On Stage

Myth Makers

The Priestess of the Witch Goddess

Attend

What: The Priestess of the Witch Goddess

Where: Via Zoom and YouTube

More:

WHEN: 7:30pm May 14-15, May 20-22

Cost: Suggested donation is $5-$15

Info: http://www.sylviacenterforthearts.org

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

For the first time in more than a year, a limited number of audience members will be in attendance for an iDiOM Theater premiere at the Sylvia Center for the Arts. The news is something that has The Priestess of the Witch Goddess playwright and co-director Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao looking toward the future.

Even though the available seats for his latest Greek mythology adaptation opening Fri., May 14 will be doled out to actors, volunteers, season pass holders and donors who have contributed to the Sylvia Center’s current GoFundMe campaign, Hergenhahn-Zhao says having bodies in seats during the livestreamed events will be a welcome change.

“After 14 months of no audiences, we are anxious for the opportunity to have some people in the house and for actors to have people to talk to and not just cameras,” he says, noting the center hopes to be up and running with ticketed shows by the fall. “This gives us a soft opening for live audiences, and gives us friendly groups that are forgiving of navigating around cameras and seeing some behind the scenes magic-making.”

Even with empty houses, the iDiOM crew has made sure the shows they’ve been livestreaming from the Prospect Street creative hub since last September still have familiar elements of human interaction. Hosting them on Zoom allows for audiences and actors to virtually mingle before and after the shows, and they haven’t done any rebroadcasting so as to remain in the moment while shows are actually taking place.

This means the approximately 25 guests who will be in attendance at each of the five performances of The Priestess of the Witch Goddess at the Sylvia’s Lucas Hicks Theater will be watching the action unfold at the same time as those viewing from home. Thanks to adept camera work and ace direction by Hergenhahn-Zhao and co-director Sean Cook, both virtual and in-house audiences will learn about how the royal witch Medea was much more than a scorned woman who killed her children out of jealousy, and Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece was only one part of what drove him to become a world-famous sailor and soldier.

“Little is usually said about Medea or Jason after the events of Euripides’ tragedy,” Hergenhahn-Zhao says, “but she goes on to become the Queen of Athens and have more children. Jason, once the most famous of all Greeks after his feat of wresting the Golden Fleece, is forgotten and dies on his decaying ship, the Argo.

“That is a lot, but in short I start my play at the very end of this long story, with Medea as Queen, and Jason near death in his dilapidated ship. From there it is a memory play of sorts in the spirit of The Glass Menagerie.”

Although The Priestess of the Witch Goddess is iDiOM’s last offering of the Spring 2021 season, they’re looking ahead. A recent meeting with Bellingham Parks and Rec nixed a full outdoor Summer Rep lineup, but the possibility remains that there will be an al fresco offering sometime in August. Concurrently, a five-show summer season is being planned for 2022.

Meanwhile, the previously mentioned GoFundMe campaign has the Sylvia Center seeking $50,000 to help reopen the center when it becomes safe to do so. The ask includes money for launching new programs and opening new spaces in the building, and the ability to come out stronger on the other side of the shutdown by being able to expand equity, pay artists and make sure the center sticks around for years to come. More than $25,000 has already been raised, and the hope is that both large and small donations will continue to roll in.

“It is always difficult to send the message that the arts are at risk because every organization wants to also send the message that they are thriving and healthy,” Hergenhahn-Zhao says. “But let’s take a moment to speak plainly. The arts are at risk. No organization had a plan to weather this storm. Whatcom County has lost long-loved venues, organizations and publications this last year. Whatever your favorite arts venue or organization is—this is the time they need your support.”

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