Medea crosses the pond


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The Englert Theater will offer a cross-cultural experience for its patrons: the opportunity to see live broadcastings of famous plays produced at the National Theatre in London.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington, will show Medea as part of its "National Theatre Live" series.

Set in Corinth, Greece, Medea — which stars Helen McCroy — follows a woman whose unfaithful husband attempts to banish her and separate her from her children. In return, she begs for one day's grace, during which she plans to exact her appalling revenge.

Englert Development Director Katie Roche said the theater provides an ideal environment for "National Theatre Live."

"[You should] go and see the rebroadcasts in movie theaters but more so in the theater, in a space that was built for the artform and improves the experience," she said. "It has more flavor of what the event would be like in the 'National Theatre' in London."

National Theatre recorded its shows in June 2009, releasing the DVDs to theaters that expressed a desire to show them. The Englert has hosted National Theatre rebroadcasts for approximately three years.

Englert Executive Director Andre Perry said it is important for people to be able to see these shows locally.

"The National Theatre in London started capturing its performances live several years ago as a means of sharing the amazing theater on its stage with the rest of the world," he said. "It was a bold concept, but it has been very successful. It turns out that people want to see great theater productions even if they can't be there in person … I think it's important for us to try our best to share as many arts experiences with the community as possible; that's why we are here."

Though the DVDs might lack the energy of a live performance, Miriam Gilbert, a professor emerita of English at the University of Iowa, says "National Theatre Live" has its benefits, including saving money on plane tickets to London and getting to see the shows from numerous camera angles.

"It's not the same, but what it is, is pretty darn good," Gilbert said. "And in some ways, you get views that you could not get otherwise. You get close ups; they zoom in on people. If you're sitting way back in the Olivier [one of the back sections of the National Theatre], you're not going to see that."
The National Theatre tries to attract audience members both young and old, she said.

"It gives us a chance to see some of the world's greatest actors in a way we might not get to …" Gilbert said. "I think the most important thing is what I would call accessibility. It gives us a chance to see great performances at a cost we can support, but mostly that we can get to them … I think it builds a sense that theater is, in fact, for everyone. I think that the audience has increased, and I don't think it's hurt the National Theatre; it's probably helped."

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