In Greek mythology, the Argonauts are a jumbled band of adventurers who set out on a daring quest for the fabled Golden Fleece. They made waves and took risks few other groups had dared to embark on before. At JMU, there’s a similarly named group of students making waves in the theater community.
The Argonauts theatre company was formed earlier this year in hopes of providing opportunities for theatre students to perform outside a traditional, educational setting. Their first production, Orpheus Descending, run from Nov. 15-17 at 7 pm.
Nick Regan is one of the founding members of the company and the director for Orpheus Descending. He first proposed the show to be performed in JMU’s studio theatre, but after his proposal was denied, he was determined and encouraged by students and faculty to produce the show independently. He was drawn to the play because of its style compared to other works performed at JMU.
“This production is really cool because it lives in this middle ground between educational theater and the kind of shows that we do here,” the senior theatre and computer science double major said. “[With] all of the rules that you have to follow in an educational setting when going about them and a professional setting where the only rules are real-world restrictions.”
The play itself is a modern spin on the Greek Orpheus myth by Tennessee Williams. The connection of Greek mythology helped the students to come up with a name for their company, as Orpheus was also an original member of the Argonauts.
Sky Wilson is a senior theatre major, founding member of the Argonauts and creative associate on the production. She is a jack-of-all-trades, filling the roles of assistant director, dramaturg and props manager alongside others. She explained that the play is unique in the language it uses in addition to its ability to affect an audience.
“Tennessee Williams said at one point that this play is everything he had to say about life and I see that in the words he wrote and the language he uses and the metaphors he uses, they’re so powerful,” Wilson said. “Every time I hear them they affect me and they haven’t stopped yet [which] is pretty incredible. Often times you get bored of a script or you get used to it but I just keep hearing new things every time.”
Sam Quinn, a senior theatre major, is a stage manager for the production and another one of the company members. She shared that alongside the traditional large responsibilities of a stage manager, pretty much all the members of the production have had to take on more immense responsibilities as they self-produce and manage this show. While it’s a difficult experience, she said it helps her look at the future and apply all the skills she’s learned while in school.
“I think as a senior I’ve gained a lot of experience here,” Quinn said. “I think JMU has still more things to teach me but I think going to a different space teaches me more and it’s figuring out how to apply all of the things that I have learned outside of that space while I am still here.”
While the self-producing process has been difficult for all those involved in the production, they all agreed that it’s a rewarding one at best. Much like the mythical Argonauts, these Argonauts are charting new ground for students in the theatre program at JMU.
“For the most part just being independent makes it feel like ‘I’m a real artist now. I’m producing this thing on our own and I want to,’” Wilson said. “And it really feels like our heart and soul are going into it because of that. It’s a lot more personal than a lot of the other projects I have worked on.”
Contact Camryn Finn at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.