Arthur Danin Adler

It begins with a ritual.


As the audience enters, five characters are seen at scattered places throughout the seating area. They are dressed in white bodysuits and white, shimmering wraps. Their faces are painted in various subtle colors and they have bright white masks hanging around their necks . Each carries a branch of colored grain. In the background, a low percussive chant is heard. They move slowly, dance-like, responding to the rhythm of the distant music. Occasionally, each stops, approaches an audience member, offers the branch of grain. When the audience reaches to accept, they are given an imaginary branch instead.


The stage itself is lit in pools of deep hues of burnt orange and sea blue. There are eight large fabric panels set at varying positions to create the performing area, two are screens for projections. The panels are lit from behind and glow with color. Black levels, like pedestals, range across the back in front of the center panels. Levels  of varying heights are scattered across the setting.


At the rise, the percussive chant becomes louder as the house lights fade. The five turn on cue and begin a procession toward the performing area. A sixth character appears waiting for them on stage. She is dressed only in a white bodysuit. She moves fluidly to the music. The five reach the performing area, drop the branches on the center level and begin a series of circular movements that weave them around the sixth until they surround her and she is only able to move in place. The entire scene is measured and hypnotic. Suddenly, a growling, churning moan comes from the five. They become violent, pounce on the sixth and drown her with their bodies. After a moment, they lift the lifeless body of the sixth and in the same processional movement carry her off right.


As the group moves away, MEDEA appears in front of the Right Screen. She is dressed in a black shimmering wrap with a deep red bodysuit underneath.  After the group exits, she slowly moves to the left revealing a life-size image of herself projected on the right screen. She stops in front of the Left Screen and faces the audience. The Right Screen fades. After a moment, she continues to move left, revealing an image of another woman on the left screen. Then she moves away left and exits. The music begins in the background. The Left Screen fades. The lights change.)


In the distance, the sounds of the sea. The panels glow. Figures enter from both sides, in silhouette, and move along the back on to levels. All are dressed in wraps and colored bodysuits. They move in a measured pace. Everything, movement and speech, moves to its own measured pace.  


MEDEA.  (offstage – her voice rising in a rhythmic cry)



    Right Screen: Moving shot of MEDEA

    MEDEA.  The sun rises, the moon rises… the sea rises… the wind echoes…
    Left Screen: Closeup of MEDEA

    MEDEA.  Away…

    Right Screen:

    MEDEA.  Once more…

    Left Screen:

    MEDEA.  Away…

    Right Screen:

    MEDEA.  Once more the sea is black…

    Left Screen:

    MEDEA.  Again, the sea is black…

    Right Screen:

    MEDEA.  And it calls me…

    (screen fades)

    Left Screen:

    MEDEA.  Once more, again, it calls me… to the sea.

    (screen fades)

(lights fade out)

(the music changes)


(Offstage the plaintive, drifting song of MEDEA is heard. The figures step down, move right and left and exit leaving the WOMAN and the NURSE on the levels. The NURSE steps down. The music fades. The lights change.)


MEDEA.  (offstage)  Days end, days end

                                       The sun will come again

                                       Winds rise, winds rise

                                       The moon will come again


NURSE. (singing)  Days end, days end,

                                    The sun will come again

                                    Winds rise, winds rise

                                    The moon will come again


(She sighs, moves to the center level and picks up the dropped branches of grain.)


Forgive me, my sweet one, I wish I could not hear you. I wish I could sing so loud that I couldn't hear you.


(She sits on the edge of the center level, and sings  to herself )

The winds rise, the winds rise…


WOMAN.  (steps down) She sings.




WOMAN.  She sings in pain.


NURSE.  Yes.




WOMAN.  She remembers.


VOICES CHANT.  Remember.


NURSE.  Yes.




NURSE.  She is haunted by her dreams, her memories. They cover her like a skin of masks.


WOMAN.  The living winds of her breath, the flowing rain of her tears… doesn't time clean her memory?




NURSE.  She is helpless in the dream of her past life. My sweet little one suffers in the mirror of her own eyes.


WOMAN.  She will leave Athens?


NURSE.  Yes.




WOMAN.  She will travel across the Black Sea?


NURSE.  Yes.




WOMAN.  She will disappear into the mountain kingdom of her father?


NURSE.  Yes.


ALL.  Medea.


(AEGEUS and SERVANT move across the back on to the levels. )


WOMAN.  I want to help her, if she will let me. This is a time of strange omens and signs in the sky.


NURSE.  This is her time.


ALL.   Time.


(AEGEUS steps down followed by the SERVANT. He strides to the center and grabs the NURSE . She pulls away and falls to her knees.)


AEGEUS.  Get her! Go inside and get her.


(MEDEA's song stops)


NURSE.  Oh my lord she cannot see anyone, she cannot talk to anyone.


AEGEUS.  What? Don't speak to me like that, get her!


NURSE.  (rising) Please, my lord Aegeus, she cannot…


AEGEUS.  (angrily) Cannot? Cannot? She'll see me when I want to see her, she'll talk to me when I want her to talk to me. She is the woman to me that she is.

(he pushes her aside and strides toward the left)


NURSE.  Please… if you go in…



(he stops)


NURSE.  If you go in….

(he starts again)



(he stops)


NURSE.  I'll tell her that you are looking for her, I'll help her prepare herself to see you.

(he whirls around and stares at her)


AEGEUS.  I know what you do, old nurse. I know the tricks and tactics of women, especially this woman. They mean nothing to me. I rule this land because I am a man, and no woman, not even this daughter of a king rules with me.

(smiling) Hmm, I know what you do.

(sharply) Tell her this… I will come back, I'll be back in a short time, and I will… see her, and I will… talk to her. And if she's not here, I'll bring her out on the point of my sword like a piece of brazed meat.




(She bows her head. He strides off with the SERVANT. They return to the back levels. MEDEA's song is heard again. The NURSE moves toward the sound of the song.)


NURSE.  (calling out) Did you hear him, did you hear him? He knows, he knows. Open your eyes… you need all of your strength, all of your clear vision to get through him. He won't step aside, he won't take his hands off you.

(to herself) She knows.

(singing) Days end, days end…

(to herself) She knows.


WOMAN.  She knows. And yet, Aegeus is not afraid.


NURSE.   He's strong, she made him strong.




NURSE.  She gave him the power and courage of the sea. He was not that way until she came to live with him. That was their bargain. He took us in, she gave him back his strength, his… his manhood.


(CREON moves across the back with his DAUGHTER.  AEGEUS and the SERVANT  move past him and exit.)


WOMAN.  But as sure as the sun sets, she can take it away, drive him back into the twilight, into the shadows.


NURSE.  Maybe she could, if only her mind were part of her body.

(sings… picking up on MEDEA's song)




(The music changes)


(CREON and DAUGHTER step down. They wander across and through the center. The other two are stunned. He moves between them, waves the WOMAN away, then looks at both of them for a moment.)


CREON.  Bring me to her.


(MEDEA's song stops. The NURSE puts her hand in front of her face)


NURSE.  Go away… oh go away from here, shadow of Medea's dreams.


ALL.  Shadow.


CREON.  Bring me to her so I can see her eyes and put her face to the face of my daughter.


NURSE.  You're dead, Creon, long dead. Go back to the mists and silence where you rest.


CREON.  No, not dead. I'm a living memory that she holds and caresses like a loving creature. I'm a light in the dark of her long sleepless nights.


NURSE.  She's done with that, good king, dead king…

(falling to her knees) She's done with the past, long ago…


CREON.  No, we're like lovers. She burned me into her heart and yearns for me. Bring me to her.


(The WOMAN  steps between them, lifts the NURSE  up and faces CREON)


NURSE.  Go back. Let Medea call for you if she must.


CREON.  (distracted) Call for me… call for me? Yes, I'll hear her when she calls for me.




(After a moment, he returns with his DAUGHTER to the back levels. Music fades, lights change. The NURSE collapses into the arms of the WOMAN)


(MEDEA's song is heard again.)


NURSE.  See, see… she's helpless, my poor little one is helpless to stop the flood that drowns her. She only wants to go home…


ALL.  Home.


NURSE.  It's been so long… since we've traveled on the sea, since we've looked at the rivers of green trees rolling down the mountains that protected us… since she's felt the moonlight on her face and heard her own laughter in the wind… since she's smelled the deep thunder of the earth, the power that pulses her blood, nourishes her great strength.


WOMAN.  She goes home.


NURSE.  Yes… she wants to take her child home.


ALL.  Aegeus' child!


NURSE.  Medea's child, from her womb, from her breast. Medea's child.


ALL.  Medea.


WOMAN.  He won't let her go, he will not let his child go.


NURSE.  Medea's child! She will take him. She'll walk through and over (smirking) lord Aegeus, as she has done before… if only…


WOMAN.  If only…


NURSE.  If only she can bring her mind back into her body.


WOMAN.  She's haunted.




NURSE.  She haunts herself.


(CREON and DAUGHTER move across the back and exit as the SERVANT moves across the back in the other direction and on to a level)


WOMAN.  To be haunted by one's own spirit is a horror. It leads to an empty mind or to the emptiness of death. There is always a lock, a terrible lock, that keeps the spirit bound. Only she can find the key.




(MEDEA's song becomes more present as she appears, slowly coming from the left, singing, followed by LAZA. The WOMAN returns to a back level. After a moment, theNURSE runs to Medea, falls to her knees and throws her arms around her. MEDEA smiles and strokes her hair.)


MEDEA.  How beautiful you look today, how young.  And your skin shines…


NURSE.  Oh please, listen to me, my sweet baby…


MEDEA.  (laughing) What, what, what, what? I'm still your baby? No… and you're not my nurse, or my slave… you're a free woman and my very close friend.


NURSE.  Listen to me, lord Aegeus is coming…


MEDEA.  (with momentary anger) He's not a lord!


NURSE.   He's coming with fire in his mouth…


MEDEA.  (softly again) Didn't I free you…


NURSE.   Yes.


MEDEA.  Didn't I stop you from aging? Look, look, look, look… in ten years, you haven't changed. You're as young as you were then. Then! (her face darkens for a moment, she smiles) Do you remember what you were like…  then? You called yourself an old woman, you fretted and moaned and stumbled around with worry.


NURSE.  I remember.


    Right Screen: Midshot of Nurse/Medea/OTHER VOICES in Background

    NURSE.  If one is a good servant, it's a terrible thing when one's master's luck runs out. It goes to one's heart. So, I myself have got into such a state of grief that I yearned to come outside here and tell the earth and the air of my lady's sorrows. How much I fear that something may happen! Great people's tempers are terrible. It's because they always have their own way. They shift dangerously from mood to mood. How much better it is to live on equal terms with everyone. I would like to grow old in a humble way. There is no profit in greatness. When the gods are angry, they bring greater ruin to great men's houses.

    (The image freezes)


MEDEA.  (laughing) Do you remember, my good friend, what a bundle of worry, of moans and groans, you were.


NURSE.  You must listen to me…


    Right Screen: Closeup Nurse/Medea

    NURSE.  You must listen to me…


MEDEA.(onstage)  I am listening.


    Right Screen:

    MEDEA.  I am listening.

    NURSE.  There are great dangers, riding on the hills, flying in the wind.


NURSE.(onstage)  There are black narrow eyes watching you…


    NURSE.  … waiting to pierce you with their stare, but you're so lost in your passion, lost in the pain that has cut your heart open. You must come back to yourself, you must come back to me.

    (screen fades)


NURSE. …you must come back to me!


MEDEA.  (smiling) I'm here, my mother-nurse, because I never left.


NURSE.  You must listen to me… Aegeus will come…


ALL.  Stop!


MEDEA.  (low-voiced) Who was here? Who is that? (pointing to the WOMAN)


NURSE.  A woman, a woman of Athens. She is a friend… who loves us.


ALL.  Stop.

(Music and lights change. MEDEA begins to dance, using her arms as wings)


MEDEA.  (strangely) Loves us? Loves us? No one in Athens loves us. We are strangers and they are golden-haired Greeks with their golden-haired, narrow-eyed gods who look down at this small, splintered piece of land and think they rule the world. (stroking the NURSE's hair)  But we are strangers, dark hair, dark skin with only one god who lives between our legs and rules nothing. (sardonically) Come, loving woman of Athens, come out of the shadows into the light and tell us why you love us so.


(The WOMAN steps down and moves toward the center. MEDEA dances around her and suddenly jumps on to the center level.)


WOMAN.  I've come to be with you, Medea, to offer you what little advice and comfort I can, to help you.


MEDEA.  (ironically) As a woman?


WOMAN.  As a woman.


MEDEA.  (dancing in sharp poses) I know you, I know you, I know you, lover of Athens.

(she grabs the WOMAN's hands and pulls her along as she dances)

(the lights change in rhythm to her movement)

I've seen you many times before… whispering in my ear, singing to my eyes, a chicken, a hen, a friendly hen in a house of chickens and hens, clucking with that painted sadness on your face, wringing your hands until all of your feathers are wet and matted.


WOMAN.  Please, dear Medea…


MEDEA.  (angrily) Do not "dear" me!


WOMAN.  Please, Medea… I know you're going to leave, I know you're leaving with your son. Aegeus protects his pride above all of his treasures, he will not allow it to be injured. Aegeus will stop you, he is strong…


MEDEA.  (spitting her anger) He is nothing! (quietly, smiling) I know you.


    Left Screen: A Woman in Corinth/OTHER WOMEN/NURSE.

    WOMAN.  I heard the voice, I heard the cry, of Colchis', the Black Sea's wretched daughter. Tell me, hasn't she calmed down yet? Within the double gates of the court I heard her cry. I'm sorry for the sorrow of this home.

    NURSE.  There is no home. It's over and done with. Her husband has done his royal wedding. While she, my mistress, her eyes melting…  there in her room, and takes no comfort from any word of any friend.


    MEDEA.  (offstage) Aiyee…I wish, I wish that lightning from heaven would split my head open.


    WOMAN.  Oh god and earth and heaven, did you hear what a cry that the sad wife sings. Poor fool, why should you long for that terrible act? The final end comes fast. No need to pray for that. Suppose your man gives honor to another woman's bed. It often happens. Don't be hurt. The gods will be your friends in this. You must not waste away grieving for him… who shared your bed.


    MEDEA.  (offstage) The things I suffer, though I made him promise, my hateful husband. I pray that I may see him, him and his bride and all their palace shattered for the pain they dare to do to me.  Oh my father, my country! What dishonor I left you, killing my own brother for it. (wailing) Asyrte!


    VOICES CHANT.  Stop.

    (screen fades)


(MEDEA crumbles to the ground, pulling her head down with her hands. The WOMAN hesitantly reaches for her to touch her. MEDEA jerks her head up and stares at her.)


    Left Screen: A Woman, OTHER VOICES in the background

    WOMAN.  Will she come out? Will she listen to the words we say? I wish she would relax her rage and temper her heart. I am so willing to help her as a friend.

    (screen fades)

    Right Screen: Midshot of Woman

    WOMAN.  It is a strange form of anger, difficult to cure, when two lovers turn on each other in hatred.

    (screen fades)

    Left Screen: Longshot of Woman

    WOMAN.  The gods care for you Aegeus, for you appear to be a generous man.

    (screen fades)

    Right Screen: Closeup of Woman

    WOMAN.  Of all women, you will be the most unhappy.

    (image freezes)

     MEDEA.  (whispering) I know you.

    (screen fades)


VOICES CHANT.  (rhythmically with percussion) StopRunPainTo Be Afraid… the gods… are sighing.


(MEDEA slips off the center level and begins to whirl in a dance around the center.)


VOICES CHANT.  StopRunPain To Be Afraid… the gods… are laughing.


(The pace becomes frenzied)

VOICES CHANT.  StopRunPain To Be Alone… the gods… are dying. StopRunPain. StopRunPain. StopRunPain.


(Suddenly, the SERVANT rushes in and falls to the ground. MEDEA freezes.)







Talos Ensemble
© 2002 -2021 All Rights Reserved 
Screens Dialogue Adapted From Euripides' Medea
Translations by Rex Warner and Arthur Danin Adler




July 2021

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