History of the Trojan Women Production

In 1974, La MaMa ETC created a re­interpretation of Euripides’ Trojan Women, conceived and directed by Andrei Serban and Elizabeth Swados, with the participation of the Great Jones Repertory Company, and presented by legendary theater producer Ellen Stewart.

It was an internationally acclaimed groundbreaking production that has been seen in over 30 countries over a span of forty years.

The creative team was searching for a universal form of communication that could speak to audiences across language and cultural barriers.  Through months of research, company members explored the nature of pure sound - how does pitch communicate, how does rhythm communicate, what truths lay in the ancient words and music - and gesture.

Trojan Women in the La MaMa version is not performed in English, or in any one recognizable dialect. It has a text that uses ancient languages: Greek, Nahuatl, Latin, Navajo. This collage of languages is unrecognizable and at the same time evocative. Meaning is transported through sound and comprehension is intuitive, creating a sense of equality. The language belongs to no one and to everyone. In addition, the staging asks the audience to move with the actors in the playing space. This approach involves the audience, turning them into participants and witnesses, not just spectators. The combined use of ancient languages, music, song and movement is compelling and engrossing. The story becomes universal, and there is space for the individual stories and histories of each person and community to enter and connect.  

As the production unfolds, it is not difficult to find connections to shared experience.  The themes of Trojan Women – war, genocide, diaspora, the fate of women and children in war, and the effects on those caught in interminable struggles for power – continue to resonate in the world. It is a story at the same time personal and all too common.  For these reasons, this play, and in particular this production, holds so many possibilities for reaching so many.