Complex Electra

ElectraSophocles' compelling Greek tragedy offers a view of bravery and justice. Director Lily Grob '22 talks about the production that goes up April 12-14 at Adams Pool and May 4 outdoors at Sever Quad during ARTS FIRST. 

By Samantha Neville '19

Lily Grob ’22, the co-producer and assistant director of Electra is from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and she graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 2018. Just one year out of high school, her theater resumé is so impressive it’s hard to believe that she is a first-year. In addition to her work on Electra, she was assistant director for the HRDC show Hamlet last October.

After Hamlet? “It all just kind of snowballed from there,” said Grob. 

Electra will be performed April 12-14 at Adams Pool Theatre and on on May 4 outdoors at Sever Quad in Harvard Yard as part of the ARTS FIRST Festival (May 2-5). 

The play, written by Sophocles and adapted by Frank McGuinness, is about a "woman battling what it means to be brave, battling what it means to do the right thing, and that’s all complicated by both her sense of family and your ties,” Grob said. The character of Electra, she added, is “beautifully stubborn.”

Grob is clearly passionate about every aspect of the production – from the contemporary translation, to the actors, to the audience – but one thing that drew her to the story is the eponymous character herself.

Electra is one of the greatest female protagonists,” Grob said. “She is a female protagonist who you’re not forced to like. You’re not forced to Electra2dislike. She just is herself.”

Grob characterized the play as an “intense” experience for the actors because there are almost no set changes and the actor depicting Electra – Balim Barutçu '19 – is on stage for every scene except one. The special effects and technical aspects, on the other hand, are purposely reduced.

We realized this show is so much about the people, about the characters, about their emotions and their struggles, that any fanciness does it an injustice,” Grob said. “We have a minimal set, minimal lighting.”

Grob and her creative team have made a few additions, however: Cellist Marie Carroll '20 will be performing live music at the show.

Grob is also very excited about the outdoors performance during ARTS FIRST because Electra was meant to be performed outdoors, and that's how plays were performed during Sophocles’ lifetime. It’s kind of our dream come true,” Grob said. The indoor performances also allude to the history of performing out in the open. For instance, the Adams Pool Theater set will include tufts of turf.

The Electra production doesn’t end when the semester is over. The Electra team has been invited to do residencies in Istanbul, London and Berlin this summer.

It’s amazing that a play written in Ancient Greece is still being performed internationally and has an updated contemporary translation. Maybe the reason is because, as Grob said, the themes of the play, such as justice and discerning right from wrong, are always relevant.

Perhaps the answer to the play’s secret to survival lies in the character Electra herself.

She really is a universal character because of her complexity,” Grob said. “There’s a bit of everyone in her.”