An ancient story with a timely message
Amid the current cultural upheaval regarding sexual harassment and assault, longtime Gresham actor and director Michael Streeter is helping bring awareness to the topic via theater.
"The Rape of Lucrece," an intense, intimate production featuring a combination of spoken word and song, opens Thursday, Jan. 25, and runs through Saturday, Feb. 10, at Imago Theatre in Portland.
Based on one of Shakespeare's long poems about an ancient Roman woman who is devastated after being assaulted, "Lucrece" is a chamber art musical that delves into poignantly relevant themes.
"The story is 2,000 years old, the poetry is 400 years old and yet we're dealing with these same issues today," Streeter says, referencing the viral "Me Too" movement that has illustrated the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault across the globe.
Portland-based actor and composer Jessica Tidd portrays a dozen different characters in "Lucrece," including the title role. She is joined by composer and pianist Matt Insley, along with violinist Sumi Wu, both of Portland. Streeter describes their collective tour de force.
"Their performances contain such pain but also beauty," he says.
Streeter's wife Laura designed traditional Roman costumes for "Lucrece." While the costuming is elaborate, the set is simple to keep the focus on Tidd's rotating characters. Gresham resident Melissa Sondergeld manages the stage.
Streeter says while he selected "Lucrece" for production two years ago when all of the Portland area theater companies met to divvy up Shakespeare productions throughout a two-year period, it's important to honor the play's particular relevance to right now.
He quotes Prahlad Srihari, who recently wrote of another adaptation that "'Lucrece' is a remarkably potent and necessary piece in light of its current context. The daily onslaught of headlines about the sexual assault of women by more powerful men — from movie moguls and actors to journalists and politicians — provides an effective backdrop for a piece that explores Shakespeare's mythic reworking of an ancient Roman tale."
All proceeds from a special benefit performance Thursday, Feb. 1, will go toward the Sexual Abuse Survivors Movement/Process Group of Portland. After the performance, audience members will have the opportunity to speak with trained professionals who work with survivors.
Panelists will include Jenna Harper of Sexual Assault Resource Center, Ericka Ruber of Sexual Abuse Survivors Movement/Process Group of Portland and Pat Janowski, a prominent Portlander.
"This play offers a new angle to have a conversation about what's happening," Streeter says. "We are hoping to add to the conversation."
This is the first time the long poem has been performed as a drama in the Pacific Northwest. As the title suggests, "Lucrece" features adult content and is not recommended for children.
If you go
What: The chamber art musical, "The Rape of Lucrece"
Where: Imago Theatre, 17 S.E. Eighth Ave., Portland
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, Jan. 25 through Feb. 10
Cost: $15 the first weekend, $20 the second and $25 the third
Info: boxofficetickets.com/bot/wa/event?id=325843; CDs may be purchased at the show