The Medead by Fiona Templeton

a performance epic retelling of the journey of Medea


Upcoming - Dec 11 07:


concert version of selected sections

Dixon Place, 258 Bowery, NYC,

7:30 pm

“challenging and excellently crafted” – Edinburgh Theatre Guide


Part 1,  MEDEA IN AIA – April 06
at 15 Nassau (LMCC), New York City

- Dec 05, at Tramway, Glasgow

WKCR recording of monologues from
     The Medead – listen at PennSound

Home to

Anna Kohler & George Schoenstein


The Medead is a multilayered poetic soundscape, performed by multiple and contradictory actors.

The Medead: the epic life and journey of Medea as a very different figure to the evil foreign woman shown by the Greeks, including little-known versions from her origin at the east of the Black Sea.

Me Dead: a journey down into the language and action of dream and the subconscious.

Me Dead: not myself.

Me Dead: the price of war.

Medea: measure, mother, mindfulness

Medea: nobody (in the feminine)

Medea: the genitals.

The Medead: a night and day, a life, a journey of culture through history.



The Medead story


The play starts with Medea's origin in Aia, in the land of Colchis, which is now Western Georgia. There her figure is very different to our now-familiar Euripidean infanticide; she was grand-daughter of the sun, and associated with pre-Greek cosmic legends. Then both the figure or ideas of Medea travelled (or were taken) to Greece, which was mythologized as helping the Greek stranger Jason to obtain the golden fleece and travelling on the voyage of the Argonauts.

Other Greek legends about her include rejuvenation of the family of Jason; rejuvenation of the nurses of Dionysos; the alleged child-killing in Corinth which may derive from Orphic initiation cults; her instrumentality in the change from the old order of Aegeus in Athens to the new democracy of Theseus; her banishment from Greece and her return to Aia, where she was revered; and the supposed founding by her son of the Medes, who together with the Persians were the great eastern peoples, in struggle against which Greece defined itself. The Greeks depicted Medea’s figure - female, foreign, and powerful in both medicine and language - in terms as terrifying as it was threatening to their progressive rationalism. In fact their version of her became the antithesis necessary to the construction of Greek culture, in turn so fundamental to Western culture.

The Medead incorporates not only the well-known parts of the legend that the west has inherited, but older references and connections, many less literary but with surviving traces in cultures further east. These, including materials from Medea’s birthplace in Georgia, put the figure into a more rounded perspective, and throw light on the implicated relationships between rationalism and magic, will and the emotions, politics and the retelling of history, east and west, and the patrilineal tradition and a woman’s body. The text plays in the seam between poetry and playwriting, close to theater's origins and echoing the multiplicity of conscious and subconscious forces at work in it. It arcs from ancient time to the present, as if the life of Medea spans millenia.

As a cultural construct, Medea’s figure has extraordinary symbolic power. The jealous infanticide was written by Euripides for a competition judged on the expedient power of its political image as well as its literary merit. But since then the historico-mythic has been assumed as a psychological possibility not just into the normative view of women but also into the performing bodies of women themselves. It seems necessary to counter with another, fuller imaginative construct, and specifically in live performance.








In The Medead eight actresses each play a different stage of Medea’s life, from a child to elderly; they also play other female characters. Four male actors cover various roles, and all performers also play their own ghosts as well as prophetic birds.

Anna Kohler, a Wooster Group Associate, has worked extensively with Fiona Templeton as well as with John Jesurun, Hal Hartley, Michel Laub and Richard Foreman; Valda Setterfield, who has worked with directors and choreographers from Yvonne Rainer to Mikhail Baryshnikov, and is a long-time collaborator with David Gordon; Tim Hall, former Associate member of Forced Entertainment;  Swiss actress Graziella Rossi; Robert Kya-Hill, working in both classical and contemporary theatre, and film; Clarinda MacLow, 2004 Bax awardee for her company CML Performance; Richard Foreman performer Stephanie Silver; Wooster Group and Builder’s Association associateTanya Selvaratnam; Jane Comfort and solo dancer Peter Sciscioli; and Sean Donovan, who creates his own dance and performance works.

2006:  Part 1, Medea in Aia at 15 Nassau (LMCC Swing Space), NYC

2005:  Tramway, Glasgow:  Parts 4,5 &6 as The Later Medead

2005:  Chisenhale Dance Space, London:  research worksops on audience interaction for Parts 1&2

2004-5 in residence at Mabou Mines/Suite
showed Part 4, sections of Part 2

2001: Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster University, England.

Participants were Graziella Rossi, Tim Hall, Sarah O'Brien, Aysan Celik, Navraj Sidhu, Anna Kohler, Ian Blower, Roberta Kerr, Dominic Fitch and Caroline Jones. The play has also been developed at PlayLabs, The Playwrights' Center, Minneapolis; at New Dramatists and at New York Theatre Workshop. 

In 2005 a film was shot for Part 6 in the Republic of Georgia with a travel grant from TCG/ITI.

Support:  Grants from the Rockefeller MAP Fund; TCG/ITI to travel to the Republic of Georgia, North West Arts; the Arts and Humanities Research Board; Franklin Furnace; a Senior Judith E. Wilson Fellowship at the University of Cambridge’s Lucy Cavendish College; MacDowell Colony, Yaddo,VCCA; a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Playwriting; an AHRB Fellowship at the Department of Theatre Studies, Lancaster University, & the Foundation for Contemporary Arts award for theatre 2003-4

Venues: The Medead will be co-produced by the Schouwburg (City Theater) in Rotterdam, and by the Tramway in Glasgow.

Development:  New Dramatists, New York, directed by Rachel Dickstein; New York Theatre Workshop; the International Women Playwrights’ Festival in Athens, Greece.

Development casts also include Black-Eyed Susan, David-Patrick Kelly, Aysan Celik, Roy Sadler, Sarah O’Brien, Ian Blower, Caroline Jones, Roberta Kerr, Dominic Fitch


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 Last Revised: winter 2005