Humble Materials, a new theater company in residence at Philly PACK, will be debuting its first production starting on Feb. 25, with additional shows on Feb. 26 and March 4-5, at 8 p.m.
The group will be performing an original adaptation of the Greek tragedy Medea, which was co-created by choreographer Jessica Noel and playwright Monica Flory. Actors who will be featured in the show include Noel, Anna Betteridge, Amy Henderson, Lauren Leonard, Chachi Perez and Lisa Vaccarelli.
Conceived during the pandemic, Humble Materials consists of a group of theater and dance educators who have been working together for the better part of the last six months. Noel said that with projects like Medea, the group is aiming to produce works, specifically ones geared toward adults, that examine a wider scope of emotions.
“With the pandemic and everything that’s going on, we just feel like there’s such big emotions right now in our community that we wanted to make theater for adults that could tackle some of that,” Noel said.
The group’s version of Medea, a tale about a Greek princess who murders her two children as revenge for her husband’s infidelity, adds additional layers to the story. In their portrayal, before becoming a mother, Medea was a well-respected painter who stopped making artwork after the birth of her children. Medea’s psyche and thought process will also be a focus of the play, with chorus members representing different parts of Medea’s personality.
The choice of a Greek tragedy as the company’s inaugural production, especially given the themes present in Medea, wasn’t a difficult decision for them.
“Monica [Flory] always says that Greek tragedy matches the intensity of the moment,” Noel said. “And so we knew we wanted to do a Greek tragedy. But Medea, specifically, has a lot of commentary on parenting. And we sort of felt like that matched the moment.”
Noel, who will be portraying Medea in the production, said that although audiences likely know how the story ends, they’ll end up sympathizing with Medea’s circumstances. In addition, she thinks that the show’s subject matter will open the door to more conversations about things most people consider taboo.
“We’re hoping that audiences sort of feel the freedom to discuss some of these topics that maybe otherwise, before they saw this show, they didn’t feel like they could talk about,” Noel said.