theatre productions this summer: Stage Door and Taking Steps.

Jessica Kuehnau (Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director) is pleased to be designing sets for the Stage Center Theatre. Since completing her MFA in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, she has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, The Griffin, Vittum Theatre, Light Opera Works and Metropolis Performing Arts Center. Ms. Kuehnau is also the resident set designer at North Park University.

This script of Electra by Sophocles used as reference the translation of F. Storr as first published in 1912 in the Loeb Classical Library and the translation of Hugh Lloyd-Jones as published in Sophocles, Vol. 1 of the Loeb Classical Library (Vol. 20).  Copyright 1994 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.  Used by special arrangement with Harvard Univ. Press.

This adaptation was originally produced in the United States by McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ (Emily Mann, Artistic Director/Jeffrey Woodard, Managing Director) on September 18, 1998.

This new version of Electra by Frank McGuinness was commissioned by the Donmar Warehouse with first performance at the Chichester Festival Theatre on September 11, 1997 and at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre on October 21, 1997.

Special Thanks

The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff; the departments of  Accounts Payable, Budget, Purchasing.